1er June 2018, in my room in Kathmandu, Nepal. China refuses all permits to go to Tibet. Dozens of groups of foreigners are thus denied access to the Roof of the World without any valid reason being given by the government. But my Tibetan friend Tsering has more than one trick up his sleeve. As I languish thinking about my childhood dream that has become impossible, he obtains me an authorization in extremis, the evening before the planned departure. My Nepalese contact does not believe his eyes when he finds himself with my license in his hands: he has just canceled four of his groups. Incredulous, he asks the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu if it's not a fake license, so surprised is this tour de force!
The magic mountain, Mount Kailash, also called "Crystal Mountain" has made me dream for decades. My adolescent readings of Alexandra David Neel, Lobsang Rampa and especially Lama Annagarika Govinda forged in me a prolific imagination around everything that concerns her. Religiously, it is the most sacred mountain of the Buddhist, Hindu, Bon and Jain traditions. On the physical level, it is not only an impressive monolithic block in the middle of the Tibetan plateau, but also the “tap of Asia”: it is there that four of the largest rivers in Asia are born: Sutlej, Bramatourpre, Indus and Karnali, one of the tributaries of the Ganges. Finally, on a spiritual and symbolic level, it is the axis of the world, Mount Meru, Chakrasambavha, and for me, a dream, an absolute fantasy.
The funny towers of Dolma-la
June 17, 5 meters above sea level on the Tibetan plateau (China). I'm there. My dream is becoming reality. What a strange conjuncture! It took luck, good karma, self-sacrifice and willpower to make it possible. My steps slow down as I approach the prayer flags and the Dolma-la pass, 600 meters above sea level. I'm short of breath. A Tibetan grandmother, her prayer wheel in operation, passes me, accompanied by her seven-year-old granddaughter. I remain taken aback. After years of wandering the himalayan trails I still learn a lesson in humility. Would the fervor of Mount Kailash pilgrims give them wings?
Tibetan pilgrims, naturally acclimated to the altitude, undertake a multitude of Khora, tours of the sacred mountain, to obtain merits.
Arrived at the pass, at the end of a long pause which allows me to observe the caravans of yaks and pilgrims in prostration, another explanation comes to my mind. While many Westerners like me come to visit Mount Kailash and circumnavigate it once, Tibetan pilgrims, naturally acclimatized to the altitude, undertake a multitude of Khora, tours of the sacred mountain, to get merits. In one day, they do the 54 kilometres, an entire lap of the mountain, then stop for 24 hours before starting again! And so on until the supplies, the budget, the timing run out…. The old woman and the child are already far away, they are certainly not on their first or their last tour.
Arrived at the top of Dolma-la, I find yaks, Tibetan and Indian pilgrims and some tourists. The spirit of Kailash is within us, carries us, brings us together, like a magnet. No spirit of competition between acclimatized Tibetan Buddhists, Indian Hindus in survival mode and the tourists of which I am, since I do not share the same faith. This is the trip of my dreams. I will only do the tour once. I take my time to savor every moment