May 08, 2002 GMT

The road to Xiahe promises to be short and suite.
The beautiful day warms up my body and my soul.
I am ready to go to one of the holy places for tibetians bhuddism. A place of pilgrimage and misticism. A small tibet. A place that does not really belong to China. It is a tibet for the tibetains outside tibet.

The road from Linxia leads right away inside the walleys towards the high mountains. At certain points far away I can see snow covering the peaks.
The road goes on well even if construction of a new road on top of the old one makes certain parts quite bad.

The more I go deep into the valley the more the presence of monasteries on the mountains around the valley and the smoke of constant wood fire coming out from the monasteries and the houses along the street give the scenery a mistic feeling.
A shiver rises along my back and a smile marks a bit of exitment in me.

The road to Xiahe promises to be short and suite.
The beautiful day warms up my body and my soul.
I am ready to go to one of the holy places for tibetians bhuddism. A place of pilgrimage and misticism. A small tibet. A place that does not really belong to China. It is a tibet for the tibetains outside tibet.

The road from Linxia leads right away inside the walleys towards the high mountains. At certain points far away I can see snow covering the peaks.
The road goes on well even if construction of a new road on top of the old one makes certain parts quite bad.

The more I go deep into the valley the more the presence of monasteries on the mountains around the valley and the smoke of constant wood fire coming out from the monasteries and the houses along the street give the scenery a mistic feeling.
A shiver rises along my back and a smile marks a bit of exitment in me.

Even if I was told that it was a 100k ride the road, now more and more Interrupted by road works becomes quite tireing and I make several stops.
Tired and quite sick of bad roads I slow down and take it easy when suddenly, for the second time in this trip I see coming in the opporite directions two bikes of the China motorcicle assotiation (cmsa).
I wave and I can see they eyes becoming round as the europenas.
They suddenly stop, turn around and come toward me.
I get off and with a big smile I tell them I am happy to see other two of their club members.
They are quite in desbelief but very happy to share this moment with a biker from another country.
We exchange some news about the roads ahead and about their trip during the chinese May holidays.
Then when I tell thewm I am gopig back to Italy they start laughing in desbelief.
In a few minutes they become serious when they undestand I am for real. "one only. only one man and one bike??".
We share ideas for a while and we take a few picture. They are very cool guys and they ride very small 125 bikes with outfits and equipment worth a rally over the Sahara.
They are indeed very organised but a little funny. One of them tips its bike over while preparing for a picture.....

As predicted another 5km and I enter Xiahe. The presence of monks all over the place and of peregrins gives this little town a unique atmosphere.
Found a small place to stay with a place for the bike I right away go for my tour of the monastery.
Like in Tibet there is something really personal and deep about tibetian monasteries and the peregrins going there.
This monastery is very large and surrounded by a long square wall. All around on the outside of the wall the cilinder prayers.

I chose a starting point and I join the outer circle of prayer. One faster then the other the peregrins walk by making the cilinder spinning at each touch. In their hands the bhuddhist rosary ("rosario"), their faces dark, marked by the constant cold of the mountains they live in.

One ofter the other I make each prayer spin entering the spiral of misticism surronding me.
Along the walls I start to share smiles with the people around me . Some of them walk with me along the walls. Some monks ask me where I come from and others just look a little in disbelief seeing a foreigner making the circle of prayers with them.

One after the other large cilinders are made spinning on themselves. One after the other.....
a long line of prayers that speaks for all the ones that makes them spin.

so I spin on and on.
It is hot and the cilinders are quite heavy to move. I am surprised to see how energetic and determined are these old ladies that came here for pilgrimage.
At one point I hear a strange noise. Quite different from the sounds I had becomes familiar with walking around the temple.
A deep noise coming from besides the river in front of the temple.
I stop.
Everytime I ear strange noises I am always tempted to go and see what they are.
Step after step I walk away from the wall toward the river. The noise seems to arrive from behind the mountains across the river. The more I walk toward the river the more the noise becomes strong.
There is no need to cross the river.
The noise comes from a small groups of monks practicing by the river. Each one of them holds the long tibetian horn and they practice under the direction of a master. Seeing me approaching the master comes toward with a big smile and a welcome.
I love tibetians monks. They are always very friendly, curious and intelligent.
The scene is quite funny. There are about 4 monks practicing music by the river.
All of them seem playing the same note over and over and the whole exercise of the day seems to make their longs strongher an stronger....

