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Through their Eyes – Six Views of Tibet

Tibet is a hard place.  It is high, cold, dry, dusty and icy.  Life in Tibet is hard for the people living there, the animals that call it home and for visitors unaccustomed, unacclimatised to the conditions on the roof of the world.

It is also a very hard place to organise an expedition to.  There is an established tourist route linking Lhasa to Kathmandu where most western tourists are shunted along in buses.  Getting away from that well beaten path requires patience, stamina and a healthy knowledge of Chinese bureaucratic systems.

Organising the Western Tibet Expedition took me three years.  During that time, Tibet vacillated between being closed to Westerners, to restricted access for groups of a singular nationality to the entire country being shut down.  For a trip that was going to take a month and venture into some of the most wild and remote corners of the country, it was a source of great worry watching permissions come, then go and on top of it all, meet the expectations of the guests who had committed to go with me on this momentous journey.

I really only got official permission to visit the west in February 2013, seven months before my expedition was due to start in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Joining me on my trip were five hardy and intrepid friends, three Germans and two Aussies.  Amongst many preparations, I had warned them that Tibet is a challenging place.

Tibet is a country that makes you think.  If switching your brain down and enjoying a cocktail by the pool is your idea of a holiday, then Tibet is probably not going to be your idyllic destination for your annual break.  During travels in Tibet, you are often slapped in the face by winds so cold they take your breath away.  At any moment you could be blinded by a swirl of powder fine Tibetan plateau dust and it is hard to sleep.  The altitude is so high it robs you of life giving oxygen and imposes the wildest dreams upon your slumber.

While you are there, it is best to let the country take you and not push you.  There are times when you won’t think straight or deal very well with the lack of sanitation.  Tempers fray, your sense of humour is harder to maintain and you are often just tired from pushing yourself around in altitudes higher than the Matterhorn.

It is only when you come out of that altitude that a sense of euphoria washes over you and you start the long mental journey of processing everything you encountered in Tibet.  When the plateau plunges out of altitude into the raging waters of the Bhote Khose, which carves one of the deepest gorges on earth into the Himalayas, you start to feel human again, there are trees and birds.  There is air.  Tibet doesn’t hit you there however.

Tibet hits you the most when you return home.  The momentous Himalayan landscapes that stole your emotions, the “meerkat toilets” that assaulted your sense of smell, the overarching resilience of Tibetans to withstand omnipresent change and still cling to their diminishing culture.  The people who can completely disarm you with their selfless natures, warm smiles, shared cups of tea and a gentle curiosity rivalled by few other cultures in the world.

Here is a small video that shows how each of my friends viewed Tibet through their eyes during my expedition.

2 thoughts on “Through their Eyes – Six Views of Tibet

  1. Lance Fearne says:

    There are always people who appreciate far less than others and celebrate life and the the ability participate in community as a precious gift
    thank you for the evocative images.
    Regards
    Lance

    • Inger says:

      Thanks Lance! Sorry it has taken me a while to respond to your comments above but I appreciate your kind words and yes, the Tibetan people are a blessing to work alongside. Some of the nicest people I’ve met anywhere.

      HOpe you are well and that you have a great Christmas! xo

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