Published: December 22nd 2010December 29th 2008
Tuesday, New Years Eve, a police station…… somewhere in Tibet.
''No I don’t know how I got here or which road I took, you probably wouldn’t believe me even if I did know'' I try to explain whilst his Chinese eyes scanned and peered into my soul.
He was a big man and addressed me sternly with a cold official approach. I tried to relax and lighten the mood a little by saying ''so am I in trouble then?'' no emotion at all, just a reply ''you will be fined'' he was more like a Cyborg...''you will be assimilated, you will comply''....well I had my traveling money but I did not budget for hefty fines, or any fines for that matter so already in my mind I denied all charges and was prepared to tell them I had no way of paying, that I was just hitch hiking and got a little lost on my way to Nepal, which was all true.
So here I was sat in the police headquarters of the alien processing department waiting for my passport to be returned so that I could go to the bank and change a little currency for my release. The officer in charge of the passport return department was on his lunch break and currently deeply immersed within his computer screen, I could hear the clunk click, lock and load, then a barrage of heavy gauge artillery fire, arms, legs, heads, blood and guts spilling all over the monitor, he was loving it, ripping it up, eyes fully dilated and beads of sweat forming on his brow. I cleared my throat and try to gain his attention, several times in fact, until finally I managed to pause his lunch time genocide to ask if I could have my passport back. He starred at me for a nano second, which was long enough for him to assess and target all the available, fatal hit zones. I sensed an intrusion of my more vunerable parts and tactically slid sideways towards a sturdy looking roof pillar, I then peered my head around to ask again, “err….please….err, you think I could have my passport back pleeeeeeeeease?” Maybe he was a little disappointed that I interrupted him during a particularly high body count and abruptly pointed towards the door that was marked in big, red, stern looking characters, hmmmmmmm I take that as a no then? Baaam...... both barrels exploded and the massacre continued without my passport!
A few hours prior to these events, after passing three or four checkpoints my paranoia was starting to subside. I started to accept that the worst was over and I was going to make it to Lhasa after all. I beamed from ear to ear as I recollected the events leading up to the present moment. Flasbacks, images of cars, ice, mud, grinning, toothless crazy drunk Tibetans, tail lights in the night, high mountain passes. I felt rich inside and humble to be here, to be traveling with the Gods now smiling upon me now that they had got me here, in there own way, maybe to amuse themselves and or maybe to teach me something. I am not sure, except I felt good, here amongst all these locals, Tibetans all on their way to pay homage to their faith, to be in the belly button of the world and their Buddhist faith, Lhasa. Many of them wrapped in rags and clutching bundles of food for the road, maybe this was a once in a lifetime journey for some of them, and here I was just doing it for my own amusement? but it was more than that for me I respect these people and their faith, for me it was the journey all the highs and lows, the effort and the reward, the lessons it will teach me, maybe that was my faith. I was on my own spiritual journey but I had no way of giving it form or a name, it was more important for it to remain anonymous as I felt it needed to be. I had my own faith that things would turn out fine as long as I did my part of the deal, try to keep this karma intact.
Hours passed, I relaxed and started to feel a familiar warm, wrapped up in cotton wool feeling. A blanket of fatigue wrapped itself around me and saturated my being. I had no reason to fight it this time. I let myself slip into its coma like canopy, dreamily I dozed, in and out of conciousness I daydreamed and watched the darkness of the night blur past the window of the bus. Abstract images of hard, frozen shapes and rocky skyscrapers blurred past in a hypnotic dance of reality and memory, past, present and future all blurred into one video, streaming past my vision. Finally one by one my senses faded and switched off, lights, camera, action, Ptzzzzzzzzz, nothing, peace, oblivion.............
I wake what felt like seconds later with a woman prodding me, my mind is still far, far away it does not want to come back, “eh? What’s happening?” I think to myself. I look around and everyone else is settled and comfortable, so why am I being prodded? Leave me alone! She insists with me. I cannot understand anything, arrrrrgh I did not want to wake up like this, slowly bits of information and reality creep in and my logic compartment starts to process the bits of the puzzle...... its still night time, no one else is moving, the woman wants me to get up. She points to my bag and to outside. “Are we here” I ask” Lhasa?” it looks just like any old town. I check the time, its 1.00 am, no its too early there should be at least another days ride yet, shit what’s happening? someone says” Lhasa tomorrow, you sleep now, go Lhasa tomorrow”, confused but with no other choice I have to comply, they obviously know what I need to do, two others now are also getting off, so at least I am not being singled out. I was starting to worry that they had got nervous and decided to eject me somewhere. I sort of learn from the other couple in broken English that we have to stay here for the night at a hotel, then tomorrow they go to Lhasa. I did not understand where the bus was going now or where and how we go tomorrow? My mind and soul still felt battered and bruised so I found it all too hard to think about, so I didn’t and just dreamily followed and walked into the lobby of a nearby hotel, slightly disappointed at being disturbed from a very deep, much needed sleep and now having a mountain of unanswered questions building up again, that no one was going to be able to answer, well only time will tell.
