Hearts soar in Tibet

two tibetan monks overlooking a mountain view

When we have planned a journey for years, there is always a risk that when the time comes it won’t live up to our expectations. But that wasn’t the case for Chris Marcic, when she finally got to realise a life-long travel dream…

“I had been fascinated by the Dali Lama since I followed his flight to freedom in the year I turned nine. I promised myself one day I would travel to Tibet to see the country that created such a man.

In my early fifties, I finally got to go and joined an Intrepid group of fellow travellers in Kathmandu. We flew into Tibet and the adventure began, but the story I am going to share with you is just one small aspect of that amazing trip.

I was halfway up a mountain and had explored a monastery with the others. They were still inside, but I was a bit ‘monasteried’ out and decided to walk up the path that wound its way clockwise around the mountain to the top.

As I ascended, I was joined by a young monk who asked if he could practice his English on me. I was happy to help. A little higher and I needed to rest as the atmosphere, thin at ground level, was even harder going up here. I sat on a rock then noticed some activity on a plateau below us. People and children. The monk tried to explain in English. “Die” he said. “When I die, this me” and he gestured to the ledge.

I had an epiphany. “Sky burial,” I said excitedly.

“Yes, yes!”

I held up my camera. “Can I look through this?”

“No pictures.”

“No, just look.”

He agreed and I peered through the telephoto lens. Three men were cutting up a body on a plastic tarpaulin. Nearby, a small kiln or oven smoked. Behind the men stood a line of what had initially appeared to be a row of children in uniform. Not children. They were vultures, lined up politely and ducking their heads up and down in excitement as they waited for the gobbets of meat to be thrown at them.

The monk told me that the bones would then be baked overnight in the oven and later, the men would return to crush the bones to powder. This would then be thrown off the mountainside for the wind to distribute as it would.

I was overwhelmed to have seen first-hand this incredible ritual and thanked the young monk for sharing it with me. I felt myself to be a very privileged Westerner indeed.”

Do you have your own Intrepid travel tales to tell? We’d love to hear them and you can email intrepidexpress@intrepidtravel.com.

* photo by Jenny Hall – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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Eamon O Fearghail / Reply

Lovely article. I’ve been to Lhasa with Intrepid. One of my favourite places in the world. Beautifully spiritual. But a very sad place as Chinese soldiers are all over the place pointing guns. Potala Palace is amazing. So sad that the Dalai Lama is not at home.


What a beautiful story. I thought I was the only 9 year old girl who was fascinated by the Dali Lama’s flight from Tibet. Haven’t yet made it to Lhasa, but I did spend time with Tibetan refugees in Nepal near Pokhara. Hope to make it to Tibet before long. Thank you for your story.

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