We arrive in the dusty, dry town of Sakya, and stay in its only hotel. We laze about outside in the warm sun, peeling off our layers and become an instant attraction. Children swarm us, while adults regard us with distant curiosity and timid smiles. What is it about children that makes them so bold and brave? Unencumbered by fear, they cling to us with little hands and smiling eyes, peering into ours with wonder and awe at our light skin and different colored hair.
They have never seen such odd looking people. We become pied pipers as these little people follow us everywhere, including the Sakya Monastery which is the reason we came to this out of the way post. I love that the towns' childfolk have welcomed us. They laugh and smile and become our friends with only the knowledge of "hello". After touring the monastery, which was built in 1073 - yes these places are mind bogglingly ancient - and has another precious jeweled statue of Buddha, we take a long walk to the nunnery across the river. We are guided by a tiny little boy, who I guess is about 7 years old. Turns out, he is 15! He is a zen master already, as he avoids the rush of the other children and slowly catches our eyes and walks in front of us. He doesn't say a word, just looks and gently smiles. He motions for us to follow, and we go across the river to see stupas positioned in perfect view of the monastery we just visited. He continues along rocky, narrow paths with high walls that seem more fit for goats than humans. However, the views are stunning and we are grateful for our little Tibetan sherpa. He leads us to the nunnery, where we meet the Tibetan nuns and decide to pay him for his excellent service. He was the perfect host in this rugged land. Apparently in these hills there are 8 hotwater springs of the Sakya emperors. However, we did not find the springs or any water in this town. The hotel while built directly in front of the river, forgot to buy rights to the river (or forgot to pay) and had faucets but no water. We are used to this by now, and continue on our rugged journey through the wild lands of Tibet, our hair becoming as tousled and dirt strewn as the region's children.
Continuing on our way west towards the Himalayas, we climb ever higher into the world's tallest mountain range. We are now used to the bump and jostling of the 4x4's and mostly think this is a pretty fun way to travel. We are delighted by the weather, which has warmed up with bright sunshine and crystal clear days, with brilliantly blue skies.