June 8, 2006 Thursday, Day 22, 7:05 Beijing time, alt. 4000 meters
Today we drove from Raza to Shigatse. There was much road work and gravel roads, except for the last 1/4 of the trip.
We passed through rural areas today–lots of sheep, yak, goats and fields of barley. We re-traced our steps in some instances and that was an interesting experience. It feels as if we’ve been more than three weeks since last passing this way. It’s odd what happens to time when you step so thoroughly out of your usual life.
We were all tired today. A large busload of what I think may have been Tibetan pilgrims pulled into our motel around 10 p.m. [last night]. They were a raucous, talkish lot. And they set the dogs to barking. The light bulbs in each of our rooms are controlled by a generator and the generator turned on the lights from about 10 to midnight and again 3-5 a.m. But the place had no bugs. We had a good cup of tea this morning and Jinpa gave me a taste of yak butter tea (too buttery for me) and tsampa [barley flour mixed with tea and rolled into balls]–very good.
The motel gets its water from 10 km [6 miles] away. Most places in rural Tibet, I think, do not have running water. But they do have wonderful Thermoses that keep water hot for 24 hours. The tea places usually have couches along the walls with long rectangular tables in front of the couches.
There’s a long stove in the middle of the room. There’s some way it’s set up so the burning sheep dung at the front warms the whole surface. Maybe the draft would do that.
We stopped in Lhatse for lunch. Ate at the same place as 3 weeks ago. ..While we were there 2 American tourists came in–the first we’ve seen. They actually had the Lonely Planet guide.
Tonight we are staying at a western-style hotel in Shigatse. I showered, washed two weeks’ worth of dirt out of my trail pants, but some of my clothes will never be the same.
I wish now I had taken more pictures. There were some machines used in the road work but much of it was done by hand. We saw both men and women moving rocks. And there were places where tents were set up for the road crews to eat and sleep in–rough-looking places that reminded me of what old lumbering camps might have looked like in our country in the 19th century.
Tibet–and Honduras, the only other country I’ve been to–are interesting mash-ups of 21st century with cell phones, computers, the internet, and roosters in the street, rough dirt roads, clothes drying on bushes, undeveloped infrastructure.
I was constantly reminded me of the “invisible” parts of our lives–water faucets that instantly give us hot and cold water, fairly good roads, light switches–the parts we use without thinking. This trip gave me so much–and part of that was a “third eye” to see what I had not noticed.