hitting the road

Ganzi, Dontok Gompa, Monastic Student [July 2007]

 Classes have finished, except for two oral English exams that I’ll give this week.  As I complete my fourth year in China, I’m feeling the effects of the long and sometimes difficult process of adapting myself to a new country, and to my life as a teacher.  I’m also looking forward to some heavy-duty travel.

I’ve been planning a trip to Tibet, Nepal, and India for four years; even longer, if you count the years I’ve spent anticipating my first encounter with the Himalaya, living vicariously through books such as Peter Matthiessens’s The Snow Leopard or Jeff Greenwald’s The Size of the World, not to mention Alexandra David-Neel’s My Journey to Lhasa.  Well, it looks like I’m going to get there at long last.

Following the civil unrest in Tibet in the Olympic Year of 2008, all foreigners must now engage a travel agency, and travel through the region with a paid driver and tour guide.  There’s no such thing as independent travel in the Tibet Autonomous Region for foreigners; this may change, but for now I must fulfill my dream via a high-price organized tour.  I’ll join two other people once I get to Lhasa, and our tour is organized by Snow Lion Tours, a Tibetan-owned and staffed company.  You can get an approximate idea of our 8-day itinerary here.

Here’s a general outline of my summer travel plan:  Fly from Chengdu to Lhasa Saturday morning, July 10; spend about 3 days in Lhasa, then travel by 4-wheel drive to Gyantze, Shigatse, Everest Base Camp, and finally to the China-Nepal border at Zhangmu.  From there I’ll take a bus to Kathmandu, and stay there as long as I feel like it.  I’ll make a side trip to Swayambhunath temple, and possibly Pokhara.  Then I’ll go by bus to Varanasi, India.  Depending on the heat and the cost of travel, I’ll venture quickly or slowly onward to Agra and Delhi, finally ending up in Dharamsala, where I’ll visit my friend Phurbu who’s studying English there.  I would dearly love to fit in a trekking trip to Ladakh, but any of the above plans might have to be modified or scrapped due to minor inconveniences such as running out of money or time (whichever comes first).

So there you have it: the dream of a lifetime (Asian version; I have other dreams for other parts of the world). I’ll be posting “from the road” as often as I’m motivated. Ciao.