So we climbed out of Bahlonpong to start driving thru the foothills and up to Sela pass. Which is redundant as La means pass here. A solid ten hours and a day and a half brought us to the relatively low approx 14000 foot Sela. Landslides, Indian military (we are close to Tibet) and rainy mountain scenery. It’s closer in geography to Bhutan or Nepal. The comfort of prayer flags and stupas makes me feel at home.
For some incredible reason, once we got over the pass, the road was lined with Tibetan women (well they looked and dressed Tibetan) breaking and moving rocks by hand. Young and old. Some with small children. In the cold and rain. What? Very humbling. All women.
The Tawang valley is incredible. Beautiful. Steep hills. Amazing waterfalls. Warmer.
The relationship with dogs here is different. They seem to have the same bulletproof quality as cows. They sleep in the road and people avoid them. Of course they are the ubiquitous black or brown. 35 lbs. All look alike. You know the ones. Like the Adam and Eve of street dogs started populating years ago and they look and act the same across Asia and Latin America.
Now where these dogs seem bulletproof, they are the dirtiest, dingiest, skanky assed dogs I’ve ever seen. Mange. Half of them are limping. Yet they remain fearless and don’t budge as cars whizz by while walking or sleeping. .
And the Yaks. Clearly the most regal of animals and I am continually mesmorized by them. They must live at high altitude . Now there is some scientific dispute on whether they can’t live low because of heat or genes. But you don’t see purebred yaks below say 8000 feet. Once when trekking I awoke in the middle of the night to pee of course. There had been a thunder and lightning snow storm. A foot of snow had fallen since I went to bed. Sadly before digital cameras, my stunning picture of a yak, asleep in the field next to the tea house, a foot of snow on his back, steam emanating into the night, didn’t come out. Wow.
Tawang is beautiful. The growing wealth of the Indian population has made it a tourist destination. And if you had taken the road here, you would be astonished at its size. Big. No lack of new cement buildings going up. Markets. The smell of smoke that accompanies this culture and takes me back to every small village I have ever been through up here.
Watching cultures grow up can be tough. I mean you want them to thrive but at what cost to both their culture and the planet?
A book called Ancient Futures published in the 80s looked at some of these questions in Ladakh. Knowing these folks will all want cement homes (and certainly have every right to them), and cars or motos (same), you feel caught in the cross hairs.
The maze of thought I was caught in whilst volunteering in Guatemala a few years ago was just that. The people have a right to develop, but when they cross the chasm from needs to wants the planet inevitably suffers. Needs are predictable. Poverty is somewhat predictable. Food, clothing, shelter right?
But wants? Man. Say goodbye to the planet if every person can fulfill his/her wants. And I have this theory that education regarding ones actions on the planet tracks slowly behind in a culture that starts to become affluent. They get a few extra bucks. Want maybe some education but man. TV. Meat. Cell phone. Moto. And they don’t know the ramifications.
I’m not saying they shouldnt have it. I’m saying its an emotional conundrum when doing any development work. Where do you put that in your brain?
I love this place and this culture. Always. Language is hard. Communication difficult. But the Tawang Monastery filled up my heart.