And an endless road past endless mountains.
The endlessness turns into a barren emptiness.
A lone horseman crosses the plain against a snow-capped peak in the background.
Two figures standing in the middle of this endless landscape.
A nomad shepherd with his goats in the vast emptiness.
The long dusty road marked by a row of telephone poles stretching across the landscape.
A silent emptiness.
The bare, rocky landscape turns into a grassy plain and eventually gives way to a sandy dessert.
The wind shifting the sand across the endless landscape.
And always, the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas lined across the horizon.
The monastery is located in Zanda, the gateway to the Guge Kingdom, about 1500km west of Lhasa.
Above: The north face of Kailash, set against a clear, blue sky. A few days earlier, we had heard reports that the snow was knee-deep and there was zero visibility of the mountain due to the cloud cover.
The slow, difficult uphill trudge through snow and ice, heading for Drolma La, the highest point of the kora ..... my steps had slowed down to mantra-pace …… Om Mani Padme Hum. My guide Kunchok was my hand-holder up to the pass and down the other side, as the ice was quite slippery. On the way down from the pass, a little Tibetan boy was slip-sliding behind me, so I offered to be his hand-holder, and the three of us made our way down to snow-free terrain and level footing again.
Day 3: The final 14km section was a leisurely walk back to Darchen, the starting point of the kora.
The highlight of my brief stay in Lhasa was a self-planned visit to a nunnery late one afternoon, where I spent a pleasant and entertaining hour.
As I stood against the wall of the main chapel listening to the prayers, one of the nuns motioned me over and moved across so I could sit on the cushion with the chanting nuns. Given the great language barrier, we all smiled & nodded at each other.
Then one of the nuns took my Lonely Planet Tibet guidebook which I was holding in my hands and started to look through it.
When she found the various photos of Tibet, such as monasteries and Buddha images, she showed some of the other nuns, so the book did the rounds of several nuns (who at the time were chanting prayers).
The nun sitting next to me found the "useful expressions" section at the back ofthe book and started reading out some of the place names with me, while I read the English versions.
After some time I headed out into the courtyard and popped in to some of the other rooms and then went and sat on a bench outside, enjoying the sunshine.
Two men (a weather-beaten father & his son, probably in his 20s) were sitting on the bench next to mine - they had very distinctive features and braided hair with red thread through it.
And they kept staring at me.
At one point I offered them my Tibet guidebook as I had been reading it and they werelooking at it. I gave it to the father and he passed it to his son and then a nun came overand took it from the son, went and sat with two other nuns and started looking through the book.
After a while the first nun went into the kitchen and showed it to another, older nun. While I was having a piece of hard, sweet cheese which the nun offered me, she then went upstairs somewhere and showed it to some other nuns.
So while my book was doing the rounds, I sat outside again with one of the nuns who spoke some English and had a bit of a conversation (where are you from, how many nuns live here etc).
Eventually my book was returned to me and so, after a wonderful hour at the nunnery, I took my leave and, wondering back through the narrows streets, headed back to my hotel room.
Above: Leaving Mt Kailash and heading westwards.
Above: Another slowly-winding single-lane dirt road over a high pass, then down again over to the other side.
Above: After leaving Thithapuri hot springs, we make our way up a winding dirt road over the Lunggar La pass (5160m) before descending into Tsada and the bare, empty landscape towards Tsaparang and the Guge Kingdom.