Days Like These - A Prelude

Trip Start Sep 08, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Tibet Autonomous Region,
Saturday, November 27, 2010

It is days like today that travelling is all about. It has been long and exhausting, deeply frustrating at times, laughably incoherent at others but in the space of twenty-four hours we have seen so much wonder, experienced so much joy.
The prelude to this epic is our arrival at a guest house 50km down the dirt road to Everest Base Camp (EBC). We step out of the van and are swarmed by children, unwashed hands outstretched asking for money, eyes pleading for food. The rest of the group make a dash for the homestead - as authentically Tibetan a place as we have stayed in - but Beth and I are dawdling and are last to collect our backpacks. As we move through the swarm towards the door a biscuit drops out of one of the green plastic bags I am holding. A hand reaches out, grabs and pulls. More hands join in and a brief but frantic tug of war plays out until the plastic bag is the loser; it stretches then rips apart shedding almonds and hazelnuts, walnuts and biscuits onto the road along with banana skins, a brown apple core and the empty cups of hazelnut shells. The children fight each other for the nuts whilst I turn and walk into the lodge house, still holding the tattered remnants of a plastic bag.
I am not upset. I am too tired - my temperature is up and my stomach is churning ominously after the day in the van - and I sit on my bed motionless, unthinking, shattered. But Beth is shaken by our welcome and the harsh primitiveness of our dwellings and we stay on the dorm room and eat a cup of porridge rather than join the others who are eating dinner downstairs with the family.
After fifteen minutes I am kicking myself for feeling so awful and missing out on this opportunity to spend time with a Tibetan family in their own home. I decide to go downstairs to say goodnight only to find our group sitting in silence on the other side of the room from the family, staring mournfully into bowls of broth and picking at unidentifiable morsels of yak. The Tibetans are not interested in their guests, absorbed as they are by the closing ceremony of the Asian Games that flickers out of the small television set in the corner.
Feeling slightly better I bid them goodnight and am told we must be ready to leave at six the following morning.
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