from my travel journal: 16 july 09
some tibetan road
Can’t forget our other driving adventure. We finally hit a relatively flat, paved patch of road. The bus pulled over. Our guide explained we all had to get out because the driver needed to go and get gas. Huh? Yes, we were to wait for him to return in 15 minutes.
Our options were to start hiking the road in the direction we’d inevitably go via bus, or to sit and wait. We all chose the latter since a couple of people were suffering still from altitude sickness.
On a sandy, windy, sunny corner in the middle of nowhere yet at some apparent junction, we sat. A Tibetan farmer and his son were already there. They stayed to stare at us for at least five minutes, bemused and curious as to what this whacky group of foreigners was doing. Unable to figure out our plight, the two of them turned and wandered away.
I found myself as perplexed as them. I was grumpy given the arid, evening sun still burning down and dirt blowing into my eyes and my mouth. Why couldn’t we stay on the bus and go with the driver to get gas?
The answer crystalized why foreigners can have a hard time travelling in Tibet. No permit. The closest gas station was in an area for which the guide hadn’t gotten us a permit. The government didn’t know we’d be going there and, therefore, we couldn’t go. (You also can’t go anywhere in Tibet without a guide.) Our Tibetan driver would make it through the obligatory police checkpoint without question.
Of course the driver didn’t return for at least 45 minutes. That gave a shepherdress ample time to come over while her sheep jogged across the highway. She came amongst us and stood and stared. I liked her blatant curiosity. Her little boy who just reached her hand also stared. Thankfully Zsoka speaks Tibetan. She explained our herd. The shepherdress got a wry smile on her face before pushing on with her sheep. Their bells and her prematurely aged, yet smiling face added decoration to the odd predicament.