Cycling The Silk Road In China – Qinghai Lake in the Tibetan Plateau
We cycled around the Qinghai lake yesterday.
It was a cold day, and it felt even colder, due to the strong westerly wind which blew with a gusto until late afternoon.
Despite living in the high Colorado mountains, the altitude here, did affect me, and my sleep was light and disturbed.
I even felt a bit of an altitude headache.
on top of this, I had a strong period day, I am still recovering from the flu that I caught in Xian….and did I mention that it was very windy?
The wind made even the mildly rolling hills difficult to cycle…. And the cold weather made my fingers freeze.
We did not bring warm hats, since we were not expecting these cold temperatures…
But I managed to cycle 45 KM and enjoyed the diverse landscape of the Tibetan plateau with the open grassland, filled with herds of goats, sheep, long hair Yaks, and isolated yurts.
This season, the grass land has a yellow green tone.
The dunes of the desert are yellow.
The vast salt lake is surrounded by snow capped mountains and an open plateau, with no single tree in sight.
The local Tibetan spiritual seekers, believe that by circumventing the whole lake by prostrations, they will gain merit, erase all sins, will be worthy of enlightenment and will gain spiritual insight.
I read about these practices in the past, and I even saw them done in front of a temple, but I never saw one done alone in such a remote locations.
During our cycling, I saw a woman practicing this harsh method of devotion.
It humbled me.
I was feeling cold on the bike, uncomfortable and achy, in need of some comfort and luxury, in the form of a clean environment, or a good hot tub.
Maybe some really warm clothes.
I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, knowing that I will not be able to enjoy any luxury while visiting this unpopulated and undeveloped lake area.
And then I saw her.
She was dressed in a long dress, and wore a cloth, like an apron on the front of her dress.
She wore some undergarments, but still her light dress looked so inefficient against this cold and windy day.
She wore flat wooded pieces on her hands, to protect her from scraping her skin,
While making her full body prostrations.
She stood up, clapped the wooden hand pieces twice, walked a single step, and prostrated herself FULLY, on the dirty asphalt until her forehead touched the road, her whole body flat on the ground. Then she got up again and made another single step forwards this way. Repeating the clapping and the full body prostration.
I wanted to offer her water, or some food or a snack.
But I was not sure what she is allowed to accept and what not.
Our driver and guide do not speak a word in the Tibetan language to be able to ask her.
I was left feeling confused.
Here I am with my own driver, a friendly Chinese guide, a loving husband, a car filled with my toys and clothes, and I still feel uncomfortable, because I am too cold.
I moan when the room that we stay at is old and grimy or when the bed is as hard as a slab of granite.
And here she is…. Forgoing ALL KINDS of comforts for the sake of her own enlightenment.
If I could… I would prostrate myself before HER
Before her COURGE
And her inner strength.
later I regretted not offering her food, water and money.
This decision is one I will regret for years to come….