Sunday, December 16, 2007


The mountains! We climbed alongside pilgrims sporting yak skin boots and sheep skin coats. The women wore turquoise and silver braided thick into their hair. While we wheezed and stumbled at the ever-higher altitudes, they calmly span their prayer wheels and watched their breath puff in the air.

We climbed up and up (though really not that far once we looked back down, we noted sheepishly) until we arrived at a hermitage made up of linked stupas and caves. In one cave we found a hermit flanked by a yak butter lamp, a tanga painting, smooth rock walls, and a thermos for tea. He had lived in that cave for ten years. Mum asked what the best and worst parts of hermit-dome were. Best: the silence. Worst: the first year of silence. Like all worth-while things, deep silent peace takes some adjusting to, he said. He blessed our foreheads with water and taught us how to say goodbye properly before shooing us out of his cave.

Farther up the mountain, we added our prayer flag chain to the mountainside already thick with flapping primary colors and prayed for peace, inner and outer. I found a man's hat in a shrub and wore it jauntily down the mountain, then mum tried to steal the cover of a mountain-side toilet because it looked to her like found-art. We reminisced about the Perthies we met the day before and how nice it had been to take a meal with complete strangers from Australia (Perth, your love letter may be coming soon), then sang some Christmas songs as we found our breath coming back to us.

At the bottom of the trail, we were greeted by the compulsory welcome-to-Tibet sign: a shaggy yak. He nodded as we took our compulsory yak photo, then shooed us from his spiritual spot and returned to his silence.