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The Endless Sky Trip -- Cycling the Himalaya cycling in western Tibet

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Hello from Kathmandu

A hearty Namaste (hello in Nepali) to everyone!

I must admit that after 3 months in India, I felt happy to cross the border into Nepal. There is a certain kind of warm friendliness that seems to pervade most Nepali people. While India has this way of pushing everyone to their limits and often beyond. For three months I lived in Bodhgaya, India, mostly studying Tibetan Buddhism. Bodhgaya marks the place were 2,500 years ago the Buddha attained the state of enlightenment. Today the place is bit like the Disneyland of Buddhism. From each of the countries around the world where Buddhism has spread, people have come to built a monastery in their own traditional style. As you travel down the hectic Indian road, a temple from Thailand stands on one side, then a Japanese one, Chinese, Butanese, Burmese and whole a group of Tibetan monasteries are spread around. Much to my dismay they do not serve Thai food in the Thai temple, nor do they serve Japanese food in the Japanese temple. So, this small crossroads of a town is a bit of a international mixing ground with peoples from various counties, all speaking different languages. As the Japanese tourist slowly step down from the new air-conditioned buses on to the dirty Indian street, the Indian rickshaw drivers call to them in Japanese. A little surprising at first, but these guys will do what ever they need to make a few rupees.

For the first time in 12 years the Dalai Lama came to Bodhgaya to teach. He spoke morning and afternoon for five days to a crowd of roughly 25,000 people. Most of the audience came from the countries of the Himalayan region, Tibet, Nepal, Butan and India. A vibrant mix of monk, nuns, yogis with hair a couple yards longs and whole families on something of a combination pilgrimage and week long picnic. Many came from Tibet without even the slightest hint of paperwork resembling a passport and only a small purse with enough money to buy a bit of food every now and then. A couple of them told me stories of illegally crossing the border into Nepal and sneaking around police checkpoints under the cover of the dark night sky. Around 1,500 people came from other counties, with the largest group of about 500 from Taiwan. All of us came equipped with plenty of money, personal documentation and a flight ticket home and still most thought the conditions were a bit primitive.

A couple nights after the final teaching of the Dalai Lama, some Tibetans organized a showing of the new American movie "Kundun". It seems that someone clandestinely obtained a prerelease copy of the movie from Touchstone Pictures, for during the showing a large message appeared on the screen saying, "This movie is the property of Touchstone Pictures, do not copy, do not distribute". For two hours I sat in a rough bamboo and plastic tent with a couple hundred Tibetan monks, nuns and families watching a depiction of the life story of the 14th Dalai Lama, the incarnation of the Buddha of boundless compassion. I watched with great interest as the images of some Tibetan friends appeared on the large video projection screen, while some of the other characters played the parts of Tibetans that I had meet in real life. The movie ends with the Dalai Lama being forced into exile in India, in 1959. When the movie finished we all poured out of the small door on to the teaching ground of the Dalai Lama. With a couple other friends, I walked a couple dozen steps to the exact place where the Dalai Lama had just sat for last five days. We walked out of the movie of the life story of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet into the present day real life story.

In another couple days my friend Mary will arrive at here in Kathmandu. We will both head up to the Everest region of Nepal for a couple weeks of trekking among some of the highest peaks in the world. Then by mid-April I will meet up with my friends John and Liyang for a 4 month cycling trip starting in Northern Pakistan, then continuing on to far western China, into western Tibet, then to Lhasa and finally returning to Kathmandu once again. You can find out more about this trip on our new web page at: "http://www.kreisels.com/tibet98". During the cycle trip I will try to send back updates every week or two, depending upon local postal conditions, of course.

warm greetings from the Himalayas.....ray

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