October 15: Some Unexpected Passengers

Chortens at Baima Pass, on the road to Deqin. i i

hide captionChortens at Baima Pass, on the road to Deqin.

Anne Smith
Chortens at Baima Pass, on the road to Deqin.

Chortens at Baima Pass, on the road to Deqin.

Anne Smith
Mani wall and prayer flags at Ringha Temple. i i

hide captionMani wall and prayer flags at Ringha Temple.

Bill McQuay, NPR
Mani wall and prayer flags at Ringha Temple.

Mani wall and prayer flags at Ringha Temple.

Bill McQuay, NPR

Pilgrimage Map

Click the smaller map above to chart Bill McQuay's journey. i i

hide captionClick the smaller map above to chart Bill McQuay's journey.

National Geographic Society
Click the smaller map above to chart Bill McQuay's journey.

Click the smaller map above to chart Bill McQuay's journey.

National Geographic Society

After a visit to Ringha Temple, we drive toward the old trading town of Deqin. I've had no sleep, I'm coming down with a cold — sore throat, stuffy nose, upset stomach — and I'm wondering what I got myself into.

Our vehicle is an SUV with front-facing bucket seats, a bench seat for three smallish people behind it, and a cargo area filled with backpacks and a large canvas bag filled with recording gear. There are four of us: the driver and his wife in the front, and my guide and interpreter Kayson seated on the bench with me.

Looking through the windshield, I see a small truck with its hood up and two men peering beneath it... never a good sign.We pull alongside the vehicle. Suddenly, three young monks appear, seemingly out of nowhere.

After a brief discussion, we have outgrown our comfortable foursome and become a septet — two monks somehow miraculously appearing stuffed in among the backpacks and recording gear, and the third monk wedged in between Kayson and me. On to Benzilan, a small stretch of a town running several blocks along the road to Deqin.

Previous: October 13 — Karma in Translation

Next: October 16 — Crossing the Langtsa Bridge

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