August 12, 2005
We left Serta this morning under blazing sun. But the weather here is fickle, the minute a cloud passes the temperature can drop dramatically and soon there were clouds and rain. At this altitude the bottom of the clouds skim the hills making the sky feel close enough to touch....
About 30 miles out of Serta we headed down another river valley. This road has long been closed to foreigners probably because it is unfinished.... there were several washouts along the way but our 4WD Nissan handled the rivers beautifully. Some other cars were not so lucky.
Somewhere down valley the architecture changed. Tibetan stone homes come in all shapes and sizes but there are some common features. Generally they are 30-60 feet wide with walls that slope gently inward. Most are 3 to 5 stories tall. The first level is reserved for livestock, hay and so on. The middle levels are the living quarters with a big kitchen, small bedrooms, and, in some homes, a library. The top level opens onto a terrace, a place for drying crops, growing plants and flowers ectera. Outhouses hang from the back of the 2nd or 3rd level. Exterior decoration varies from village to village.
But in this valley the stone part of the houses are taller and thinner than in other places. The top part of the houses are made of wood and seem almost like a second structure. These wooden structures extend out 1/2 a log length on all sides from the stone base. The windows feature elaborate woodwork, and there are many prayerflags on the roofsw. The effect of is wooden ships. The homes are perched precariously on the edges of high cliffs again making them seem like ships marooned after some otherworldy calamity.
When I saw these villages a chill went up my spine. As a child I wrote a book for myself of pirate ships lost in a fog that ended up stranded on the rocky ledges of a mountain after a passing comet changed the tides and drained the ocean. This was my 9 year old book illustrated in 3D... of course in my book the pirates eventually grew bat wings and flew down from their ships pouring hot oil on the people below. Here there were only young children and old women carrying impossibly large loads of hay on their backs up the steep mountain trails, but still it is rare in this life that dreams are so fully realized.