Comment on the situation in Tibet
This dilemma calls for some urgent and constant attention:
Dalai Lama's shattered dream for Tibet
By B. GAUTAM
The Japan Times
Saturday, May 26, 2007
MADRAS ? Tibet looks like a dream shattered. You feel this when you hear the stories of horror told and retold by Buddhist monks and nuns who have escaped from Tibet and taken refuge in Dharamshala, the center of the Dalai Lama's government in exile in India.
Nestled in the foothills of the snow-clad Himalayas, Dharamshala is deceptive in many ways. The Dalai Lama hides deep worries behind his serene smile: He knows he is not going to live forever, and the community he leads could lose any hope, however faint it may be, of seeing a free Tibet.
The nuns and monks who have run away from years of humiliation and torture at the hands of the Chinese in Tibet also despair. They know that their sacrifice may have been in vain.
Once a supremely spiritual civilization, Tibet revered the Dalai Lama before the Chinese invasion in the 1950s. It is this religious society that Beijing is bent on destroying ? maiming and killing anybody who refuses to give up his beliefs or who harbors the slightest hope of political autonomy. The Chinese have torn apart monasteries and killed roughly 1.2 million Tibetans since the annexation in 1959.
Now, however, China has adopted a more tactical approach to crushing Tibetan resistance. The country's president, Hu Jintao, who once imposed martial law on Tibet, has realized that heavy-handed steps lead to greater rebellion as well as international attention and protests. Since Beijing covets the billions of barrels of oil and gas recently discovered in Tibet, it has begun to co-opt Tibetans in modernizing the Roof of the World, while quietly silencing the core of dissent, monkhood.
Although China has said publicly it will promote and encourage Buddhism as well as restore monasteries and palaces to their former glory, the picture behind this veneer of tolerance is still one of ruthless elimination. The Chinese hold patriotic conclaves where Tibetan monks and nuns are told to forget the Dalai Lama.
As Tibet's capital city, Lhasa, undergoes changes beyond recognition, with even a rail link to China, Tibetans are being slowly pushed to the fringes. An increasing number of Chinese are setting up shop and home in Lhasa ? with train services facilitating such relocation. Beijing knows this is the best way to control the local population.
Chinese officials often blatantly cheat rural Tibetans out of their own land, convincing them to give it up for promises of property in the city. The promise is never kept, and the farmland goes to Chinese entrepreneurs, who convert it into industrial zones.
Watching almost helplessly from afar is the Dalai Lama, who knows that if he does not set foot in Tibet before he dies, his people will be furious. His strategy of a middle path ? asking for greater political and cultural autonomy instead of total freedom and holding talks with Chinese envoys ? has not yielded results. His people know that Beijing is waiting for his death, after which the Tibetans may find themselves rudderless.
Many Tibetans are not willing to go down without a fight. Today, at Dharamshala, one can hear open criticism of the Dalai Lama. He is accused of selling out to the Chinese. Campaigning against the Dalai Lama, and for total freedom, is Tenzin Tsundue, a young Tibetan who has become the most important figure among the exiles in Dharamshala. He and his band of followers have abandoned the Dalai Lama's peaceful approach and draw their strength from militants like Palestinians.
This may go against the very grain of Buddhism, whose founder believed in one overriding principle: nonviolence. But Tibetan youngsters who adore Tsundue have little time or patience for values that have gotten them nowhere.
In India, Tibetans have stormed Chinese consulates and the embassy. During a recent visit by Hu Jintao, a young Tibetan tried to immolate himself outside the Bombay hotel where the Chinese president was staying.
Tibetan hardliners are targeting the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the new train line to Lhasa. In the days to come, violence could manifest itself more intensely in various ways. When the Dalai Lama finally goes, his followers will have little to fall back upon. The hardliners may then try to convince Tibetans that since the Dalai Lama's Buddhist doctrine of peace, love and the middle path did not fetch any tangible result for decades, violence is the only answer.
But with China ready to treat such Tibetans as terrorists in a world that is growing weary of violence and bloodshed, the new Tibetan approach to winning freedom may well come to nothing.
What seems more likely to happen is that Tibet will be firmly amalgamated with China as all traces of its ancient civilization and spirituality vanish. Tibetan culture may end up as just another chapter in a history book.
The problem is the greatest dictatorship in the world, which the whole world kowtows to in submission to its capitalistic success: so far it has paid to support this totalitarianism, so all opportunists (which most of mankind are) continue encouraging the regime that slaughtered its own subjects at Tiananmen Square 4th June 1989, forces abortion and sterilization on mothers who have more than one child, still worships their Big Brother Dictator Mao as something of a saint although he was the greatest murderer in history with some 100 million homicides on his responsibility, and so on.
Dictatorships are not acceptable and must never be acceptable, especially after the century that brought forth dictators like Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, Mugabe, Idi Amin and Pol Pot, who was actually directed in his genocide against his own people by Mao.
As long as the world supports any dictatorship, the world will continue going to hell.
Himalayan Global Warming Report
Research by scientists shows that the ice fields on the roof of the world are disappearing faster than anyone thought.
from an article in "The Independent" by Clifford Coonan.
Dharamsala November 20th
The Qinghai-Tibet plateau is home to tens of thousands of glaciers, fields of ice at the roof of the world where Mount Everest and other Himalayan peaks look down on China and Nepal.
But the glaciers are melting faster than anyone thought, fresh research by Chinese scientists shows, as global warming speeds up the shrinkage of more than 80 per cent of the 46,377 glaciers on the lofty plateau.
Rising temperatures on the ice fields of Qinghai-Tibet and surrounding areas in the past 50 years are having a devastating effect on the environment, as receding glaciers translate into water shortages in China and huge swathes of south Asia.
China will soon have to add more deserts, droughts and sandstorms to its already lengthy list of pollution woes, while India and Nepal will have to deal with staggering environmental consequences, as the melting lakes of ice threaten essential natural resources for the large population centres at the foot of the mountain ranges.
About 47 per cent of China's glaciers are on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau in the Himalayas, where the Yangtze, Yellow, Brahmaputra, Mekong and Salween rivers all originate.
The rate of melting, estimated at some 7 per cent a year, has meant more water run-off from the plateau, which worsens soil erosion and leads to desertification.
It is an environmental nightmare for rivers such as the Yangtze, 20 per cent of which is fed by glaciers, while the Taklamakan Desert in north-west China could be flooded before later drying out, researchers say.
