In Lhasa, about a dozen Italian adventurers joined our group of mostly American pilgrims, and with our large Tibetan crew, we piled into six Toyota Land Cruisers and set off for points west.For the most part, we left cities behind and traveled through an extraordinary landscape, impossible to capture in photographs. Still, there were many in our group with better skills and more sophisticated equipment than I had, and so I’ve borrowed some of their photos in order to give you a better sense of Tibet’s unique environment.cAlways, a vast expanse of space spread out before us, sometimes desert-like, sometimes green with fields of barley and mustard. On top of every pass (and there were many!), an array of colorful prayer flags marked the summit.Monasteries clung to the steep mountainsides or nestled in river valleys. Often the architecture and the environment reminded us of the American Southwest–e.g., Mesa Verde or the Hopi Pueblos–but multiplied ten times in scale and vastness.
Shrine rooms brimmed with sanctified artifacts from centuries of religious observances, and indescribably beautiful murals graced the walls–battered by time and the effects of the Chinese invasion–but still a testimony to the potency of the Tibetan aesthetic imagination.cHow lucky we were to be there!— Karen Lucic