Marieke ten Wolde's blog

Documentary photography, and other things interesting enough to bother you with

Tibet Travel log 1, a false start

with one comment

February 2012

Early in the morning I get into a shared car to Kangding. All is going well and I am sleeping in the back of the car, still tired from the flight the day before and the jet-lag.

After about 5 hours on the road and only 30 km before Kangding, my destination for the day, we are stopped by the traffic police at one of the many roadblocks in the Tibetan area’s. This time it is not just filling out a form, showing my passport, getting registered and continuing on. I can not go any further. But that is not the end of it, my driver is interviewed and video-ed and has to sign a confession and self critique. He is a fierce tall Khampa nomad not easily scared, but he is now very nervous. This is not good. I only have to answer a few normal questions but to many different people over the course of several hours: what are you doing in Tibet, where are you going to, coming from etc. In the mean time I drink lots of tea, I find out the toilets are very clean.

I have to wait for 3 hours for 3 nervous English-speaking Chinese girls to arrive from a nearby town, for them to tell me: ‘The road is too bad for foreigners, we care for your safety, you can better come back in summer when the road is better’.  I can see the perfectly paved road all the way to Kangding, nice sunny weather, snowy peaks in the background. They see me looking at the road and they smile nervously explaining the same again. They say, they hope I understand. I think they mean it, this situation is clearly uncomfortable for them as well. Whilst another army convey makes its way into Tibet, I say I think I understand. Everybody is relieved.

I knew that the Tibetan area’s are since 2008 closed in March (to avoid the tensions around the anniversary of the 1959 uprising and the 2008 demonstrations and riots in Lhasa). I also knew that this year with the many self immolations and demonstrations in Kham and Amdo, the area was rumoured to be closed for the Tibetan new year starting 20 February. I had not expected that a city like Kangding, which is not even properly Tibet yet, would be closed early February already.

Finally, after 5 hours, we are sent back to Chengdu. The only thing I see from Tibet is some far away gorgeous looking snowy mountains, a police station, army and lots and lots of army trucks going up to the plateau. I just hope there will be no further trouble for the driver.

At 23.00 that same night I am back in a warm and humid Chengdu.


Written by Marieke ten Wolde

June 1, 2012 at 14:54

One Response

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  1. Maybe a false start but a great picture showing good roads, electricity pilons, telecommunications and the long arm of Beijing. I look forward to more of the Travel Log.


    June 1, 2012 at 18:04

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