More than half of my ‘passionate travellers’ could not take photographs because they made their journeys before photography had been invented. And although Alexandra David-Neel could have taken pictures in 1924 when she crossed the Tibetan Plateau on her quest to enter the forbidden city of Lhasa, she was a fugitive disguised as an arjopa, a beggar pilgrim: it would have been too great a risk to be seen with a camera. Early cameras were not the neat, compact devices they are today. They were bulky, heavy and mounted on tripods for the long exposures required.
Happily, on the different occasions I travelled in Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and India I was not a fugitive. And I lugged two cameras, three lenses and a tripod through 16,000 ft passes, and along the Rongbuk (Rongpu) Glacier at an altitude of 20,000 ft on the approach to the north face of Chomolungma – “Goddess Mother of the World” – Mount Everest.
Having made that effort I can now share with you a few of my own photographs of the region. As in my previous photo-essay on Africa, with a few exceptions I have chosen sights and scenes that have remained substantially unchanged since my ‘passionate travellers’ walked that way decades or even centuries ago.
“The prayer flag cracks out its mantras in a staccato chant – half worn away with its piety, its role to calm the unpredictable spirits of the earth.” [Journey in Bhutan]
When Tibetans reach the summit of a pass, they shout in exaltation, “Lha gyalo, de tamche pham!” – “the gods are victorious, the demons are defeated.”
And beyond the peaks and summits are hidden high valleys like the gardens of the gods.
Preparing reeds for the endless task of roof repairs.
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Trish Nicholson is the author of Passionate Travellers: Around the World on 21 Incredible Journeys in History
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