Higher and Higher we go

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Flag of China  , Tibet,
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 1 - Yamdrok Tso (lake) from Kambala Pass, Korola Glacier, Pelkhor Chode Monastery &
            Gyantse Kumbum (Gyantse), Shigatse Dzong and nearby pilgrim trail

Was originally going to be a 8:30am start from Lhasa but in the end had a 7:30am start in order to give us more time to reach Shigatse in time to get the permit for entering the everest region. Was lucky enough to find a shop that was open at 7am and was able to get some steam buns for breakfast.

Seems like I wasnt the only one with receipt problems. Fernando had misplaced his key deposit receipt and receiption didnt want to give his deposit back. In the end they said that he would get his deposit back when he returned after they had found and checked their copy of it (not on site).

Got to say the chinese are anal about receipts no matter where I go. Normally I dont pay them to much attention but in China I have had to. Here's my bitch. Why do you need to show a receipt for a key deposit. The deposit is a standed Y100. You have the key to the room you have been staying in and wish to return it. You return the key, you get the deposit. How hard can that be. Why do you need to show a reciept?

Headed out of Lhasa and within 30 minutes came across a large convoy of army trucks. I recon I counted about 54 trucks each of which looked like they were carrying soldiers in the back of them. Appears they were coming out of the army compund just up the road and at a guess I would say that they were carrying soldiers into town to replace the ones that had been on duty during the night and to man any posts that were left empty over night.

First stop along the drive was by a river ( I think it was Lhasa river but not sure). Had some nice views here and were here about 15mins.

From here kept driving along the highway until we reached the Kambala Pass from which you could see Yamdrok Tso Lake. Had some nice views of the lake and its surrounding mountains. Had asked to wander up a nearby hill and was told I had 10minutes. Decided to run for about 2 minutes then kept walking for a few more. When I saw I had reached a false to and the actual top was still a bit away I decided to walk and jog back down.

Not a good idea. While I don't feel to bad with the altitude at the moment ( ie head feels stuffed with wool and bit short of breath heading up hill) running after having gone from 3700m to 4700m not a good idea. Took a while to get my breath back but worst of all I now made a weasing sound when I tried pushing all the air out of my lung and some when I was just breathing in and out from my mouth. Was just hoping hadnt done anything to serious. Given the short duration of the activity and the fact I went down to a lower altitude probably a safe bet. Still not the brightest idea I've had but I guess I wante dto see how I would cope.

From here drove down to the lake where we stopped to take some pictures and had a fair few locals trying to sell people photos of themselves or souviners. Once again nice views of the lake and mountains. Also found out the the lake is suppose to look like a scorpian from space.

More driving through some nice mountain scenary and a few small tibetian towns. Seems that your standard house is a box with some pray flags attached to the corners of the roof. In addition as we got more and more out into the country found that the houses also had a walled in compound in front/back of them.

Came across our second convoy of army trucks as well as a few yaks left out to pasture.

Next stop was Karolo Glacier. It appears that this glacier has shrunk quite a lot in the last 20 years. It seems that 20 years ago the glacier actually reached down to the stupa (refer photos) that is located near the road. Now, It has pretty much retreated half way up the mountain.

Found a few homesteads in the area which I guess belong to local farmers who also double as the people selling souviners and photos to people.

Continued along the road past more interesting mountain scenary until we reached Gyantse. This town seems to have a more traditional tibetian town feel to it. With most of the building we drove past being made in the tibetian style. Along the way to Pelkhor Chode Monastery we drove past Gyantse Dzong (fort) but didn't even stop for photos.

Lots of locals once again doing the circuit of the monastery and just hanging out near it. Found out that its only April in the Tibetian calander (June in World one) and that this is a holy month for buddhists. As a result the monasteries we have been visiting have had a lot more pilgrims and been a lot more active then they normally are.

Wandered into the monastery to the sound of monks chanting, ringing bells, clanging cymbols and banging drums. While initially I snuck in a few photos I decided in the end to pay the photo fee for the main chapel so I could get at least a few decent photos in. Lots of statues in the place as well as a mandala for the past, present and future buddhas. These were quite colourful and intricate.

Another thing I can across was a monk creating some butter candles. These are place on alters to burn. In addition to these shaped candles there are also large cups that contain wicks within them. As pilgrims wander past these they add some butter to them. Unfortunately, given the number of pilgrims, the monks need to scrap out some of the butter from time to time in order to stop the candles overflowing.

Also found that once again there were selves and selves stacked with scriptures and in one small chapel found a monk scribing out copies of some of these scriptures.

From the monastery headed out to the stupa which had 72 chapels. Ended up finding that these were all pretty smalland basically had a few statues in it and buddhist paintings on the walls. Each chapel was dedicated to some specific buddhist diety or lama and that they ended up being a bit repetitive. In the end only covered the chapels on the 1st, 4th and 5th level of the stupa which is very Nepelese in design. Had some nice views of the town, monastery and Dzong from the top of the stupa.

From here had a quick wander around time but didnt really have time to explore. Am sure that I could have easily passed a whole day wandering round the monastery, old city wall, Dzong and town whereas I only ended up having a couple of hours. On the way out of town we once again didnt stop for pictures at the dzong which was a bit disappointing even if we were short on time. In the end though mnaged to get a shot of the fort from the road

You guessed it. More driving passed more tibetian towns and mountain scenary to reach Shigatse at around 5:20pm which gave about an hour to sort out the paper work for everest. In the end the formalities were not finished until about 6:20pm so it ended up having been a good idea to of had the early start.

Made our way to a hotel which had a musty dorm and showers I wouldn't want to use but at least it was a warm bed for the night.

From the hotel decided to go for a wander to Gyantse Dzong but wasnt sure how to get there so started out by wandering through the Tibetian quarter near the hotel. In the end decided to wander down a side street and found that it was taking me up hill. Could see people walking a trail above me and a whole bunch of prayer wheels lining the path.

Finally made my way up to the path and rather than head to the fort decided to head towards the monastary. Unfortunatley this had me going against the flow (anti- clockwise) of pilgrims. Managed at one point to make my way above the path so managed to avoid the rush.

Had some nice views of pilgrims from different parts of Tibet walking along the trail in their traditional dress. Also had some nice views of the fort, monastary and town beneath me. Also found that lots of people were taking a rest on the mountain to have a snack and take in the views. Given some of these people have made the pilgrimage circuit a number of time sthat day they deserve it. Like all Tibetian monasteries the one here has a number of circuits around it with the one I was on being the biggest.

In the end walked up to the tall thin white building (found later that this displayed speciall thangka at a certain time of year) and then headed towards the Dzong. Along the way had lots of friendly locals say hello to me as I walked past them.

At the dzong took a couple of pictures and had a nice views of the part of town hidden by the hill the fort was on. Would have liked to hang around longer but was getting late and had to meet the couple I was doing the tour with for dinner. Ended the day with a nice curry at a nice Tibetian, Nepelese, Indian resturant.

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