Research just released by China's leading scientific body, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, shows global warming is dealing a hammer blow to ice fields at some of the world's truly awesome mountain regions.
This week the United Nations warned that Tibet's glaciers could disappear within 100 years due to global warming.
"Almost all glaciers in China have already shown substantial melting," the UN Development Programme said in its 2006 Human Development Report. "This is a major threat to China's over-used and polluted water supplies. The 300 million farmers in China's arid western region are likely to see a decline in the volume of water flowing from the glaciers."
The melting glaciers have not led to more water flowing into China's dry north and west because much of the melted glacier water is evaporated before it reaches the country's drought-stricken farmers, again as a result of global warming.
In the past 40 years, glaciers across the Tibetan plateau that spills from China into South Asia have shrunk by 6,600 square kilometres, especially since the 1980s, the conservation group WWF said in a 2005 report. The glaciers now cover about 105,000 square kilometres, it said.
It is not just the glaciers of Tibet that are melting - 95 per cent of Alaska's glaciers are thinning, too. Global temperatures rose about 0.6C during the 20th century, and the consensus among scientists is that warming will continue as long as greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, accumulate in the atmosphere.
China is the world's fastest-growing major economy, but it has only a quarter of the world's average water per person, and rampant economic growth has sharpened competition for water resources.
The Qinghai-Tibet plateau covers 2.5 million square kilometres - about a quarter of China's land surface - at an average altitude of four kilometres above sea level. The world's highest ice fields are a natural biological museum for the array of geological phenomena they contain.
The temperature has risen by 0.2C every 10 years, according to the Cold and Dry Zone Environment and Engineering Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The institute's scientists selected 5,000 glaciers in the region for study, using remote sensors and other methods for gathering geographical information, to monitor changes over the past 50 years, Liu Shiyin, one of the scientists taking part in the programme, told the Xinhua news agency.
The results were harrowing. Liu said only a small number of glaciers were expanding and about 82 per cent of the monitored glaciers had receded by 4.5 per cent in the past 50 years.
The rate of shrinkage in glaciers in the central and northwestern parts of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau was slightly slower, but it was noticeably faster in neighbouring areas.
Of 170 glaciers on the northwestern slope of the Qilian Mountains, a range of peaks in the northern province of Gansu formerly known as the Richthofen Range, 95 per cent had thinned by 4.9 metres each year on average. Only 10 glaciers had expanded during the period.
In the Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang province, almost all the glaciers on the northern slopes, and 69 per cent of glaciers on the southern slopes, were dwindling.
In the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia, site of the 72km long Fedchenko Glacier, the world's longest ice field outside the polar region, the glacier acreage shrank by 10 per cent.
Glaciers on the northern slopes of the Kunlun Mountains, which stretch for 3,000km to form the border of Northern Tibet, are shrinking, as are the ice fields of the Himalayas, which are home to the world's tallest mountain, Mount Everest.
Global warming is causing China's highland glaciers, including those covering Everest, to shrink by an amount equivalent to all the water in the Yellow River every year.
Monitoring results show the flow of water in some rivers in north-west China's dry regions has been increasing, which was possibly a result of melting glaciers, Liu said.
Liu warned that if glaciers continued to melt at such a high rate, it "would impose serious impact on local production and the life of local people".
In Nepal, where temperatures rise an average of 0.06C per year, snow-fed rivers are declining, and water levels are getting lower on the wetlands of the Qinghai Plateau.
Melting icefields are expected to trigger more droughts in an already parched China, expand desertification and increase the frequency of sandstorms.
Han Yongxiang, a meteorologist, said average temperatures in Tibet have risen by nearly one degree centigrade since the 1980s, accelerating the melting of the glacier and frozen tundra of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau.
The desert is creeping right up to the edge of Beijing, despite the planting of millions of trees to stop the sand's onset.
Drought is a fact of life and sandstorms are getting worse every year in north China. A strong sandstorm swept across huge swathes of the country last month. One particularly virulent storm dumped 330,000 tonnes of dust on Beijing and had an impact as far away as South Korea and Japan.
It has been known for some time that the glaciers are melting. Last year, scientists said three quarters of the glacier in the south-east of Tibet, and the marine glacier along the Hengduan mountains, a series of parallel mountain ranges running through the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet, would fade away by 2100 if the temperature rises by 2.1C.
Earlier this year the Chinese ran a railway line across the plateau for the first time. China has ruled the remote mountainous region of Tibet since 1950.
Water shortages due to overuse affect 538 million people in northern China, where 42 per cent of the country's population is supplied by 14 per cent of the country's water, according to the UN report this week.
The report said that more than 70 per cent of the water in the Yellow, Huai and Hai rivers, which between them supply about half of China's population, is too polluted for human use. Half of China's rural poor live in the basin areas of these rivers.
China's deputy environment minister, Zhu Guangyao, said in June that dealing with pollution may cost the country as much as 10 per cent of its GDP, which was £1.2 trillion last year.
Not everyone agrees with the gloomy prognosis, and some scientists say that glaciers in the Himalayas have not drastically shrunk despite global warming and are unlikely to melt away in coming decades. Zhang Wenjing, an expert on glaciers, who also works at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, did not question global warming, however, he said it would take perhaps centuries to melt the dense ice packs that accumulate and creep down the Himalayas.
WWF believes glacier recession would first cause flooding, then, decades later, reduce the flows of major rivers such as the Ganges, Mekong and Yangtze. This would, WWF predicted, cause environmental problems for Nepal and parts of China and India as irrigation and hydropower suffered.
"The world faces an economic and development catastrophe if the rate of global warming isn't reduced," said Jennifer Morgan, the environmental group's climate change programme director. "They need to work together on reducing CO2 emissions, increasing the use of renewable energy and implementing energy efficiency measures."
The WWF ran a witness report by Ngawang Tenzing Jangpo, the Abbot of Tengboche monastery, the most revered monk in Khumbu, Nepal. "The temperature of the earth is rising. It is not natural," said the abbot, who has lived in Khumbu for over 30 years and witnessed floods from lakes bursting with glacial meltwater.
"The Sherpas of Khumbu may not know everything, but they are suffering the consequences of the people's greed. We mountain people should be careful and take precautions. If we don't save Khumbu today our fresh water will dry up and the problem will be impossible to solve in the future."
