For a very long time I have dreamed of traveling through Tibet . But this journey has always been in the distant future, when one can travel freely and freely across the country.
Also in 2014, all of Tibet is occupied by China .
All over Tibet? Yes, all over Tibet.
Tibet: monasteries, Buddhist pilgrims, mani stones, stupas and prayer flags
But at least for the traveler, if not for the Tibetans who are thirsting for freedom, there is a way out of the dilemma: north and east of Tibet's so-called "autonomous" region are sprawling areas of the neighboring Chinese provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan Visas can pass through such as Beijing or Shanghai, at least purely culturally still firmly in Tibetan hands.
In many villages and cities significantly more Tibetans than Han Chinese live. Here prayer flags and Buddhist monasteries replace Mao statues and gray high-rise facades with neon lighting. Old, wrinkled women dressed in traditional brown robes sit on their doorstep and stoically circle their prayer wheels. On the corner of the street, monks dressed in orange and red are playing with their smartphones. Pilgrims circle stupas and monasteries. Young women with long, intricately braided hair and colorful, oddly-shaped hair ornaments carry their baby home on their backs, where they will be cooking buttered tea for their other children on the fire stove powered by dried yakkot. In front of the village, the horned producers of heating material are standing on green meadows between golden-white stupas, glittering monastic roofs and high mountains with white peaks. And everywhere you welcome the traveler with a hearty "Tashi delek".
My gateway to this wonderland was Kulun, an almost 4800 meter high pass in Qinghai Province. But the Kunlun did not let me enter on my bike without further ado. During my ascent, a blizzard left puddles of icy water on the road, which splashed on my chain and switching system and froze there. Shortly before the pass I lost the opportunity to switch and on the subsequent descent, the road was already slightly snowed.
In the blizzard over the Kulun Pass (4800m)
Also, the following days and weeks in the high mountains of Tibet was not an easy task. But against snow, rain, dog attacks, nocturnal minus temperatures, light altitude sickness, bad roads and many high passes were hardly visited monasteries under white mountain peaks, warm greeting Tibetans in the villages and invitations to butter tea in warm, heated with Yakkot living rooms.
Bad roads and frosty nights are the price of my trip through Tibet
Tsampa is being prepared
So I ate my first tsampa, a batter made from cornmeal, butter, sugar and green tea, which is eaten raw. One day as I pushed my bicycle through the gate of a monastery to the courtyard beyond, a dozen young monks stormed toward me, wishing to take pictures with me. Of course, I also wanted to take a picture with them.
Each overcoming pass rewarded me with the sight of a fluttering sea of colorful prayer flags. The landscape changed from tundra-like grasslands with rolling, pale green hills and grazing yaks over cornfields in the shade of jagged, snow-capped mountain giants to deep green-wooded ravines and valleys.
One evening I was pausing in the street when a passing Tibetan named Basa invited me to spend the night in his home in the next village. As in all the villages in the area there was no running water, but in addition to a dump toilet Basa also had its own recording studio, where he records with his son and a few friends music.
Basa in his recording studio at 4000 meters altitude
The last days in Tibet led me once again on high passes and bad roads. I spend a full day on the steep 60-kilometer climb to the 4,300-meter-high Daxuenshan Pass. It is now autumn in Tibet. The deciduous trees have turned yellow or red and shine brightly in the sea of green coniferous trees, which fill a paradisiacal valley under gently jagged cliffs. The perfect silence is interrupted only occasionally by the distant chirping of a bird. Tibet releases me much more peacefully than it has received me.
Autumn in Tibet