Earl and Stan Have Been Reaching Out For Stories from Shufflers, Stories That our Followers Can Read, Stories that our Followers Can Enjoy!! Shuffler Gary Pipher has reached back 35 years plus to share with us an interesting segment of his interesting life.
“A few days in the life of an old shuffler” Gary Takes Us To Tibet!!
Stan McCormack has asked me on numerous occasions to put together a few lines for the rejuvenated blog, either from growing up as a young lad in a rural community in Ontario, or from some of my work related travels over my 35 plus years of globetrotting in the exploration and mining sector. Since my days as a young lad were so many years ago, I tend to have forgotten much from those days. (ha ha I wonder why)
I have been retired for the lesser period of time and I will use that as my excuse not to write anything about my youth and nothing about “Oldtimers Remorse”. The Oxford dictionary describes “remorse” as: someone who feels remorseful has usually done something that he or she now feels guilty about. My guilt is only that I should have retired sooner and began playing shuffleboard when I was about 20 and maybe by now and I mean maybe, I could have competed with the likes of Earl Ball and some of the other greats from the game of shuffleboard I came up against when I wintered in Florida.
One of my sojourns I will tell you about, was a project which I was to set up for the United Nations in Lhasa Tibet, high in the Himalayan Mountains. The project was that I would set up, train and install geothermal drilling equipment for the City of Lhasa to provide electrical energy. Our company had manufactured the equipment in Orillia Ontario Canada, and I accepted it as a challenge to set up the project in Tibet. Hell: I had no Idea where I was going or what I was doing but I enthusiastically accepted the challenge.
The truck with two trailer loads of drilling equipment was shipped to the port of Shanghai where it was off loaded from the ship and driven overland to the Xizang Autonomous Region of China or better known as Tibet. I don’t recall the distance in miles, but it took several months for the truck and trailer loads to arrive. The roads were narrow and there were many small bridges to cross along the route, bridges that would not support the heavy equipment. The trailers had to be off-loaded and driven over such bridges in smaller loads, one at a time. I met up with the equipment convoy in Sichuan and travelled with it for several days before I hooked a ride on an old cargo plane that was going back to Beijing.
The UN project had little chance of getting off the ground before the bad weather of the Himalayas set in for the season. Accordingly I flew from Beijing China back to Canada via Vancouver and the UN project was put on hold until I returned the following year. I went back in May of the next year and because of the severe fog conditions on the Tibetan Plateau at that time of year, there was always a chance the flight would turn back and try another day. My first attempt was just that, and I had to stay over in Chaing Dao China and wait for another few days until a clear report was given for landing in Lhasa. The conditions in this region of China in the late 80’s were still very much behind anywhere in North America and accommodations were almost nonexistent for foreigners. I will not attempt to give you the details of this portion of the trip to Lhasa but I can tell you it was anything but pleasant. Each day I would hire a car from my so-called hotel and be at the little airport every morning by 4:00 am and by chance be lucky enough to grab a flight. Low and behold on my second day of trying I was issued a boarding pass and was all set to fly again. But the Chinese Military had different ideas and they commandeered my seat on the plane for a soldier and his duffle bag. I played their game and pushed my way to my assigned seat and finally the soldier relented but was not happy and threw his duffle bag out in the aisle way of the aircraft. The bag stayed there for the next 4 or 5 hours of the flight and anyone moving up or down the aisle had to step over it. They didn’t appear to be concerned in the least about the hazard in the aisle. We finally arrived at our destination and my next challenge was to find transportation into Lhasa a distance of about 20 miles or so over roads that were nothing more than trails hanging over the edge of the mountain with deep gorges below. I managed to catch a ride on a little old bus along with many of the local Tibetans and made the best of a bad situation. Because I was stranded for the three days and I had no way of letting them know of my arrival time; I was on my own.
If you have ever been in a foreign land and unable to communicate and not sure where to go, it gives you an awful empty feeling in the gut. I managed to get into Lhasa and found accommodations and enjoyed a decent meal that night; what it was “I have no idea”. It filled the hollow spot and the accommodations were adequate. Since the elevation of Lhasa was 12,000 ft it never took much effort for me to run short of breath if I tried to walk any distance.
The following day I found a local with an old jalopy that I could hire by the day and this old guy hung around me like a bad smell for the next few days to grab a few easy dollars from this “foreigner”.
The engineer in charge of the project was able speak a few words of English and that made my job a little easier when there was at least someone who I could converse with. I was never sure what he translated and passed on to the workers, but we finally managed to get the project started. I mentioned earlier that Lhasa was at 12,000 ft and we were expected to set up the program at an elevation somewhat higher than that. Of course, I had difficulty breathing so they brought me an old bladder looking thing that contained oxygen. Whenever I began feeling dizzy or exhausted, I would take a suck on the tube from the bladder of oxygen and rest a few minutes before continuing. Things got better after a week or so and I found I was needing the oxygen boost less and less every day but hardly considered myself anywhere as good as the weakest Tibetan labourer on the job site. I will try to add a few more lines to this story another day and possibly include a few photos as well.
Stan Speaks: The two links below take you to basically the same story SAVE AND EXCEPT, Gary has some great pix which allows you to better relate to the conditions he experienced. THANK YOU GARY FOR THIS FINE REPORT!!