14 years in Asia

August 1911, Alexandra left the married life which suffocated her and rejoined India, a country which she’d already visited twice, 20 years previously. She promised her husband that she would come back in 18 months time but her journey lasted nearly 14 years, she didn’t return until 1925.

Alexandra sur un Rickshaw en IndeShe traveled subsidized by the French government.

Alexandra sur un cheval, IndeIndia was a country which she held very close to her heart but a lot of things had changed since her last visit. At the end of 1912 she made a small detour in order to visit Nepaul.

Népal, escorte d'éléphants d'AlexandraFor this pilgrimmage to the very roots of Buddhism, the maharaja of Népaul supported her and gave her some gifts.

Shandra Shum Sher, maharaja du NépalShe continued her journey passing through Sikkim, a little himalayan country in the south of Tibet where she had become a very good friend  of Sidkéong Tulku, the king of this land. He put at her disposal Aphur Yongden, a little monk who was 14 years old at the time. This boy was destined to become her adopted son.

Alexandra, Sidkeong Tulku et Yongden au SikkimOn the border north of Sikkim, near Tibet, for 2 and a half years, she trained herself in the extremely hard practice of the yogi, in a cave at 4000m above see level. She received the teachings of a « Gömpchen », a yogi, a very talented meditator who was very accomplished spiritualy.

Dechen Ashram, Alexandra devant son ermitageShe was expelled from Sikkim in september 1916 by the british ambassador, sir Charles Bell, because she went twice to the south of Tibet without authorisation. After, she travelled through Japan Which she found very nice, but very over populated.

Ekai Kawagishi, Alexandra et YongdenIn Japan, Alexandra immersed herself into her studies and it was there that she met Ekai Kawaguchi, a philosophic monk  who gave her a glimmer of hope : Some years before, disguised as a chinese monk, he succeded in residing for 18 month in Lhassa. Alexandra was fascinated by this history which gave her some good ideas.

Japon Arashiyama KyotoAccompanied by Yongden, they left Japan for Corea in the hope that the mountains would remind her of the Himalayas. She met some interesting people,  but this country didn’t fulfil her expectations, she had a longing to find a place that resembled the Sikkim mountains, so they took the train for Beijing.

Pékin. Chien-MenIt was in China, at the temple of lamas, where she found some very cultivated people : they were Tibetans and Alexandra spoke their language. Some month after, she and Yongden left  accompanied by an eccentric lama.  They crossed China with great difficulty, due to the plague and the civil war which raged at the time. Along the way, they visited the Gobi and Mongolia. Their journey ended at Kum bum, a huge monastery in the north-west of Tibet.

Monastère de Kum BumAt the beginning of 1921, after two and a half years of intense studying, still accompanied by Aphur Yongden, she repacked her luggage with the intention of crossing the tibetan border to join the mythical capital: Lhassa, the land of deities, a territory which was forbidden to foreigners.

Déguisement de mendiante pour le voyage vers LhassaAfter being exposed and driven out of Tibet several times during 3 years,she decided to cross the border without her servants, waggons and mules. Disguised as a beggar, she left China with a pilgrim’s staff in hand. Still accompanied by the young Aphur Yongden, their pilgrimage covered thousands of km. They negociated wild  and unexplored lands in the snow and the  extreme cold.

Alexandra et YongdenIn february 1924, both adventurers arrived in Lhassa, exhausted. It was not as if she was 30 or 40 years old when she accomplished this feat, She was, in fact, 56… An incredible achievment for someone of her age!

Alexandra et Yonden à Lhassa

Alexandra and Yonden at Lhassa

Alexandra et Yongden au retour de Lhassa

Alexandra and Yongden back from Lhassa