A Little Earthquake Bother and off to Tibet

The Potala Palace, Lhasa

Lhasa is starting to feel like home. Perhaps a slight hyperbole but it is a city that I feel something of an affinity with. I am here once again to lead a Redspokes cycling adventure tour. The weather is great, the warmest I have known it here at night time when little more than a tee shirt is needed. I keep every crossable limb and digit crossed in hope that this is a precedent for the weeks to come as we cycle and camp our way across the Himalayas en-route to Kathmandu.

Talking of Kathmandu, whilst there the other day we, that is the group and I, had a little excitement in the form of an earthquake. I think that for the group the excitement was a welcome diversion as I was delivering my briefing of what to expect during the weeks to come. For me it was nice that some of them woke up. I have experienced earth tremors before, but never when fully awake and sober. It was an interesting experience as the building began to sway. “It’s shaking” said one lady. I looked down at my glass of beer and the amber liquid did seem to be swishing around the glass somewhat. I looked through the glass window of the meeting room we were in at the chandelier hanging over the hotel lobby, it was swaying alarmingly. The floor was gently moving almost in small circles; it was quite fascinating. I looked at the group, it wore a selection of expressions on it’s collection of faces ranging from amusement to worry to indignation to grave concern. “Shall we wander outside” I suggested, they all nodded a definitive nod so we did.

I wandered out of the small front courtyard and peered along the dimply lit narrow street. A few people were running, small groups had gathered and all along people were emerging from gates. I wondered why I was looking along the street, I wondered what I thought I might see coming along. I walked back to the group and told them this and they agreed that the chances of seeing an earthquake wandering along the street was slim, to say the least, and so I must be a little bit of an ass. By now the movement had ceased. We put my beer on a table and watched it intently, not a ripple, so it was concluded that the candelabra’s continuing movement was due to laws of physics that frankly confused me and we unanimously agreed to head back in so that I could continue my monologue and the group could all get back to their nap.

 Well, enough for now, tomorrow we head out on the first stage of our journey as we head for the Tibetan Plateau. More in a week I hope.

If my memory serves me correctly, which I have to confess is unlikely, then the Potala Palace is 14 stories high. It was the spiritual and temporal home to the unquestioned rulers of Tibet until 1949 when the Chinese came to the country. The first time I visited the Potala back at the very beginning of this century it was a fascinating pleasure to wander those rooms open to the public in a leisurely and peaceful manner. I spent hours sitting and soaking up the atmosphere; the chanting of monks, the plumes of smoke form aromatic incense sticks, the heavy smell of multi wicked yak butter candles, the chance encounter and conversation with a curious monk keen to practice his English. Now, alas, it is a tourist attraction working in a way the Henry Ford would approve of. Hundreds of tourists are ushered through a labyrinth of chapels as their compulsory guide gives a potted history and explains the amount of gold used in the tombs of past Dalai Lamas.

Typical Tibetan architecture, more of the Potala Palace

pilgrims queue to enter The Jokan Temple, one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most important pilgrim sights

“I am quite sure it was there when we left home my dear”.


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