Silk Road – Summary

The writer, Nick Middleton, describes his pilgrimage to Mount Kailash. He wants to be more adventurous than to be religious. As he starts from Ravu towards Kailash he describes all the things he sees—landscape, people and animals. He goes to Mount Kailash to do the Kora with other pilgrims.


It was early morning when the author left Ravu. He told Lhamo that he was going towards Mount Kailash to complete the Kora. At this Lhamo gave him a gift of a long sleeved sheep skin coat.

Tsetan was the driver of their vehicle. He knew the route to Mount Kailash. He told the author that if there was no snow there would be no problem, Tsetan took a short cut from Ravu. This took them across the vast open grassy plains to the stony plains. The air was clean. Sometimes they saw a few gazelles and wild asses.

The way through the hills started. On the way they met solitary drokpa tending their flocks. Seeing the car they would pause and stare at it. They also came across nomads’ dark tents. Giant Tibetan mastiffs stood guard before these tents. These dogs would chase the author’s car for a hundred metres or so.

They could see snow capped mountains far away as they entered a valley where the river was wide. The turns now became sharper and the ride more uncomfortable. After a while the driver Tsetan had to stop. The author’s companion Daniel also came out of the car. There was snow capped route ahead for about fifteen metres, after which the dusty trail could be seen again. The three men took handfuls of dirt and flung it on the icy surface. Then Tsetan got in and drove the car carefully across the dusty snow. It happened at the height of 5210 metres.

There was another blockage after about ten minutes but somehow. Tsetan negotiated it. The author felt a terrible headache.

Finally, they reached the top of the pass at 5515 metres. It was marked by a large cairn of rocks. They all took a turn round the cairn according to the tradition. Then they careered down the other side of the pass. Now, the author’s headache had cleared and they stopped for lunch.

By late afternoon, they had reached the small town of Hor. Here Deniel parted company as he returned to Lhasa. Hor seemed a grim place. Although the town was on the shore of Lake Man Sarovar, the most venerated stretch of water, it seemed a dirty place. Anyway, the author was within striking distance of Mount Kailash and was eager to forge ahead. But he had to wait. The car tyres had suffered two punctures one after the other and they had to be fixed.

They started after about half an hour. It was 10.30 pm. when the car drew up outside a guest house in Darchen. The author had to pass a troublesome night at the height of 4,760 metres. In the morning Tsetan took him to the Darchen Medical College. The Tibetan Doctor gave him some medicine and assured him that he would be able to do the Kora. The medicine had its effect and that night, the author slept well. Seeing that the author was now well, Tsetan went back leaving him alone.

The town Darehen seemed tolerable but the author was worried because he could not see the pilgrims which he very much expected. In fact, he had timed his arrival to coincide with the season for pilgrimage.

There was a cafe in Darchen. One afternoon, the author sat there thinking what to do. He thought that he could only wait because he dared not go alone on pilgrimage. While he was thus lost in his thoughts, a man called Norbu came there. Seeing an English novel, in the author’s hand he came to him. He sought the author’s permission to sit opposite him. After introducing himself, he told the author that he had come to do the Kora. The author was as glad to find his company as Norbu was to find the author.

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