My presence seems not to disturb the atmosphere and the master shares his time between giving some instructions and by talking with me.

'where are you from?"
- italy-
" i am from Tibet" he tells me.
" you know , Tibet. the Dalai Lama...?. I am in china but China is very bad." "China..... [crashes] Tibet" He shows me with his hands.
"yes, I know. he is in india now" I reply.
"yes, India. ...."
We both smile with the sad feeling of a sad reality.
Then our attention turnes back to the other monks.
One of them is lifting his heavy instrument and he puts it into the water.
I look with chinese curiosity and I ask the master sitting next to me what he is doing.
Before he can even reply I see the big monk blowing the horn inside the water. This is an exercise to make their longs strongher and stronger.
It is very interesting to live this moment around the monks. Like everybody else they conduct quite a normal life and they are very open to talk and share information with people from the outside.
Confirming the fame of their curiosity the master monk asks me to lend him my camera an he starts taking poictures of me an the other monks.
lessons over we spend sometime to joke around with the camera.
On the way back I thank them for the time and I restart the circle of prayers from where I left it.

Back to the hotel I sit outside on the main road and once again I look and the world passing by.
Monks, beggers, pilgrims and passer by stop by with mix of curiosity and desire to talk.
They are all unique moments and a good chance to obseve and interact with other people.
Many take my camera and smile with surprise when they look into the long zoom.
A bagger stops and stands in front of me. This time I decide not to turn her away. I want for once to see who is asking me for money. I stare at her and look into her eyes for a few long seconds.
She is not sincere....

The next day I decide to go see Takkar, a place near Xiahe that the guys of the cmsa told me not to miss. I start of in the morning.
"Go to the edge of town and turn righ to the first off road path you see."
"Go straight for 25 km then turn right and follow the road up the mountain."

"Not again!!"
I think. No more off road.....!!

So I ride on.

The road very quickly passes over small moutain and opens up into a very green high land.
The scenery is impressive.
In front of me I can see miles and miles of green high lands and millions , millions of sheeps!!!!
It is all very beautiful and worth the hard ride.

At one point , the roads ends....well, .. yes.
All around me only high grassland.

Well, I think , I guess I have to go straight.
So I ride on onto the grassland among the sheeps.
The feeling is histerical as totally histerical is to see the faces of the sheeps suddenly turning up to stare me coming!


Soon the road starts again. I find the right turn and start climbing up the mountains surrouding the high lands.
The green gives a beautiful contrast with the white snow topping the mountains surrounding the grasslands...

I feel small but extremely free.
There is no soul around me..only sheeps and occasionally a bunny!

A couple of hours and a small high valley opens in front of me.
Behind I can see the entire grass lands I came from.
In front a small range of rock peaks surropunding Takkar.


A small Tibetan village, it is made of brown mud housed and a small bhuddist monastery towers over it.
I ride through the village. At that point there is not clear roads and the village is steep along the side of the hill.
I see the opening to the monastery. I ride to the door of the monastery, turn off the bike and get off.
The entire village is strangly desert. There are just a few people around. 3 small kids come out from the monastery door and in a second they disappear again.
After a minute a big monk wearing an heavy cape (mantello) slowly comes out.
I smile and he smile back. "Ni hao" (hi in chinese) I say.
"Ni hao" , he replies.
He is very serious , looks and me with seriousness and gives a good look at the bike.
The kids in the meantime came out to surround the monk and they are making a lot of noise.

