The saga begins in Repkong, home of "Laru" and the thangka capitol of the world.
Laru is a dancing festival where Mountain Gods and villagers commune via trance channeling.
Not unlike Gallagher, the trance medium "Lhawa" often have to hurt people and spray fluids- mostly blood and liquor.
MOUNTAIN GOD GET-DOWN!
Scope our film- view Laru! (Ed. Note- the film incorrectly claims that it is "extremely rare" for Lhawa to meet. In actuality, some villages in Repkong have as many as six Lhawa.)
Two vessels, one Mountain God.
Shortly after Laru began, Amos Happ was unexpectedly offered a snort of Laru gong hooch.
The 100-million-billion-zillion-proof liquor was medicinal, having been personally consecrated by a deity less than 10 minutes earlier.
Fueled... by Mountain God!
The little papers are "lung pa," or windhorse, cantering through omnipresent fireworks.
You can sort of see one perched on the yakboy hat.
The Lhawa climbs up about 12 feet and starts cutting himself.
Villagers held up the pole.
The son of the Mountain God does this every Laru, and the injuries can get really serious.
The media and tourists basically show up to watch the Lhawa bleed.
The Lhawa throws a special piece of wood to divine the deity's pleasure, continuing to cut himself accordingly.
The blood sacrifice copascetifies things between the villagers and the Mountain God, which helps with crops and what-have-you over the forthcoming year.
Maybe you had to be there.
Notice the alert respect on the faces of the dancers in back.
A lapse in concentration within striking range of the Lhawa might mean a broken nose, or worse.
Eat your heart out, Tony Robbins!
This village has an upper and a lower level, each with a distinct patron Mountain God.
This fertility ritual was also part of Laru.
Virgins and ladymommies seemed to be harnessing male energy for conceiving sons.
Don't ask me, I'm a blue-eyed devil!
Our fearless guide (top center), Jiaxian Caireng, is also nicknamed "Chalk Toe". He danced in Laru and helped us in a hundred ways.
We stayed here in his home with his wonderful family.
Chalk Toe's dad is the former village leader.
His mother was overwhelmingly gracious. She kept making us vegetarian treats, which is bizarre cuisine for most Tibetans.
Cute snot making snot cute.
This brave little soul danced in Laru as well.
That's no joke- if the lhawa doesn't beat you down, the sun will!
"It's the Circle of Life." - Sir Elton John
Repkong is one classic party town.
Tibetans rarely dance individually. Usually they move together in a big circle, with fairly simple moves so nobody screws up.
But when this club dropped some stupefying Chinese gabber at around 1 or 2 AM,
Raki flipped the script.
Of course, what we really craved was The Metal.
We never suspected that The Metal, hiding in Ziling, was also craving us...
Labrang is an elaborate monastic university complex.
The monks study Tantra, medicine, astrology, astronomy, mathematics and more.
We sought a 'Frop Sage to guide us on our quest.
Behind Raki, deep in the shadows within, hundreds of monks are counting money. We made sure to circumambulate our way through and around the monastery buildings clockwise, as the figures near the steps demonstrate above.
Everything here is butter. Including Amos.
Raki's discerning nostrils led us up this mountaintop to discover trace 'fropecules in the sumptuous yeti fur. We huffed it greedily, eventually smoking the lot.
Raki & I taught over 250 students at this ramshackle village school.
English skills can empower Tibetans in very real way.
Like, English ability helps garner funding for vital development projects.
Consider water purification: wouldn't it be nice to stop shitting every 20 minutes?
But the school's best teacher spoke only halting, thickly accented English.
The other "English teachers" spoke zero discernible English at all.
They will never be fired or trained because
China isn't concerned with competence.
We were mistaken.
Teaching in Golok was far more awesome, and far, far, far more diarrhea.
Lesson #1: "You can't have any pudding if you don't eat your meat!"
On a brighter note, check out the sunroof.
'Fropiculture 101. We've got the adorable bait. All we need now is a ravenous, incontinent yeti....
We had a lot of help from one of the hoopiest froods on the planet:
Pictured near the blackboard on the right,
Drubgyal was our incomparable companion, guide, fellow teacher and life coach.
In true esprit du ChickenHed, the students blasted
seriously dark, demented and Christmasy trance music on a busted boombox
during this idyllic picnic.
These monks cooked us Tibetan French fries!
Then Amos Happ sang "Kentucky Woman" by Neil Diamond and we were instantly BFF.
And yes, that is a Mountain God looming in the clouds behind us.
His name is pronounced, approximately, "AM-NYEE-CHOON-GOONG."
Teaching in Golok was the highlight of our journey.
When you travel to Tibet, volunteer.
Because if you don't... some lousy missionary will!
Bignormous Lake Koko Nor is clearly visible from Outer Space!
See the speck near the exact center?
That's an island with an ancient monastery on it.
The lake is also inhabited by fabulously wealthy half-serpentine water spirits known as "nagas."
Raki & I sought their blessings, their money and their 'frop.
Dude, we got sooooooooooooo high on the way there.
We must have been at least 12,000 feet above sea level!
Stop snickering, Raki.
Riding with hemmorhoids is no laughing matter.
The line of trucks pictured center were transporting hundreds of Chinese soldiers.
It's true: most Tibetan monks carry cell phones with custom ringtones.
This boy became our lovechild, tucked fast between our bellies
for the treacherous ~36-hour, 2000 kilometer joyride to Lhasa.
The blue "pillows" were for oxygen, which comes in handy when you reach 17,200+ feet on a bus.
Many passengers puked violently due to altitude sickness.
Curiously, our brains functioned equally well oxygen-free.
____ LOST IN LHASA____
We surfed the luck plane straight up this mountain.
We found enlightenment, but we lost our way back to the Western-style toilet hotel!
"...I think it was right at the mane stones- or was it a left at the cave nunnery? Maybe if we follow these prayer flags..."
We bivouaced here courtesy of The Man in the Sky's associates.
Their home was also a renowned incense and thangka factory.
A powerful PA serenaded the MegaThangka all day:
"...OM MANE PADME OM... OM MANE PADME OM... OM MANE PADME OM..."
It's no illusion- the doorway to this restaurant was well under 4 feet.
Lucky we had a camera!
"The living fossil of Tibetan culture."
_____________ MONK FOLLY_____________
(Click to Enlarge)
Note the exasperated Chinese cop's smoking butt. Does he plan to extinguish it on a monk, or are these cartoons painful enough already? These helpful illustrations were posted next to the Potala Palace.
Wherever we traveled, Raki insisted on reading aloud from Will: The Autobiography of G. Gordon Liddy
She performed excerpts from the prison chapters here at the Dalai Lama's Summer Palace.
Clockwise-rotating Buddhist swastika, good.
Counter-clockwise rotating Bon swastika, also good.
Non-rotating Nazi swastika, bad.
Good-rotating bad Buddhist swastika Nazi, Bon.
Our entire journey lies encrypted in this image.
Waiting to score at the Dalai Lama's Summer Palace Zoo.
That's not water in those humps- this camel is holding!