Amazing Trek Across TIbet!


Today Bookpleasures and Sketchandtravel are pleased to have as our guest, Brandon Wilson, author of Yak Butter Blues.

In 1992, Brandon and his wife Cheryl travelled 40 days from early October to the end of November in 1992 over 1000 kilometers travelling along the ancient pilgrimage route across Tibet. Evidently, they were one of the first Western couples to trek this ancient route alongside, by the way, a horse they named Sadhu.

Good day Brandon and thank you for accepting our invitation to be interviewed.

Norm: Brandon, could you tell our readers something about yourself and your wife Cheryl, and why did you want to trek across Tibet and did you ever had any fears prior to your journey?

Brandon: Tashi delek, Norm! We had been travelling for years as budget travelers, traveling light, with only a backpack to sustain us for months on end. In the process, we’d made our requisite trip around the world for a year and had seen many of civilization’s greatest achievements. We’d also traveled overland across Africa for nine months (which is the subject of my book to be released in 2005, Dead Men Don’t Leave Tips.) So, we were ready for a more intense experience something more in line with that of the great explorers.

Our decision to attempt to trek from Lhasa, Tibet to Kathmandu, Nepal sprung from the notion that this was the ultimate adventure. Everyone grew up with the legend of a Shangri-La, that fanciful place from James Hilton’s Lost Horizon. The more that I read about Tibet, the more I was fascinated by its remoteness, inaccessibility, and its exotic reputation.

Then, as luck would have it, we were told several times that this trek had never been done by a Western couple and that it was “impossible!” That ultimately sealed our fate.

As far as “fears” prior to the journey, first, I had real concerns that we wouldn’t be allowed into Tibet as independent travelers, since the border had been closed to them for many years. A Chinese organized group tour was simply out of the question for us.

Then, although we were assured the trip was “impossible” due to lack of food, water, accommodations, and maps, personally I was more worried about the weather. Knowing the severity of weather conditions in the Himalayas, would we be able to reach the lower altitudes of Nepal in time before the roads closed, stranding us until May’s thaw? More details please visit:-https://publicmags.com/ https://smartblogideas.com/ https://mommasays.net/ https://fashiontrendyclub.com/ https://mibabyshower.org/

Finally, I must admit that I was also wary about the reaction of Uzi-toting Chinese soldiers along the way, as well as the various cadres of bureaucrats unused to dealing with outsiders. Guess I’d prefer to deal with nature any day, rather than the vagaries of human nature.

Norm: What were the most harrowing experiences you encountered during your journey?

Brandon: It’s a toss-up. This entire journey was chock-full of uncertainty. The spectre of running out of food and water was a daily concern. Where would we stay? Would our bodies be able to physically able to make 1000 kilometers at 12-17,000 foot altitude for 40 days?

But I’d have to say that the most singularly harrowing experience we had was being shot at by Chinese soldiers as we overlooked Mt. Everest from a hilltop in Tingri. What do you do?

As second runner-up, I’d nominate that morning where we awoke to a blinding blizzard and realized that we still needed to press on.

Norm: What impressed you most of all about the trip?

Brandon: First, we were impressed by the unexpected generosity of the Tibetan people. Originally we packed a tent, stove and fuel for the trek, expecting to be totally on our own along the way. However, after our first night spent camping in a potato patch, we were taken-in by local villagers who shared their meager possessions, including yak butter tea and a warm spot around their fire. We really grew to look forward to these human exchanges, even though we had to rely on clumsy sign-language and a limited phrasebook to communicate. Fortunately, we started to run into former monks who’d received training in Nepal and still spoke limited English.

Through talking to them, we became better informed about the hardships of living in Tibet today under the Chinese Communist occupation. We learned that Tibetans are prevented from making pilgrimages along the same route that we trekked into Nepal, as they’ve done for centuries.

So the trip for us became more than just an “adventure” trek. It became a political statement. If we could make their trek as pilgrims, we’d show to the Chinese that it could be done, even by Westerners, without disrupting the geo-political balance of power.

In fact, on the trek’s conclusion, we presented a set of prayer flags to the king of Nepal’s personal representative at the palace with the hope that the king would fly them as a symbol of solidarity with the Tibetan Buddhists.

Finally, we were impressed by the unwavering faith shown by many of the Tibetans. At night, in the dark stillness of their homes, we shared photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama with them that we had secreted into the country. Gingerly holding the photo, they touched it to the foreheads of the members of their family, blessing them. Then drawing back several layers of curtains, they reverently placed it in their private altar beside other statues and holy instruments.

After over 40 years of oppression and death, could we still be so patient or retain so much faith?

Norm: If you had to do it all over again in 2004, would you still jump at the opportunity? As a follow up, would you advise anyone else to follow in your footsteps and what are the possible dangers they may encounter today?

Brandon: Frankly, no. This trek is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. From what I’ve read since then, and I receive Tibetan news every day now, the country has vastly changed especially Lhasa. As inundated as it was then with Chinese settlers, solders and foreign culture, it is even more so today. Now, they’re in the process of completing a railroad line into Lhasa from western China, so the transformation will be accelerating, the assimilation complete. The world saw the same effect in Inner Mongolia and Manchuria with the arrival of the railroad.


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