At 14,500 feet above sea level, the view from the Shika snow mountain took your breath away, both figuratively and literally. The ascent was a trial in itself because someone was afraid I would accidentally open the door to the cable car if I tried to open the window for ventilation. So the windows fogged up and the people in the other cable cars thought we were having an orgy.
So anyway, Shika is a Tibetan word (Shangri-la dialect) meaning a mountain abounding in deer. It is said when Shakyamuni began to preach Buddhism in the Deer Park, two deer knelt before him and listened to him attentively. Okay, confession: I copied this info from another site. I wasn’t listening to the guide because I was busy sucking in air and trying not to die.
If you look at my coat (as I pretend to pensively look into the distance), you will see a blue which claims to contain 97% oxygen. I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect or not, but sucking onto it, I could actually feel my brain start working again.
If you look at the rock pile and it is made up of what they call Mani stones. Some of these stones have mantra inscribed on them and they are placed by pilgrims as they pass it, with the intention paying homage to the spirits of the sky and mountains and to ensure a safe journey.
Looking at it with my engineering eye, I realise – to my dropped-jaw incredulity – that these rocks are kept in place together by nothing more than the feeble force of friction and amazing Jenga skills of the Tibetans.
It’s just so precarious that it makes my fingers tingle. I carefully and deliberately avoided it, because I certainly didn’t want to be the guy who drops the last stone that collapses the whole structure, because that is so me.