The Roof Of The World

The roof of the world is where there is nothing taller than you. We’re going from Lhasa to the border with Nepal. We are twenty tourists who rented a bus, and among us there is also a polio with crutches. The last pass we crossed was 5220 meters, and there was the usual mound of rocks with hundreds of Tibetan flags waving in the wind.

We’re going to spend five days on the bus – we were told before leaving – with eateries very far from each other. The group leader is an American and tells us to organize ourselves for good because the next stop will be after seventeen hours. At that point we just have to buy a few packs of biscuits to the Chinese army bunker in which a soldier is guarding the land and sells biscuits.

The air, of course, is thin, the atmosphere is heavy in spite of the lightness we feel, and we’re clumsy, awkward in movements, wrapped in our yak wool coats and walk, when stop to stretch our legs and piss, like zombies, as if we were on the moon. Something is missing, and in this case it’s not just gravity. But it’s nice.

The distant landscape shows small peaks, which are the highest in the world, but from that height, they’re not at all great. Even Mount Everest viewed from above 4000 is a beautiful mountain, but certainly not a huge, or a giant one. From there it’s only 4,000 meters high, along with all others more or less the same altitude.

The sky is large and at night is as black as the darkest pitch and populated by billions of extremely brilliant and pulsating stars. Never seen such a thing; they’re like light holes on the dark background of the cosmic theater. The journey is not so easy and at the same time even not very pleasant, precisely because it’s tiring. It’s tiring to breathe, to walk, to relate with others in the group. It’s tiring knowing that we’ll arrive after days of shaking on this bus running over roads of stones and rocks, bouncing safe in the middle of an empty scenery; empty above and inside.

I’m not happy. I’m not unhappy. I’m not strong and not weakened; not fast, nor slow. It’s the atmosphere of I’m not; a feeling that pervades everything, outside, inside, myself, and others. It’s hard. Everything is beautiful, absolutely beautiful, but at the same time absolutely at the limit of my endurance. Not for human. I see it in the eyes of my fellow travelers. That is a place of rock, thin air, black sky and shimmering stars. I’m glad I’m doing it; I wouldn’t have ever experienced such a feeling anywhere else, but I don’t know if I want to try it again or even returning to Tibet.

After five days we get to the border with Nepal. The border check point is two and a half hours of dizzying descent in the midst of tea plantations operated by Indians. Finally we can see women dressed as women, men dressed as men and boys and girls who smile, play, work, and look at us with amazement. They look at this group of twenty, including a polio, coming down from the highest mountains to arrive at a border post in which there is absolutely nothing.

After passing the immigration and customs, which are just two soldiers standing outside an empty booth, we go down even further until the first village, everything on foot, all at dizzying descent, all in the midst of tidy, beautiful, verdant tea plantations. At the village there is no one and nothing, just a truck carrying cement bags stationary in the middle of the dirt road, waiting for us to get on and take down to Kathmandu. So it is. That truck was sent from God. I wonder what web of events, destinies, things, and universal dynamics made sure that we eventually got down to Kathmandu.

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