I could feel a restless night coming on, with too many questions flying around inside my mind, someone said they would ring me in the morning but could not explain why, and where we to go.
Finally I fight the questions and manage to sleep a little but I wake up early, before my alarm goes off, after having a stressful night wrestling with bed sheets and feeling strangely too comfortable, all this time I had been camping or staying in the cheapest rooms I could find, I sort of got used to those conditions and now this way over budget room with working TV, a heater, glazed windows, a whole panel of buttons that I amused myself with for a few minutes by switching everything on, sheets that smelled and looked clean, and silence, was almost deafening, suffocating, the comfort actually made me uncomfortable.
I moodily kicked the sheets off and eyes half open shuffled to the bathroom to freshen up. The shower felt good, I forget how long it had been, whilst traveling through China it had been too cold to even dare expose any part of my body, so I did not bother too much with hygiene. The brown stream of mud and filth verified this and history washed itself down the plug hole.
8.00am the phone rang and someone tried to tell me what was happening, but it was all in Chinese, eventually I hear ''Lhasa, you go now''....with that I thank them and hurry down to the lobby. I check out and wait to see if anything else happens, no, nothing, starting to get nervous now, no one else comes down, no one seems to know where I am to go or even what I am doing here, ah yes looks like its going to be another interesting day!
I was expecting the couple from the night before to come down and maybe we all travel together. I try to ask at the desk but they seem sure I was to go outside, so confused I walk outside and see that there is a bus station right next to the hotel, aha, the missing piece to the puzzle, a little disappointed as I presumed the ticket I paid for was actually going to get me to Lhasa.
My mind scrambled about looking for other pieces, turned them around, swapped them about a bit, tried to hammer the corners in place that I was sure should fit, but I was just eluding myself. Eventually I could only form one other alternative, maybe a bus was going to arrive here to pick up people from the hotel and continue, or the more obvious, but the one which I really did not want to believe was that this was the end of the ride and I had to get another ticket from here.
I stood around for a while waiting for another alternative to manifest itself, my mind was on strike and protesting about the conditions it had to work under, so I could not come up with anything better.
I entered the bus station and tried to ignore all the faces that immediately turned and were now starring at me as though I had got a big sign on my head. I tried to imagine I was just an ordinary Tibetan on my way to Lhasa and tried to blend in, well my clothes were the same colour as theirs but I still stood out like a sore thumb, gingerly I went up to the ticket counter and asked, “could I have a ticket pleeeeeeeeesa to Las”....”no!” she cut me off mid sentence. I could see it in her eyes as she recoiled and ran away to the opposite side of her office trying to pretend what I asked for did not happen, several times I tried and I waited, waved money around and tried to buy a ticket, no one, they would not acknowledge me, so confused I walked away. I was stranded in a bus station. I look around trying to catch the attention of anyone, they all seem aware of exactly what is going on but no one wants to intervene, eventually a young guy gestures me to wait. I use a little sign language with him and try to get him to buy a ticket for me, but he seems to be saying and pointing to the ticket office, “they phone police”……. “what!”, “ OK that’s it, I am out of here” I will hitch I suddenly decided, then he tells me to wait and pulls out a mobile phone and he makes a call, gestures me to wait. I am nervous and I toy with the idea of just legging it now and walking, my instincts say go but something tells me I can trust this guy.
Ten minutes later I see a policeman walk in, shit I don’t believe it I think he has turned me in, I get ready to leg it before I am noticed, but he takes my arm and tells me its ok, my friend, eh! He comes up and suddenly I see they know each other, they greet, then my friend turns to the ticket office and gives them the bird, wow, cool. I have the law on my side then, my mood picks itself up off the floor and I shake his hand “shi shi”, thank you. The officer does not smile, just asks for my papers. I see the expression of his friend now also looking a little confused, he takes my passport and examines it, then with no words he just points to the door and I have to follow, but I already know the inevitable, never trust a cop......!