Something about the Himalayas
Since I am back in the Himalayas now for the 19th time, maybe I should say something about them.
There is a saying in the Himalayas, that "if man is to have a future at all, he must understand himself and his own past." Maybe that is why I keep returning to the Himalayas: in front of the face of the highest, purest and loveliest mountains in the world you stand naked, spiritually naked, and you have to confront your own nakedness and consider your situation carefully. Thus you are forced to get to know and understand yourself.
Man is much more than just his historical past. For me, the main attraction of India is her spiritual depth and the seriousness of her culture. Indian civilisation is probably the oldest in the world, it is impossible to date, but Hinduism is certainly the world's oldest living religion, and her main offspring is Buddhism. But Hinduism was born in the mountains of the Himalayas.
In the depth of the great Himalayas you find a valley called "the Valley of the Gods". It's in the heart of the land of Vishnu, but the geographical names of that area are rather of the predecessors to the well-known Indian gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, that is, of Rudra, Karna, Indra and others. You find these valleys and strange places in Garwhal, western Uttaranchal, where the Ganges runs up, where also the sacred pilgrimage sites Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath are found, all these representing different sources of the Ganga, the holy river of India.
But no matter how sacred these places are, for many modern people and thinkers the chief place of attraction in India is Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh because of the Dalai Lama's presence there. He represents much more than just Tibetan Buddhism since he there leads an exile government of the suppressed Tibet and the persecuted Tibetan people, who today face what the Jews stood against in the Second World War. The comparison is not far-fetched, though there are differences: the Jews did not have a country of their own when the Nazi persecution set in, but the Tibetans did have their own country which never had belonged to anyone else, when the Chinese occupied it by military force and compelled many Tibetans to choose between exile or death. Many who chose to remain perished in torture chambers or labour camps, at least about 500,000, probably much more. It's not a Chinese tradition to count casualties.
For this very special situation of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans, he appears as the leading freedom fighter of the world together with the imprisoned Aung Sang Suu Kyi of Burma, especially since both strictly follow the principle of non-violence. Their method is wisdom and patience against the cruelty and folly of mundane politics.
You can feel this inspired freedom aspiration all over Dharamsala mixed with bitter memories and painful melancholy, but the optimism is there. Just as the Nazi terror became a driving force for the Jews with their greatest dynamic expansion since the times of king David and Christ for a result, so will the communist-atheist persecution of Buddhism and the Tibetan nation and culture transform into perhaps the greatest dynamic growth of Tibetanism and Buddhism in history - for the first time Buddhism will spread into all corners of the world.
A bit further away in Himachal you find a paradise of a different kind, where you find cannabis growing all over the country wild in nature around Manali, the Kullu valley and Manikaran. Those who find the best way to enjoy life through drugs will find many hippie paradises in the eastern areas of Himachal.
Further down is Shimla, the last Indian summer capital of the British, which still retains its style and is an agreeable spot to spend some days in. Another place like that is Mussoorie above Dehra Doon, one of the nicest hill stations, which is almost exactly as the British left it. Further down is Rishikesh on the Ganges, an entirely vegetarian town with many holy men: you can't find a drop of alcohol or a piece of meat for eating in the whole town. I never heard of anyone who didn't like it in Rishikesh.
But let's move up along the river to the sources of the Ganga and to the valleys of the gods. If you follow the river up west you will eventually reach Gangotri, the traditional temple at the main source of the holy river. But this river is now being controlled by a dam, which has caused much controversy. Several towns and villages have been drowned, like Tehri, and people refused to move from their family homes through many generations to alien places until they were forced to. If an earthquake will happen here and the dam will burst, all Rishikesh will be washed away.
But the eastern arm of the river is more interesting. It's called Aliknanda, and along it you will find a richer landscape with flourishing villages and communities to a much greater extent than on the main Ganga. Another riverarm leads up to Gaurikund, from where you can walk up to the temple of Kedarnath at 3500 meters, another source of the Ganga. It is set under wild mountains in the middle of the snows and is a quite fantastic place.
But if you keep following the Aliknanda you will eventually end up in the valley of the gods, where the small town of Joshimath has perhaps the wildest and most dramatic settings found anywhere in the world. It's right in the middle of the great Himalayas, where the river bursts through the mountains in gorges which you can't see the bottom of, while the mountains rise sharply and almost vertically straight up to 7000 meters and more. One of the mountains here is the Nanda Devi, the highest mountain of India, at 7800 meters. It's a sharp top with a hunch like a camel and is a very spectacular mountain and almost impossible to climb. You see it best from Auli, a small village above Joshimath, at 3000 meters.
Of course there are lots of places around here where you can retreat and philosophise in peace and quiet, like Gandhi did in Kausani, where he wrote his autobiography. There is an ashram there in his name with a museum and is a very peaceful spot, ideal for a retreat, and you can see all the Garwhal high Himalayas from there.
Lower down and more busy is Almora, the old capital of this part of the world, with the shrine of Kesaar Devi next to it, another hippie paradise; but for me Almora is too modern and hectic. I prefer the delightful oasis of Naini Tal, a small summer town constructed around a lake, which was the first summer capital of the British in the 1820s. The style and charm of those days is still there. It's a wondrous place where Christian churches, Hindu temples, Moslem mosques and a Buddhist Tibetan monastery exist together without any problem at all; but the centre of the town is an impressing cricket field just by the water. They always play there, and loudspeakers keep informing the whole town how the game goes. Together with Dharamsala and Darjeeling, it's one of my favourite spots in India.
Darjeeling lies on the other eastern side of Nepal and is geographically Sikkimese. The British leased it from Sikkim in the 1840s to start growing tea there, and after Indian independence 1947 Nehru continued the lease contract with Sikkim and even voluntarily doubled the fee. Not until India formally occupied Sikkim in 1974 there was no need for India to continue paying the rent for Darjeeling to Sikkim.
The main reason why Indira Gandhi decided to put an end to Sikkim independence was her fear that China would do it instead. Not until this year did China accept Sikkim as a part of India, while India at the same time formally accepted Tibet as a part of China. One can't help remembering the pact between Nazi-Germany and Soviet-Russia in 1939 before they cut up Poland between themselves.
