The Time I got Lost Looking for Shambhala

The Original cover of Pema and the Yak,

The Original cover of Pema and the Yak.

A revision of Pema and the Yak, published in 2007 by Pilgrims Books in Varanasi with a new title: The Time I got Lost Looking for Shambhala. Launched on the 21st May 2023. It is about a search, on the part of a people in exile, for their home and it is about my own search for a home. I wanted to find a way of disappearing into another culture, so I stayed there, year after year, for months and months, learning Tibetan so that when I landed up in far flung valleys on the Tibetan border, I could speak well enough to understand the border dialects, and was invited to many a hearth and home, where I collected many a story from many a sort of person… here is the blurb:

The Time I got Lost Looking for Shambhala is the fascinating story of a journey through the Himalaya along the Indo-Tibetan border into the heart of Tibet in Exile. Incredible encounters with oracles, lamas, ex-political prisoners, Tibetan doctors, DJs, nomads, guerilla fighters, painters, poets, spies, missionaries and Himalayan royalty bring the reader into a world of intrigue and, poignantly, to the lost world of Tibet and the hidden world of Shambhala, which lies hidden north of the Himalayas.

You can read about it in my substack blog here.




An extract,


There were classes in the Tibetan Library in Dharamsala, said Lama Ö. He could arrange rooms. I could become a translator. So that would be my path. No more teaching English in Polish universities. No sitting in an office on some dreary Dublin street, not like that was ever going to happen anyway. I was going to the Himalayas, to study Tibetan, to be at my lama’s side for eternity, translating for him (or so I thought). Thirty years in the west had done nothing to disentangle the syntax of Lama Ö’s English- what he said, he appeared to be saying backwards. Perhaps it is the mark of the best lamas that they do not perfect their English, that they don’t utter perfectly polished and sophisticated sentences. We’ve certainly seen how the smooth operating lamas have ended up.


But that it was me that Lama O had asked, I couldn’t believe. Didn’t he know some competent monks in India who could translate? I said yes to the task, even though I had no idea what I was doing, except that I would be living among his exiled people. There were 150,000 of them living in India, dribbling in over the Himalayas and into India from Nepal and Bhutan since Nehru opened the doors to Tibetan refugees in 1959. Some of them had not survived. The sheer heat of the Indian sun had melted them away, so used to the hard, cold mountain air of Tibet they had been.

I tried to picture Dharamsala, where I was to go and study. I could see steep, winding roads and leaning trees, herds of goats and the shrill white mountains. Dharamsala meant nothing to me, except that it had been the home of the Dalai Lama since 1959. I could see him sitting in a temple at the top of a hill, all alone, his attendants running up and down the hill with silver trays. Yes, my preconceptions were that foolish.


Himalaya by Nicholas Roerich, my favourite painter on planet earth

‘Himalaya’ by Nicholas Roerich, my favourite painter on planet earth