Karen Lucic: From Lhasa to Points West

Western pilgrims and Tibetan staff, photo by Alex Smolowe
Western pilgrims and Tibetan staff, photo by Alex Smolowe

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.

Barley fields, Tsang province, Tibet
Barley fields, Tsang province, Tibet
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.
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Always, 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.
Tsurphu monastery with prayer flags
Tsurphu monastery with prayer flags
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.

Takten Phuntsok Ling Monastery
Takten Phuntsok Ling Monastery
Mural, Takten Phuntsok Ling Monastery
Mural, Takten Phuntsok Ling Monastery

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.

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How lucky we were to be there!
Doug and Karen, in the ruins of the palace above Takten Phuntsok Ling monastery
Doug and Karen, in the ruins of the palace above Takten Phuntsok Ling monastery
— Karen Lucic
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