14. Mt Kaliash to Shigatse

Mt Kaliash to Shigatse

For the final leg of our journey we headed from Mt Kailash and made our way onto Lhasa, stopping of along the way at various towns and settlements, including Shigatse. The road that took us there was brand new, having been completed only a few months before.

All conditioned things are impermanent. All things. Freedom is a state of mind, as is happiness and it is only too possible for a Tibetan to live under such circumstances yet remaining completely happy, completely free, attaining the ultimate release: Nibbana.

Our Tibetan driver drove like a mad man. This is common for drivers in Tibet. The single road winds around steep cliffs with vertical falls. One mistake would spell instant death. Yet this did not seem to perturb our man. He would speed along this narrow road at eighty miles an hour, before overtaking slower vehicles on blind, angular turns. On one occasion he did this and almost went smashing into an oncoming car, having to swerve violently to miss it and almost sending us hurling off the cliff in the process. Eventually Charlie and I had to force him to stop the car so that we could give him an almighty bollocking, which he managed to ignore by getting out his shaving kit and shaving his beard during the telling off!

Over the ensuing four days we crossed the Plateau, stopping off in towns and villages along the way to eat and sleep.



We would spend the days driving across the Plateau, making the occasional stop off on towering and seemingly untouched sand dunes or at high passes. In spite of the problems facing Tibet today, the land still vibrates with the energy of its past. There are vast swathes of land that remain unspoiled, where endless blues skies meet the mountain tops and great, still and sacred lakes. The peace in some of these places is profound and deep. It encompasses and immerses you in stillness, in the energy of millions of men, women and other beings who have committed themselves to finding their way to liberation. We would walk, run, skip and leap across the dunes. Charlie, as usual, began performing his circus-esque escapades… jumping excitedly from the top of enormous peaks onto the unsullied sand below. It was some of the most joyous that I have ever seen him. There was no sense of anything to do, just to be. It was perfect.


When we reached the high passes we would be flocked too by nomadic traders who, taking advantage of the new influx of tourists to Tibet, have begun selling all sort of traditional looking Tibetan items. In reality these items are all factory made. Even the quartz crystals that they were selling were made of glass, which Charlie and I discovered the hard way. A nomad who was holding what appeared to be a giant crystal approached Charlie. He asked for the equivalent of ten pounds sterling for the precious stone. Charlie felt the crystal. “Mate,” he said “I feel the suffering of these people. It has left an impression in the crystal, and the crystal is playing the vibration back. It is playing back such a deep sadness and suffering. I am going to buy this crystal, recharge it full of wholesome energy and use it as a meditation aide.” I took the said crystal in my hand to see whether I could feel the same energy.

There is a lot of myth surrounding crystals. Cooky New Age “crystal healers” have attributed all sorts of magical and divine powers to them, attributing them to all manner of miracles. The reality is much simpler and we see it every day. Quartz Crystal is a super conductor. If you place a frequency into quartz, it will play that frequency back perfectly until you replace it with a separate frequency. This is why it is used in microchips and watches: it stores information. So, if you are able to put a positive frequency into a crystal, it will play back that energy until that frequency is replaced. That said, this is not to be attempted unless in a very deep and concentrated meditative state, and even then only by practiced meditators. Simply holding the crystal and willing positivity into it will almost certainly result in a confused energy.

Charlie gave me the crystal. I held it in my hand and closed my eyes. I could not feel anything. “Charlie, I think that this is glass mate. I would not buy it if I were you!”

“No, it’s quartz. I can’t believe you can’t feel it. The suffering is so intense.”

I still could not feel anything, and so asked our guide whether they were real. After a brief discussion with the Nomad’s he decided that they were. Charlie bought three extremely large ones. I took a more tentative approach, instead buying two small ones.

They were glass.


On the third day of travelling and staying in small nomadic settlements and villages, we arrived in Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet and the location of the Panchen Lama’s monastery. The city has been the recipient of very large numbers of Han Chinese migrants in recent years, for one reason or another. The city, which up until fifty years ago was a small but important rural town, is now a bustling metropolis. The Chinese have build super highways and roads, and are in the process of building a high speed railway connecting the city with Lhasa and even Beijing thousands of miles away in China. There are Internet cafes, crammed with teenage Chinese students playing computer games for hours at a time, bars, nightclubs and tourist restaurant and hotels. The monastery is a real sight to behold. Aside from the clear control that the Chinese exercise there, it is still a centre of consciousness with many hundreds of monks still living there. Although it is no longer home to the many thousands of monks, as it was prior to the invasion, the energy is still incredible. The monastery was built by the first Dalai Lama in 1447 and has been active ever since. It is home to one of the most beautiful Buddha statues that I have ever seen, the statue of the sitting Maitreya Buddha. This giant shrine sits in one of the side buildings. Pilgrims circle it three times, Buddha, Dhamma, Sangah.

There is a large fortress in the town, the Samdrubtse Dzong, atop of the hill. The fortress, a previous Tibetan stronghold, was dismantled brick by brick after the Chinese invasion. It was rebuilt between 2005 and 2007, and is now a museum of Tibetan Culture, although a slightly interesting impression of Tibetan culture (the Chinese Government’s version it seems…!)

We only stayed in Shigatse for a day, before beginning the final leg of our Tibetan journey: the road to Lhasa.



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