Derjoma is one of the many small nomadic villages, somewhere around Litang, Sichuan province in central China. These parts are also called outer Tibet. It was Litang I was traveling to, and where I met with Rinchen.

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Tibetan autonomous region, one of many provinces in China is not the only Tibet there is. Tibetan areas are actually much wider. Tibet used to be one of the biggest Asian empires in the 7th and 8th century, and it took up a major part of the Asian continent. Even an early Chinese dynasty Tang used to have many wars with Tibet, Tibetan armies marched all the way to the capital of Tang dynasty. Chinese emperor just couldn’t find a way to defeat them. In the end, marriage between Chinese princess and Tibetan king solved their wars. China and Tibet signed a peace offering and their cultures started to blend in. At one point Tibet stole influence over the Silk Road from China and so other cultures started penetrating to Tibet as well. We can not forget India, which also had a big influence on Tibetan culture. A new culture, strongly influenced by cultures of other nations, but also by its own strong heritage started to emerge. Tibetan culture.

But the glory and influence of Tibet began to decline rapidly when intrigues and power struggles at the end of the 8th century started to take place in the kingdom. Never again has Tibet returned to the main power position. However, the Tibetan people are still inhabiting many territories once belonged to the great empire. In addition to the Tibetan Autonomous Province, you can find Tibetans in other provinces, namely Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai; outside of China still in Nepal.
This time I went to visit Sichuan province, specifically Litang. Litang is a very important Tibetan city, but has, like many other Tibetan cities, a bloody history. It was once one of the largest centers of Tibetan resistance and a partisan center during the war in the 1950s.
The local population was treated harder than the Tibetans in the autonomous province of Tibet. That was sharply watched by the world. Mao Zedong was keen to make everything as quiet and concise as possible. However, he did not succeed, but in the rest of Tibetan areas, outside the autonomous province of Tibet, where it did not matter that much, the world was not watching, it was much worse. Even in Litang. Tibetans remain people with wild and strong hearts. You can spot it in their faces and the way they fight with life and tuff nature around. But where it turns out to be the best are horse races.

Tibetans are excellent horse riders. Individual villages and families of nomadic people meet in the summer to organize horse riding competitions. There are no referees, the riders alone choose the best of themselves. A number of acrobatic pieces are evaluated. In full speed, Tibetans hang down from the horse and they must pull themselves back. Many riders can not make it back. Injuries are common in the race.

The horse race in Litang was held again after 10 years. 10 years they have been banned. Finally, it was happening again, and so many Tibetans and outsiders as well came to compete or watch. In the end, the best of all riders were Tibetans from the village Derjoma, where Rinchen is from. And so we went with them to the place where they came from and live. We wanted to find out what a normal life of Tibetan nomads looks like.

In the end, Rinchen took us to his nomadic family. He is already living in the city with his wife and offering homestays for travelers, but he often visits his relatives. They were incredibly hospitable and of course, at first, we were invited to try yak butter tea. Honestly, I could live without that. Tibetan people are very interesting, fascinating, but I haven’t enjoyed their cuisine that much. Even so, the preparation of yak’s milk, butter and cheese were interesting. Father is preparing it, women have to be outside milking yaks. It takes them half a day, starting very early and finishing in the late afternoon. They have to milk every single cow, sometimes its hundreds. Bulls are taken away by young nomads on motorcycles or horses, so they do not disturb cows while being milked. Only when it is finished, nomads bring them back to the herd.

Young nomads took us chasing yaks. And indeed, it was a lot of fun. It was such great fun that we decided to do more. And so we were looking for nomads who, together with us, would make a motorcycle trip to the holy Tibetan lake. It was not easy to find them, paths to this lake are very strenuous and not everyone is able to pass. Altitude is above 4200 meters above sea level and nature here is absolutely breathtaking.

Fortunately for us, Tibetan nomads are excellent riders. Not only on horses but also on motorcycles. And so they managed this difficult journey through the cliffs and across the rivers brilliantly and finally, they got us to the holy lake.

Tibetans people have one of the strongest religious beliefs there is. And certainly, nature is a big part of that. They consider it sacred. They have many sacred hills, lakes, and rivers. This makes these places almost untouched by human hands. Visiting the top of the world, among these interesting people with wild history is not just like traveling in time, traveling to cultures that have not changed for centuries, but it is as if traveling in the midst of heavenly nature. The heavens are really almost at your fingertips. Well, we and our nomads camped in this beautiful place, enjoyed a nice lunch, this unforgettable scenery and especially the new friendship we found together.