NanXing seemed to have been quite the favorite with this caravans. Some of whom would avouch for him when Tibetans they encountered grew curious. But sometimes the Pundit had to travel alone. Once when his companions had the chance to travel by river, he had to make his excuses to continue on foot. Without his measured pace, his survey would have gone awry. With numb feet, he strolled his perfect 31.5 in stride with numb fingers, he counted those strides on his rosary. He kept a surveying note where no one would think to look in a cleverly modified prayer wheel. Usually, the wheel contains a scroll with the holy incantation on it. Each turn sends the Buddhist's prayer whirling heavenward. While his companions slept, the Pundit would slip a thermometer into the camp pot. The boiling point of water would tell its altitude, a vital part of his survey.
5 months into the journey, the Pundit was beginning to worry. The caravan was approaching the town of Shigatze, where they planned to stay several months. The forbidden city was still a long way off and NanXing's funds were almost exhausted. Once in Shigatze, the resourceful Pundit managed to support himself by teaching accounting to merchants. But he also received a most unwelcome invitation to the great T monastery, home to some 3000 Buddhist priests. To refuse would lead to arouse suspicion.
But could a Hindu pretender remain undetected among so many true Buddhists?
Even worse, he would have an audience with the monastery's leader--the Panchen Lama. Second only to the Dalai Lama in power, the Panchen Lama was reputed to be able to see into the hearts of all man. NanXing would have to offer the Lama a gift of silk and respond to any 3 questions the Lama asked.
Is your king well? Does your country prosper? Are you in good health?
With amazed relief, the Pundit realized that the Panchen Lama was an 11-year-old boy who seemed to have no interest in peering into the heart of a spy, but it was a close call.
How long could a pretender in a land of monks escape detection?
In December, the caravan moved on with their Buddhist holy man in tow. The mind numbing rhythm of the Pundit's walking survey resumed, tedium, punctuated by fear.
Anyone who has walked in Tibet treked, hiked, and tried to get around Tibet on foot knows it's exhausting, I mean the altitudes are extremely high. You go up paths 16 sometimes 17 thousand feet where you are just barely able to put one foot in front of the other. The oxygen is thin. There'll be terrible splitting headache. I mean there was no roads, there was no wheels, there was no nothing. Above all was...er... risky because you might be discovered.
Several times, the nightmare of all caravans in these bad lands occured-- A violent attack by bandits. Once the Pundit was forced to escape by horseback, a desperate maneuver that would foil his plans to walk off every yard to Lhasa. He vowed to make it up by pacing the journey on his return trip.
avouch for vt.
Away from the correct course; amiss.
go awry vt.出错, 失败
Ritual recitation of verbal charms or spells to produce a magic effect.
camp pot n. also billy
A metal pot or kettle used in camp cooking.
Panchen Lama n.
One of Tibet's two grand lamas, the other being the Dalai Lama.
in tow adv.拖着, 在一起
The quality or condition of being tedious; tediousness or boredom.
splitting headache n.