The main characteristic of the landscape and mentality of Sikkim is softness. It is a green lush country completely dominated by its sacred mountain the majestic Kanjenjunga, who generously spreads out her hills in all directions towards the east in grand green valleys and an extremely agreeable landscape incomparable with anything else. This geographical harmony also marks the people, who perhaps are the kindest in all India. It was an independent kingdom for many centuries until India decided to incorporate it into the Indian Union, thus making sure the Chinese would not invade it. Previously, Sikkim had only had troubles with Nepal, which consistently has been rather aggressive against Sikkim; and the main population of Sikkim today are Nepalese, whereas the original Sikkim people, the Lepcha, have withdrawn more and more into a rather obscure minority.
Geographically, Darjeeling belongs to Sikkim, although its characteristic is entirely different. The name 'Dorjeling' means the 'home of the thunderbolt', and Darjeeling could be described as one of the most dramatic places in India, not only because of the very changeable and constantly surprising weather - you can have glorious sunshine in one moment to be immersed in fog the next, and then suddenly there are torrential showers and thunder. The main languages are Nepali, Hindi and Bengali, but the first language is English. More than any place in India, Darjeeling has retained its British stamp, and when Gandhi wanted to separate India from the British (and cause the secession of Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon as well) Darjeeling was not interested. Several of the small provinces east of Darjeeling shared that failure to be impressed by the activities of Gandhi, and some of them are still fighting to get rid of the Hindu dominance. The North East Territories are the most troublesome spot in India after Kashmir, and foreigners are not allowed there without special permits. The people there are mainly Christian and Burmese.
Nepal, which produced the best soldiers for the British Empire, the famous Gurkhas, and which always co-operated well with Britain although never colonised, suffered a very traumatic tragedy the other year, when the heir to the throne shot his whole family dead except his uncle, who is now king. Behind this atrocious family quarrel was much more than the heir's displeasure at his parents' not allowing him to marry the girl he wanted. He was on drugs, mainly cocaine, which his uncle had initiated him into the use of, and the terrible royal family tragedy should be seen mainly as the result of a drug psychosis on behalf of the heir, who ended the massacre by turning his gun on himself. Since then there has been no real stability in Nepal. The king, the former uncle, is conservative and has little concern for his people. Being an orthodox Hindu, he doesn't like Buddhists and Christians much, and things have not improved during his rule. On the contrary, the Maoist guerrilla warfare has increased, and it's not safe anymore for anyone to journey by road. There are police checkpoints everywhere causing much trouble and delay, traffic doesn't work at night because of the curfew, and even tourists have become robbed by bandits.
China obviously plays some part in this, since she officially supports the Nepalese central government and the royal throne while at the same time she provides the Maoist guerrilla with weapons. I have heard this from several sources. China denies this, but the weapons of the guerrillas are Chinese. China claims Tibetans smuggle them across, or that Indian communists are doing it; but the only motive behind this must be a Chinese ambition to gain more control of Nepal, like she has of Burma, where the military dictatorship firmly maintains the economic control of the country by a monopoly on drugs, mainly heroin. Only the Chinese government has accepted the military dictatorial government of Burma, backing it up with weapons. One can see Chinese control of Nepal increasing: she wants to stop the refugee flow from Tibet to Nepal, and Nepal has started to return Tibetan fugitives to China, spiting the United Nations international agreement concerning political refugees. Nepal is in a bad fix between the giants India and China with no other bordering countries except these threatening mammoth states. Of course she is afraid of both and has a difficult diplomatic balance to keep by trying not to upset or anger any of them. But whatever Nepal does to please India will anger China, and vice versa, so Nepal can do nothing to improve her relationships without causing either of her two overbearing neighbours to start threatening again.
The last year, though, since the king resigned from power, things have improved and are gradually returning to normal, but the Nepalese will now have a great job in building up their society again from zero.
On the other hand, every traveller I have met to Burma has praised the country and her people. The trick in visiting Burma is not to make any money exchange at the airport but to reserve all expenses for the people, so that the military government gets nothing. It's easy to travel alone, people are extremely helpful and want to speak English with you, it's ideal for a student of Buddhism, adorer of nature and lover of idylls; and the military autocracy will of course fall sooner or later to give way to the democratic opposition led by the most admirable Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who has devoted her life solely to serve and help her people. Burma (Myanmar) is definitely a country of the future.
If there are troubles in Nepal, there are no less troubles in main India, which was manifest as I travelled through Bihar. The same kind of strikes that paralyse Nepalese traffic sometimes occur in India. I was held up seven hours on a train because a local politician had felt insulted and in anger organised the local police to stop the trains indefinitely until he had obtained an excuse; and as I travelled by bus there was a corpse on the road, which also caused the police to stop the traffic on the main road in India to the North Eastern Territories for hours. Bihar is the most notoriously criminal state of India, it is backward, illiteracy is high, it's difficult to find people who can speak English, so for us it is best avoided. The problem is that it is the heart of India, so it's difficult to avoid.
The capital Patna used to be the capital of the Indian Empire when it reached its highest expansion under the Buddhist king Ashoka the generation after Alexander the Great. It was then called Pataliputra and is still today an awesome metropolis of 3,5 million; but nothing is left of the ancient Buddhist imperial splendour - except the oasis Bodhgaya 100 kilometres to the south just off Gaya.
This is a fascinating spot where all Asia meets - here you find all Asian nationalities with Buddhist temples of their own, from Ceylon to Japan with all nations in between. The two most beautiful temples are the main Tibetan ones, but also the Thai and the Bhutan temples are startling masterpieces of architecture. Pilgrims from all over the world come here, even from the west, to study, meditate or just enjoy the peace around the Mahabodhi Stupa, built before the 7th century by the spot where the Buddha had his enlightenment, the holiest site of Buddhism in the world. It's impossible not to be impressed by the general atmosphere here of devotion, piety and respect.
