The Road to Gebchek
July 10th—The Road to Gebchek
Tashi comes in late from Nema’s home and tells us that Nema called his work and will be able to go with us to Gebchek. Another great blessing!
We cannot go if it rains
Rinpoche comes in to meet us and wish us well as we prepare for sleep that night amidst the sounds of thundering and lightening. Early the next morning we head for Gebchek without stopping for breakfast, knowing we must beat the rain that is looming in the many distant clouds. We know we can’t go if it rains, but optimistically, we head for the mountain. Or should I say mountains? The last peak is again over 16,000 feet and is called Sky Wall. Sky Wall because when you climb this steep mountain wall, you are so very close to the sky! Within an hour it started drizzling. No one says anything. The rain becomes heavier and the narrow dirt road is starting to fill its potholes with puddles of water. We keep heading up the mountain. We cannot go any slower as we crawl along inch by inch. The drop is on Jeffrey’s side – a sheer cliff that seemed to drop endlessly. Suddenly the car spins. We all jump out, our feet gratefully on solid ground and look at the car which is barely on the road in its almost 180-degree turn. We are all shaken as we stand there on this barren mountain road, knowing there is nothing we can do but go forward. There is no way to turn around or even let another car pass. Tashi jumps into the drivers seat and somehow rights the jeep in one quick move. Where does this come from in him? He and Nema are such dear friends, like brothers and Nema was obviously too shaken to right the car. Jain Su has passed on any attempts to drive on this crazy road long ago and certainly Jeffrey and I wouldn’t have touched that baby with a ten-foot pole! We climb back in as Nema again takes the driver’s seat. I pray to Tara with all of my being, as we all pray in our own way. “Please part these clouds and give us sun, please!”
The most treacherous drive of our lives
After an hour or so, we arrive at a tiny village and are received into a humble home. The large thermos that is in every Tibetan home is opened, a few glasses come from somewhere and we are poured hot water, a frequent alternative to Tibetan tea. Although this village is obviously very poor, as is this family, there is the ever-present television blasting away. Jeffrey and I marvel at the cell phone and television reception that seems to reach even the most remote areas.
We will have to spend the night (where, I didn’t know) and either go back to Shandar the next day or, if the sun comes out, go forward. “Tashi”, I said, “We are already at Gebchek. Feel the nuns waiting for us. We must go”.
Although something so strong was taking us to Gebchek, I had a moment of terror. What am I doing? Everyone keeps telling us the road is too dangerous, that a truck had just gone over the mountain two days before. Was this fair to everyone? And what about Mr. Jen’s car? It is his livelihood and it is getting mightily beat up.
I walk outside the little dirt home and leave everyone inside. I want to just surrender to whatever needs to happen. There is a man outside, a visiting teacher for the children here in this small village. He says the children will do a little performance later in the day. I ask if we can videotape it and he assures me that would be fine. Hmm. Are we here to do some kind of travelogue instead?
When I walk back inside the home, the decision has been made. We are going! I realize that the rain has stopped and there are blue skies above! They tell me before I even sit down that we must either go right now or turn back. We immediately pile in the car, saying our good -bys to this welcoming family!
They didn’t name it Sky Wall for nothing!
As we climb the dreaded Sky Wall, Nema’s side mirror is nearly touching the mountain, and on the other side (that would be Jeffrey’s), the wheels kick off loose rocks crumbling from the sheer cliff. Every minute we inch our way closer. The tension is so thick and it seems the only thing that seems to keep us breathing are Jeffrey’s dry death jokes.