“Tashi delek. Tashi delek,” the old lady sang out cheerfully, as she raced past me. Her wrinkled face gave me a happy, toothy grin and then she was gone, heading effortlessly for the 5,630-meter Dolma La, the highest point of our pilgrimage around Mount Kailash.
If I’d had the energy, I would have had distinctly uncharitable thoughts. There we were, all togged out in hiking boots, thermal clothing and expensive down anoraks, plodding painfully along, gasping for breath, while yet more smiling Tibetans, most of them elderly, and most of them wearing nothing sturdier than gym shoes and thin jackets, rushed past us in a swirl of smiles, prayer wheels and tashi deleks.