What then is to be said about Tibet and China? Let me quote the words of a good friend of mine in Darjeeling:
"Another obviousness is the absurd political existence of the China phenomenon as a single extreme monster state in a fairly democratic world, but the politicians and business men of the leading democratic countries in the west are so stupid that they keep backing up, investing in and fawning on China in the preposterous illusion that China is a golden calf to make the best and quickest money out of, while in fact the whole Chinese society stands on clay feet and is tottering as the economy might collapse at any moment, being overheated and completely corrupt. Their yuan is overrated, they invest tens of billions in megalomaniacal projects that destroy the environment instead of remedying the lacks and wants of the country; the railway to Tibet, their greatest project ever, can never pay itself off and is as absurd as the concentration camps project of Nazi Germany; and the second greatest, the Three Gorges Dam on Yangtse, may at any time burst in an earthquake causing all cities along the river to be washed away, while tens of millions of ordinary Chinese are evacuated by force to satisfy the vanity and inhumanity of the accountable bureaucrats. The situation in Tibet is the most flagrant manifestation of the hysterical madness of China. She does everything to extirpate the Tibetan people and culture to replace it with a Chinese one in order to forever confirm Chinese ownership of Tibet, while this only raises accelerating protests all over the world, highlighting China's catastrophic environmental destruction of Tibet. China is very well aware that she is making all efforts to destroy Tibet completely, and she does it on purpose, just because that villain Mao set China on that course, this Mao, whom the whole western world cherished and admired and kowtowed to just because America behaved badly in Vietnam, while everyone gladly closed their eyes to how badly Mao's China behaved in China and against their own people, the casualties being something about 150-200 million including all enforced abortions. China even opened fire against their own people on Tiananmen Square in the middle of the capital Beijing on June 4th 1989 - never has the cruelty and inhumanity of the governing party of China more clearly showed the nature of its real face of only cynical inhumanity and vanity; and still the Chinese continue to adore and cherish Mao and follow its beastly governing party, as if they refused to realise the obviousness of its absolutely and unacceptably criminal existence."
So the problem is not Tibet. The problem is China, and Tibet has wrongly been made to suffer for it.
The incident by Cho Oyo on September 30th focusses the problem - there have been no human rights in China since the communist take-over in 1949. A group of 70 Tibetan refugees crossing the Nangpa La at above 5700 meters were shot at by Chinese soldiers deliberately in cold blood, who succeeded in killing a nun. 11 children were arrested and brought to no one knows where, while everything was witnessed by western mountain climbers by Cho Oyo and was even filmed by a Romanian. The Chinese, when the news reached the world, at first stated the soldiers had fired in self defence and denied any killings, but the evidence will now cause problems to the Chinese communist establishment, also notorious in later years for allowing organs (like liver, kidneys etc.) to be taken from live Falun Gong prisoners to be sold on the international market at lucrative prices for the government while the victims of course get nothing except sometimes death.
But there is one more country in the Himalayas, which I have not dwelt on and even less been to visit - Bhutan. In a humdrum ordinary Indian canteen among locals I met a young lonely German lady with glasses who had been to Bhutan not as a tourist but on a special invitation and mission and thus got around the necessity to pay for her existence there by $200 a day. She described Bhutan as the last Himalayan paradise - still completely segregated and untouched by the vitiation of modernism, mass tourism and mass immigration as well as completely free from civil wars and political crises - the monarchy still retains all power, and it’s probably best that way. It’s just to hope for the country’s continued virginity and that she may continue like that in her own style as long as possible.
So there are still hidden and unknown Shangri-La-like paradises in the Himalayas although you have to search for them and they are getting more difficult to find. But they will always be there, they always were basically inaccessible, since they always were reserved for only those who really make an effort.
Enjoying myself in Dharamsala, the centre of the Tibetan exile government and the centre of the world for all Tibetan Buddhists, which all the same is a very quiet place, whether the Dalai Lama is here or not - he is, at present. The rains are heavy, the monsoon goes on for yet another week, so I have hardly seen the sun since I came down from the last high pass (Rohtang). Altogether, this journey has given me 10% sunshine, 50% rains and 40% clouds. Let's stick to the 10% unforgettable sunshine.
Here in Dharamsala you can do one of the loveliest walks in India up to a place called Triund very close to the snowline (at 4000 meters). There is a convenient path all the way up, so you don't mind climbing about 1200 meters straight up. In the mornings it has not yet started raining, and if you are lucky you get down in time not to get wet. Up there this morning I met with a lovely Irish couple from Dublin who had spent the night there, and they had actually managed to get their clothes dry - a miracle! They are the first Irish I have met on this journey.
I usually start or end all my Indian journeys here in Dharamsala because of this convenient walk possibility straight up to the mountains, which is so good for me - one of the reasons why I come to India so regularly is for health reasons, I always recovered from everything here, where I generally reach the top of my health.
And all this I have to leave behind, as I have to take a seat tomorrow evening (Wednesday) on a bus to Delhi to commence a horrible home journey. There are no morning buses to Delhi from here, so I have to take a night bus and then wait all day for my flight the following night. That day I will spend at the Tibetan colony in Delhi, a charming place called Mauno Ka Tilla, so the last friends I leave in India are the Tibetans. My flight for Moscow is at 4.30 in the morning (Friday), and then I have to wait for 12 hours in Moscow airport for my connecting flight to Copenhagen, which I will reach about 22 hrs on Friday night. There I take the last bus to Gothenburg, which I will reach around 3-4 on Saturday morning. The good thing is that there will be no jet lag, since I travel in the right direction. I might even be able to anticipate some necessary sleep in a chair at Moscow.
The Himalayan Symphony
Do you hear the hills resounding with this glory
of our symphony of triumph, glorifying all the beauty
of the world, of all the freedom of Dame Nature,
of our harmony and love? Thus sings my heart for joy
and hovers without bounds among the highest mountains
just to sing the praise of all the beauty of this world,
of you, our friendship and our love.
What matters the extremest separation in a case like this,
when love just frees itself from all the confines of the world,
of all mortality, of matter, space and time
to just exist in glory, flying above all vanity,
and gloriously enjoy the highest, purest music,
that of perfect silence in eternal stillness,
the sublimest music of the soul,
transcending heaven and eternity.
13th report - back in Manali
Back in Manali (down to only 200 meters!) the ways of life are gradually returning to normal after three weeks of extremes. I can eat again and with good appetite, but the two health crises on this journey need some explanation, since both of them never have happened to me in India before (in 18 journeys!) The first one was perfectly logical. After three intensive days of the conference with desperate efforts at the same time to organize my Zanskar expedition, ending with disastrous rains which turned everything upside down, after which there were 9 hours of incessant trekking on an empty stomach, after which I made the mistake of overeating, being all too famished. That was stupid, and that was the drop that turned me inside out. After one day's rest I was completely restored, though. I never vomited in India before.
