The Chinese have a natural cure for everything.
What do you do for relief when you’re on top of the world and your head and lungs are about to explode and the cure is worse than the illness?
Steve finds out the hard way when he ends up with a severe case of altitude sickness while visiting Tibet. He tries the revolting Yak Butter Tea, hot and cold, listed as a cure-all in his travel guide but also listed as possibly worse than the illness. He considers catching the next plane out until he stumbles across Jiang who has a unique method for curing what ails him.
Ebook ID: 5112_1232
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Length: 28 pdf Pages / 3450 words
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Travel guides are not infallible, it seems. Of the Ten Worst Experiences in Tibet listed in the volume I carried with me, I was engaged in number two: Hot Yak Butter Tea. I feared that if I were too tardy in experiencing number two, I would slide up the list to Worst Experience Number One: Cold Yak Butter Tea. A monk was explaining its complicated manufacture which was unlikely to make it any more palatable as a beverage of choice.
He droned on. “Its real name is po cha and we drink it to keep ourselves warm. Also because we like it.” He’d obviously told this story many times before to equally disinterested tourists. “We use a special black tea that comes in blocks. We crumble some off to boil for many hours, half a day is best, until it is very dark brown. We save the liquid from the boiling then, whenever we want to make tea, we add some of that chaku to our boiling water. The tea is a special Tibetan leaf.” He was demonstrating as he recited the recipe. “This is a chandong,” he said as he placed the ingredients inside the hollow bamboo and began to stir with a long, thin plunger. “You would call it a churn. To the tea we add salt, yak butter, and milk. The longer you stir it, the better it tastes.”
I expected him to say “Here’s some I prepared earlier,” because I could already see the steaming open thermos on his work bench.
“And it’s very good for altitude sickness,” he added.
Now that did interest me. If there was something I had in abundance it was altitude sickness. In fact, according to all the research I’d done before I set out, I was just this side of ‘Get-the-fuck-out-of-there-before-your-head-bursts-open’ sick.
The headaches had begun about twenty minutes after the jet had scraped across jutting mountain shards to deposit its passengers at the airport so far out of the capital that I suspect Sydney, Australia, is closer to Lhasa than its own airport. I was greeted by my guide with “Om ma ne ba me hong!” which he insisted I practice until he was satisfied with my pronunciation, plus a long diaphanous white prayer scarf that I was beginning to think of, not so much a spiritual accoutrement, as an emergency means of hanging myself to bring blessed relief from the sheer agony of altitude sickness.
I was rather blasé about the spirituality of Buddhism. It had been disappointed out of me on a two-week Buddhist retreat when, on the final day at a communal emotional cuddle, I had, in a burst of misplaced honesty, admitted that I was looking for a spiritual experience that was open to gay people. I hadn’t reckoned on the frozen response from my fellow retreaters or on the admonishments of the group bodhisattva who quoted the Dalai Lama on the strictures against homosexuality – for practicing Buddhists. I was referred to page and paragraph number if I cared to confirm it by purchasing a copy of the head Lama’s condemnatory spitballs from the retreat’s bookshop. I declined. Shunned by Buddhism and my fellow wisdom seekers, I headed for the exit.
I was in Tibet not in pursuit of the Buddhist ideal, but because of Lowell Thomas, famed broadcaster and world explorer, whose television program, High Adventure with Lowell Thomas, had enthralled me on teen year Sunday nights in the 1950s when it immediately preceded the more prosaic Disneyland. Thomas’s grainy black and white footage of the Potala Palace, hyped as the first western footage of mysterious Tibet, resonated over the decades in my mind. Now I was about to see it in the flesh.
Barry Lowe is notorious for his Lowe-Life column which scandalized Sydney when it appeared fortnightly in a Sydney bar newspaper in the 1980s. It led to fame, fortune and easy lays (well infamy at any rate and the occasional not-so-easy lay, the fortune never arrived) so he has spent the last couple of decades writing gay sex comedies for stage as well numerous erotica stories under his own and various pseudonyms, plus his more recent autobiographical weekly column in Sydney’s SX magazine. He is the author of the novels The More the Merrier: Gay Gangbang Erotica; Romancing the Bone: Gay Romance Erotica; The Gravy Train, The Major and The Miners, and Busting Billy’s Butt. He has also written a biography of Hollywood legend, Mamie Van Doren, Atomic Blonde, for McFarland Press. He lives in Sydney with his partner, Wally.
Check out his website at www.barrylowe.net