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.
I held up my camera. “Can I look through this?”
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
* photo by Jenny Hall – Intrepid Photography Competition