The second fall is more difficult to explain. There was definitely something going around which brought half of Leh to their beds and especially the conference people, who were all exhausted after two months' preparations for the conference and then hard work non-stop day and night, but I don't think I caught their syndrome. The day before I got sick, a local friend invited me for some local momos (a delicious Tibetan course) with some alien spices, which probably were what my system reacted against. 6 diarrhoeas in a day, and that was all, which did not hinder me from embarking on the toughest bus ride in India for 20 hours immediately after the 6th one. Again, one day's rest (on the bus), and I was completely rerstored, but I have never used medication in India before. An Austrian nurse offered me 2 pills of Imodium, a strong thing to put under the tongue.
It's very sad to leave all these lovely mountains behind, especially when the days really started to get beautiful, and with a failed Zanskar project also, but I must try again next year. Today here in Manali I had my first hot shower for three weeks, but I miss all the cold ones, which really stirred you up.
12th report - sad departure from Leh
The small remnant of the conference people are most of them in a rather miserable state of sickness - no wonder, after all that over-straining in organizing such a thing!
The damages here are now gradually being summed up. One village is completely gone, and eight families have lost their homes - their houses were simply completely washed away. Everyone discusses this problem in Leh, since there is no insurance system here. The damages and villages washed away are even more and much more numerous in Kashmir.
I am myself rather weak, and it will be good to return to lower altitudes after three weeks of above 3500 meters - hopefully I will get my appetite back. Many of my friends here have been struck with this sickness too - diarrhoea and weakness from over-exertion.
It is especially sad to leave here now as the weather is returning to normal with wonderful sunshine and sunsets over the clear mountains every day. Now would be the time to arrive here and start trekking - whereas people instead are leaving, shops closing for the season and the street life thinning out. One of my best local friends here advised me to come later in the season next year.
Next stop Manali.
11th report - Just a few notes about my friends and connections here and in India in general.
The conference people you already know: an exquisite bunch of wonderful, constructive and idealistic people from all over the world, of all nationalities.
I have met very few Americans and Germans here, I never met a German who was not at a loss in India, but there was at least one wonderful American for an exception who was cultivated, knowledgeable, charming and of the best kind of world travellers, a kind which is rarely found here among Americans. Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, however, are all perfect travellers, good-natured, cheerful and very good friends. Among these people I never met anyone who was not thoroughly agreeable.
The French are more difficult and not very popular. They tend to be arrogant and pretentious, and I never made a good lasting friend of a Frenchman in India.
The Swiss and Austrians are excellent trekkers and mountain climbers and very trustworthy as hardy sportsmen, although you seldom get into any intimate friendship with them. The Austrians are then easier.
The Dutch are also extremely good sportsmen, and you can easily make good friends out of them, although they tend to be a bit over-intrepid. The Belgians are gentler.
The Italians are the best possible travelling companions, always humouristic and spiritual, wonderfully entertaining, and although they can be very particular about details (second only to Israelis in making great deals out of nothing) they are the best to travel with in groups.
The Israelis are a difficult chapter. They are generally youngsters who come here in rowdy groups directly after their military service (of several years) to break loose. They generally don't know anything about India, they keep only to themselves, they want only Israeli food, they are dominant and make a lot of noise, they always quarrel about money, they speak only Hebrew and bad English only if they must, they are uneducated and shockingly ignorant, and no one likes them. Only if they come travelling here alone individually, they can be of the very best kind of travellers. Many Russian Israelis come here alone, and I always made great friends out of them.
I have met few Spaniards and never any Portuguese. Scandinavians are even more rare, this time I have only met one from Sweden, who has been living here for 28 years and refuses to speak any word of Swedish. I will meet another Swede in Manali who is also naturalized here.
The best, though, are the British. They know something about India, they know how to travel here and how things work, they understand the Indians, they are cultivated and spiritual, they know what they are doing, they are efficient and alert and make things work - they have a knack for making life easy here in India for anyone around them. At the same time, they always have something to bring and to teach you. They are simply the cleverest and best educated India travellers.
The eastern Europeans (including Russians) are more difficult to get at, since they tend to keep to themselves. Some Poles, Czechs and Hungarians, though, have been very agreeable and very brave trekkers.
On Friday morning I leave for Manali (2 days' journey), so my last day here will be tomorrow.
10th report - my letter to the conference.
When I came to Leh just in time for the conference I did not know about it. It was Ella Saltmarshe who informed me about it as we had breakfast together at Lung Snon, the Green Valley guest house, Dolma Tsering's place, one hour before the conference started. Since I had very much to do on my first day in Leh and Ladakh, I could not attend the talks as much as I would have wanted to, but I think I managed to produce a pretty good summary of the whole thing already after the first day, which you'll find published on my blog: (see 4th report)
Like myself, Ella was just a guest and observer, but still I think her view of things perhaps should have been given more attention than was the case, since her very field of research is the greatest world environmental problem of all: the global warming.
I am myself entirely a cultural worker, in all my life I have done no farming at all, so I am a complete outsider in the Green Revolution, which maybe is why I can understand and sympathize with it so well. Whatever was said during the three days of the conference, I never found anything at all to object to, while instead I was impressed by how all these people from all over the world, with their individual very special insight and experience of the vitality of grass-root work, had been assembled together to join hands and exchange knowledge and experience of how to handle the major problems of humanity.
As I said in the small seminar in which I was invited to partake, my chief concern is the degeneration and vulgarization of culture, i.e. the damaging effects of the brainwash culture (TV and other mass media) on the true culture, the survival of which is important for humanity, that is (for my part) traditional and classical literature and music, above all in music in contrast to the western rock culture of drugs, loudspeaker accentuation and 'hard metal' percussion dominance, and tonal music in contrast to atonal music, which isn't music any more. A parallel case is the sex and violence domination of the cinema, while young people never get the opportunity to see Charlie Chaplin, Vittorio de Sica, the British Gainsborough films of the 40s, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers and other classics in black and white. Also modern literature in drama (like Beckett), novels (like "Ulysses") and poetry (like Ezra Pound) that is not even intelligible I find totally meaningless in contrast to classics like Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Victor Hugo, Ibsen, H.C.Andersen and the great realists, to name a few examples. In brief, in the field of culture there is also very much old knowledge and skills that have been buried alive by 20th century technocracy that would deserve to be resurrected.
Something like this would have been my argument as a contribution to this vital grass-root conference, which hopefully will lead to maybe a chain reaction of follow-ups in the future.
Christian Lanciai, writer and musician, born an Italian citizen in Finland, working mainly as an editor in Gothenburg, Sweden.
