Step, count to 10, step, step, step, count to 10, and repeat! This recurring mantra fills my every thought as I ascend the formidable Langma La, a high pass that guards the entrance to the Kharta Valley on the east side of Mount Everest. At 5360m/17,585 feet you reach a series of rock cairns mostly hidden under miles of multi-coloured prayer flags: This is Tibet personified; thin air, faith and huge mountains – the Himalaya.
What took me there, why did I want to go, and why do I continue to go back, when again and again I swear it’ll be the last time!?
I won’t bore you with my entire life-story, but by the mid-2000’s I was living in a small mountain town in Southwest China, in the Province of Yunnan. My wife, who is Chinese, visited Tibet in 2006 and fell in love with the place, the people and the unknown – and as a smart husband, I knew to make my wife happy meant me being happy! I was away overseas on a business trip when I spoke to her on the phone – “I’ve changed your flight back” she says – “We’ve moved.” In the two weeks I’d been away, she had sold our 4×4, my motorbike, all our furniture and a good chunk of other personal items. I was so used to this wonderful way of life that my only question was “Sure thing, where to?”
One word that changed my life forever followed – “Lhasa”