I ask the monk if I can go inside to see the monastery and he give me a serious consent.
Inside I find the entire village!
Here you all are! I think .
All the villagers are crowding the entrance and the inside side corridors of the monastrery.
In the middle, parallel lines of low benches host lines of monks in prayer.
Everyvody is in silence.
So many people inside the monastry and the continuous deep chant of the monks give a mistic atmosphere to the place.
I sit next to the big monk that in the meantime came back in and for a second I forget where I am.
The chants of the monks are very slow and relaxing.
At regular intervals, while the ceremony goes on some monks come out to distribute sweets to the villagers.
The villagers are all dressed in tipical tibetian clothes. This is either becasue today is a special occasion or just because here modern clothing has not arrived yet.
The more beautiful clotehs are the ones wore by the women and by the girls. They all have a heavy coat made with very colorful fabrics and embroidered with beads and gold threads. Around their waist they all have big belts. Some more sophsticated than others. Some with strange pouches hanging from the side.
Their 'lineamenti' are very beautiful. The youg girls have very beauftiful faces and the old ones show how cold temperatures can shrink your skin into a miriade of lines.

The two lines of benches in the middle of the temple host youg monks of about 18-20 years old.
The two lines on the right side where I am host only very joung monks.
I cannot see the two lines on the left but I can hear from there the openings of each chant.
In the center at the end of the temple I can see a portrait. It is so real and vivid that for a moment I cannot figure out if it is a portrait or a real person.
The entire monastery is well and carefully decorated. The side walls are covered with paitings and tantras. From the wall and the side high separations draps of all colors decorated with gold hang on the monks' heads.
The ligh is very deam and the smoke of the incents creates a light myst.

It is lunch time and in front of many monks little breads are piled up. I quite cannot figure out the dymanic. the monks are chanting but not eating. Some of them have piles of little breads in front of them. Some have nothing.
At times a young monk goes around the benches. He drops some breads and he pick up others from other monks.
It seems he is the messanger between the villagers and the yougest monks and it seems this is one way for the families to exchange something with the youngest monks.

One in a while the big monk that welcomed me stands up and walks very serious in between the two benches of the yougest monks. they all look at him with a mix of fear and respects. He seems to bring back dicipline where noise was born.
For a few minutes he stands in the middle of the banches: his presence larger than life in that small room....

Out of the monastery a crowd of monks have in the meantime surrounded the bike. Two of them are sitting on my bike and ask me to take them for aride. Thank good I took the keys away with me , I think....
I would have found the bike and two monks at the bottom of the valley with smoke rising up from the explosion.

They are funny and I canot get upset. I take a picture of them and I tell them I will take them for a ride... ... ... ... another time!

As it happened other times me and the bike are surrounded by the locals.
One time it has been the maoists.
Another the muslims.
This time the monks.
It is like seeing the world changing like in a screen.
It is a very funy feeling and a unique opportunity for pictures!



Time comes to say goodbye and as I go down the steep path I see a long line of purple red monks lined up on the edge of the monastery watching me off.
I wonder what they think....

Instancabili Viaggiatori

Posted by sqm at May 08, 2002 04:29 PM GMT

fantastico,č il viaggio pių bello del sito

Posted by: ernesto trazzi on January 8, 2003 03:04 PM GMT

Why the hell are you called "Restless TravellerS" and no "Restless Traveller"?



Posted by: Dieter on April 28, 2003 06:34 PM GMT

Help!!! I need to get more info!!! I'm planning to travel from Osaka (Japan), China (Shanghai to Kashgar), Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan (if possible at that time) Pakistan, Iran, Turkey...all the way to Germany. I wish to find someone who can give me on the road info. Especially, the chinese road through the provinces of Gansu and Xinjian.

Posted by: Natacha on February 23, 2004 10:55 AM GMT
Sorry, due to heavy form spamming, Comments are OFF.

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