9th report - getting busy in Leh.
The vast salt lake of Pangong Tso comes into Ladakh like a bay from the sea, like a fiord in northern Norway, and it is a wonder to come down to this lake at 4300 meters to hear the waves roll onto the beaches. It gives a most unreal impression, and the fact that (like all the great Tibetan lakes) it has no outlet, and the salt in the air, enhances the illusion of the sea. At the same time mountains of 6500 meters soar above the lake, which gives the landscape a wildly romantic aspect, like something of the final port of Gandalf's and Frodo's leave of Eriador. We were lucky to have some sunshine when we reached it late in the afternoon, but the following morning it was raining again. As travelling companions on this escursion I had five young merry Italians from Florence.
Back in Leh, the damages of the incessant rains continue. There was supposed to have been some dancing and singing today for the Indian Independence Day by Ladakhi folklore choirs in the Polo ground, but it looks like they will have to do it in the rain. The damages are unsurveyable. Practically all Ladakh is a disaster area, in Leh, the capital, two important roads with bridges have been completely washed away in the very centre, but the worst is the problem with the roofs. The Ladakhi homes are built of clay with stamped flat roofs, mainly used to dry fruits on, they can take rains but only to a limited scale. With rains ten times worse than ever, people are forced to put tarpaulins across their roofs each time it's raining not to have the dissolved clay come into their houses.
Many foreigners come here this season only for trekking, and many of them had to leave without having done a single trek. That at least was better than to get rained in in some weird isolated place without being able to get out. My Zanskar expedition was ruined, like so many other visitors' dreams here, but instead I was given this very remarkable Leh Conference, one of the key questions of which was the global warming problem, which was more palpable than ever in Ladakh at this time, since this problem about the rains in Ladakh is only due to the global warming. Since the Himalayas are highest in the world and vast like a continent, the problem is more focused here and affects people more drastically than in other places, which means, that if disaster strikes the Himalayas, that is only a warning signal of what is to follow in the rest of the world; while people like president Bush turns a blind eye to the well researched purely scientific investigation of the problem made available on a documentary film by Al Gore and simply refuses to see it.
The conference people are waking up now and getting active, so more news is to follow.
8th report - Defeat.
Today the sun is shining, but you don't believe in it any more. Yesterday the bus station authorities told me the road to Zanskar (from Kargil to Padum) was open and working, but then there were some new rains, and the road was closed again. So I have given up Zanskar for this journey. Instead I go for a few days up to Pangong Tso, the highest and largest lake in Ladakh stretching for 150 kilometers into Tibet. At least something. Then there will be three days left for me in Leh before returning to Manali and Dharamsala. Thus the retreat will at least not be very stressful.
The conference people seem all to have fallen sick, I met the secretary today, he was sick, and Helena (the leading lady) is not even available. So everything is rather walking on its knees after the worst rains here in history. Next report after the Pangong expedition. An illustrating poem:
It's not just that it's wet and dreary, but it's freezing cold as well,
and there is no way to get warm in soaked blankets and with drippings
following you mercilessly in whatever way you turn
to helplessly escape the cold and pouring streams
that find their way wherever you have something sensitive,
like papers, books, your camera, your toilet paper;
and whatever that can not survive a touch with water
will be sought out by the waters of the leaking tent
to cheer you up and force you out of bed
with an umbrella sitting upright all the night in freezing cold
until the rain stops, which it never does.
It could be worse, though. Drippings only torture,
but if something happens to the ground and waters move it,
you'll end up in a flood of mud and never wake up any more.
7th report - back in Leh.
Back from trekking in the wilderness, which in spite of all was a success, no matter how much it kept on raining. I have experienced rains at Lamayuru before, which is in the middle of a moonscape desert area, but then it was only faint drizzles, which nevertheless meant total havoc with destroyed mainroads all over Ladakh; but this time it was ten times worse, pouring down like hell. But it was, I believe and hope, the turning point. Then came the full moon with a complete change of weather and a clear sky for the first time on this journey - after two weeks. I have never before been obliged to cross high desert passes with an umbrella, but this time it rained on every pass. In Temisgam, one of my favourite villages with some of my best local friends, I had a complete digestion system breakdown after a nine hour trek in the desert, probably because of over-exertion ('un esaurimento nervoso'). I might have lost 10% of my weight in one day; and it was the first time ever in India (not before the 18th journey!) that I was compelled to thorough puking, turning myself inside out most unwillingly and utterly. That gave me an extra day at Temisgam, which I was partly glad of, because of my friends there. I have also met very interesting Frenchmen and hoards of Italians. In Lamayuru there was a group of 13 northern Italians, all sick, who passed their breakfast mainly exchanging medicines between themselves, but were all very cheerful anyway, as Italians always are abroad, no matter how shipwrecked they are. As soon as they had gone, (to Temisgam, on my recommendation,) there arrived an even greater Italian group. Tutti questi italiani! Because of the crowds of foreign trekkers at Lamayuru, I had to sleep one night on the floor in the kitchen. It was hard but good.
Now the only thing to do is to wait for the road to Zanskar to be cleared at last. At Lamayuru, which is on the threshold to Zanskar, they told me it would take another 5-6 days, which would be critical, since I only have one week left in Ladakh. There is still hope but less every day. - The weather (i.e. the global warming) has messed up this whole journey, not only for me but for almost every foreigner here, who comes here mainly for trekking; but I wouldn't have missed that Leh conference for all the world!
Here in Leh I also hope for some news from the conference people, which I hope to get this afternoon.
Concerning Lebanon, the problem is that Israel over-reacted from the start and thereby worsened the situation instead of remedying it, multiplying the martyrs and pouring oil on the expanding fire of the terrorist Hizbollah movement instead of quenching it. It's all part of the world's Greenhouse of Madness, Politics, led by fanatical aggressive thinking on the part of leaders of nations like USA (Bush & CO), England (Tony Blah), Australia (John Howard), China (the CCP, with North Korea and Burma as satellites), Israel and Iran. Unfortunately for us, this is the madhouse that is in charge of the world.
with best greetings to you all from the country of the constant desert rains, (Ladakh's next tourism slogan?),
6th report - Complete change of program
Here all is well. It has stopped raining, but the roads are still blocked. No one gets out of here south to Manali, and the road to Zanskar is closed. Hoping it will open again in a week or so, I follow the conference party to the monastery of Likir some 4 hours west to gradually continue west from there, stopping at Themisgang and Lamayuru, where I hope to be able to continue to Zanskar after all. If not, I will be back in a week. A longer absence than 10 days will mean I have reached Zanskar.
The last day of the conference was perhaps the most interesting one, when only the most initiated delegates were left, but I can't give a report of it now, since they are waiting for me.
Some thoughts from a friend:
"The world is going mad and it seems the only thing people who believe in love can do is collectively pray and work to restore a sense of humanity. To keep believing in what is right, cleanse our polluted thought processes and realise that our positive thoughts and and prayers can create change on a spiritual and psychic level. It's so easy to get bogged down ( speaking for myself!) with our little preoccupations and forget the incredible mystical and spritual potential in us."
I try to follow up what's going on in Lebanon, but I can't get any details here - only superficial news of the most important atrocities.
5th report - Disaster!
Sorry, here I am again, stuck in Leh, because the whole of Ladakh has been struck with disaster in the form of torrential rains. It is not supposed to be raining in a desert country like this, the population is not prepared, it's all because of the global warming, and thus all Ladakhi houses are now leaking, hotels in the posh area are being evacuated, the Main Bazaar is flooded by a yellow river of mud, villages are washed away, roads are broken up, and no one can do anything. Until the roads are repaired, no one can move in Ladakh, and all foreigners are terribly frustrated while the locals have a harder time than usual just surviving and keeping the waters out of their homes. Meanwhile I follow up the aftermath of the Conference, make new friends, we are four Italian participants, (there is even a "ristarento italiano" here, where among other things they serve "spageti napoleone",) while we all just have to mobilize all our patience to see the end of the rains.... So the best news you can get from me will be no news at all, which will mean an end to the disaster....
4th report - the Leh Conference
The whole world is here - let's hope to the world's advantage. So far the discussions of the conference have amounted to quite a deal of interesting stuff. A summary so far could include the urgent message, that it is possible not to be dependent on the consumer society, that it's not necessary to use environmentally lethal plastic for everything, that people don't really need Coca-Cola, Pepsi and hamburgers, that no one really must stuff himself with junk food, that no one is obliged to let himself be brainwashed by the consumer society media trash, and so on. The important key to the issue is information - if only people are informed about the lies of the superficial consumer and brainwash society, they will understand to say no to it, for their own better survival. Localization is another key - the opposite of centralization. Another giant problem catastrophically increasing and ignored by the authorities is the accelerating alienation and increasing poverty of the mega-cities with avalanche-like growing slums. In the cities, more and more people are constantly being socially exiled and driven into a poverty trap that can't be remedied - as socially outcast in a city, you are generally a hopeless case.
Another catastrophically growing problem is the loss of identity in an economically globalized world, the reducing of individuals to ciphers, if even that. Another problem is the corruption of the education institutions, which more often than not are politically manipulated and directed. It is possible to educate yourself and learn what you need to learn without being dependent on politically manipulated institutions. The diverse speakers were very much divided between optimism and pessimism, for some the case of humanity was lost, while others still believed there was a way out. In India there is a special high school instituted to teach solely the subject of Freedom, which, in a globalized world, people have a tendency to forget what it is all about, especially people confined in poisonous big cities and brainwashed by media propaganda nonsense.
So one could call the conference a grass-root conference, with eminent grass root pioneers from all over the world participating in discussions about how to save the world.
Thank you, Annika, for your greetings from home. Unfortunately I cannot write in Swedish on foreign keyboards... Thanks also to you, Lars, for your interest.
Since I will now embark on a 10-14 day trek into the wilderness, there will be no more reports for about two weeks.
Third report - Leh
All is well, although the tremendous journey from Manali up here brought some adventures - among other things, in the middle of the desert we were seized by a sudden rainstorm (!) and got stuck in a mudpool - everyone had to get out of the bus and push. The deserts of Ladakh are definitely getting greener. The journey from Keylong here was supposed to have been 14 hours but took 16. Anyway, as soon as I stumbled in at my old family place here, I was warmly embraced as a lost son returned once more and overwhelmingly well taken care of. I always stay with the same family, I was first here six years ago, and nothing hasn't really changed.
Today an international conference starts here conducted by Helena Norberg-Hodge from Devon (born in Sweden), one of the world's leading environmentalists, whom I have known since 2000. The main participants are from India, South America, Asia and Europe, some from California and Canada. The theme of the conference is the global warming problem - infinitely important. She won the alternative Nobel prize for her ecological pioneering research activities in 1979, I think, and is still world active in the field.
Second report - Manali
What I so much enjoy in India is the naturalness of the people. They are not rich but very content with little. Especially mountain people are the best people in the world since they are best at co-operation. The whole miracle tale of India is about co-operation. They are the world experts, since they are so many and so crowded, they just have to co-operate to survive, and in that art the rest of the world has much to learn from them.
I also enjoy the mentality, which is so much faster than the European. the general Indian is very quick-witted, quick in action and in temperament and very fast in thinking. Mentally you always get speeded up here, which only does you a world of good.
Above Manali there is a place called Vashisht with hot springs. The water is very hot, but you don't have to stay in long and may go as many times as you like. There is no charge, since the spring is holy. Religion and above all religious and philosophical thought pervades everything in India - another advantage.
There was a great assembly today at Manali as there arrived a high rinpoche (teacher of wisdom) from Leh. There is a great Buddhist community here, my landlord is the chairman of one of the temples, we are great friends, thus this is one of my favourite homes in India, and today they were all gathered (Tibetans, Nepalis and locals) here to listen to the Rinpoche.
Tomorrow I take the bus for Ladakh early in the morning. The 500 kilometer mountain ride on almost non-existent roads across four passes from 4000 to 5300 meters in elevation will take a few days, so there will be no more report from me before Leh.
First report - 44 hours from Gothenburg to Manali
So far so good. The journey has been smooth enough, and I arrived safely here late last night at Manali at the foot of the Rothang Pass, beyond which is my destination. It rained heavily in Delhi, and also here everything is dripping with humidity - it's the monsoon season with inundations everywhere, but my road to the land beyond the monsoons is open. I have already met here with a few old friends, but naturally I am tired, after two days' and two nights' journeying in nothing but shaking air seats! Yesterday I had nothing to eat at all, since I constantly had to catch connecting buses. Fortunately I will now have two days of comfortable rest here, even sleeping in a bed!