Everest Bound

Trip Start Sep 25, 2003
Trip End Apr 23, 2005

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Where I stayed
Lhasa youth hostel

Flag of China  ,
Monday, October 25, 2004

Factoid: Waterproof Bumpf Box? - sign on a toilet roll holder, of course!

Abstract: Left Lhasa for our 14 day trip to the Nepalese border via Samye Monastery and our 365th day of travelling, Chongye's tombs of the kings, Yumbulangang Monastery perched on a rocky outcrop and Tandruk Monestry with its statue that resembled our driver and a beautiful 12C buddha embroidery with 29,000 pearls. Yamdrok Tso lake of turquoise water nestled in high peaks, past first glimpses of mountains > 7000m and mad mountainbikers, Gyantse Monastery with chanting monks wearing huge yellow hats, beautiful yak butter sculptures and wooden buddhas, Sakya village where all the houses were painted in grey, red and white stripes, had dinner in a Tibetan teahouse with monks watching TV and in the hotel we enjoyed our first bubble bath in a year! Villagers were threshing barley using a tractor to drive over the harvest, first views of the Himalaya range from Gyatsola Pass at 5220m and our first view of Mt Qomolangma (Everest), booked yaks for our 4 day trek to Everest Base Camp and watched sunset over Mt E from a lookout above Old Tingri village.

Nitty Gritty:
After finally dragging ourselves away from our comfortable abode at the Lhasa youth hostel we set off in completely the wrong direction for the Nepalese border by going to Samye Monetry (South east of Lhasa). The monestry is reached via an hour long ferry ride over the Yarlung (which later becomes the Bhramaputra River) via slalom sandbanks... this would be OK 'cept as usual one has to wait for the boat to fill up untill the timbers creak. In this case it was about 80 schoolkids. Despite the numerous english text books getting further than hello, whats your name and manchester united, proved impossible, a bit tedious after a couple of hours... Still they where cute, until the water fight started. The monestry was very pretty, we stayed in a nice guesthouse inside, it was square topped and gold plated. (very pretty in the morning light) Unfortunately, trying to write this a couple of weeks later it is difficult to remember its differences from all the others (same situation as Burma). It did have a long circular wall kora, and we went for a walk through the village, past herds of yaks and sheep at dusk. Having found a comfortable bar to eat in we realised we had forgotten a torch, it was now pitch plack, stumbling around outside wishing we had eaten more carrots, we came across a group of nepalese tourists whose carrot quota was higher than ours, and found our way to the locked gatehouse with them. I went forward a gave it a polite British style knock and nothing happened. Luckily the nepalese don't suffer with our reservations and where soon kicking, banging, screaming, whistling and shouting to be let in, after a few minutes of this racket the door creaked open and the elderly (sleepy eyed) monk let us in.

In the morning we visited Chongye's kings burial mounds, looked a bit like the ones in wiltshire (with tall mountains all round). Later we went to Yambalangang, supposedly the first building in tibet, very picturesque on top of a hill (see photo), Lucy had her first yak ride up, and Rach and graham, feeling energetic rushed up to the ridge, obviously accustomed to the altitude. The monks inside where chanting and beating drums, very atmospheric. That night we stayed in Tsang, a chinese block town exhibitting all the worst chinese influences, 'modern' expensive (obligatory) hotels, snotty Police and rude service. Heading out early the next morning (finally) eastwards, we had a long drive past the coiled holy lake of Yamdrok-tso. The blue-green waters were stunning against the Mountains in the background. Unfortunately the chinese have decided to build a hydro plant which is slowly (and irriplacably) draining the lake, the service town where we lunched was an eyesore, dusty and wild.. hmmm...

Leaving the lake continuing westward we traveled over the Karo La (5020m), a high pass surrounded by stupendous glaciers on Nazin Kang Sa >7000m. We were joined by a party of very fit and crazy Germans on mountain bikes, rather them than us the roads are OK but still corrigated and gravel/dirt not to mention the altitude. It had been 8 hours in the car by the time we arrived in Gyantse, we wandered up through the lovely old town, with each house having 'eyes' for tying animals outside and lots of supine cows and goats...

First thing in the morning we visited the famed Gyantse Kumbum. This magnificent tiered structure is the largest stupa in all of Tibet. With exquisite gold dome and a stupa packed with Tibetan sculptures and paintings (way too many to look at unless you run round like all the pilgrims) Inside the temple the monks were busy chanting and putting on and off the mohecan style yellow hats, wonderful!.

Shigatse is a laid back city that provides excellent opportunity for both relaxation and exploration. We explored the Tahilhumpo Monastery home of the panshun lhama, unfortunetly he is under house arrest in Beijing. Tahilhumpo Monastery is one of the largest functioning monasteries in Tibet and was able to last through the Cultural Revolution nearly unscathed. It has a massive budda standing 26m with 4000kg of gold on it... (shame the people who paid for it are so poor). It was great exploring the busy cobbled lanes twisting around the ancient buildings.

From Shigatse we got of the main highway and visited Sakya. The views of the desert plateau where amazing barren hills and ridges as far as the eye could see, exactly as we imagined Tibet. This stretch had some of the most spectacular landscape we had seen in Tibet. Sakya was built around a massive monestry that dominated the town. Inside we were increadably lucky as they where celebrating the founding abbott's festival. The monks had built a 7m in diameter increadably detailed mandala from brightly coloured sand. it is swept away the next day symbolising the transitory nature of life. In the monestry the air was thick with smoke from inscense and yak butter lamps. We listened to the chanting of 60 monks for hours, it is very mesmerising. Every now and again the chanting would stop and massive trumpets where blown with rythmic drums and cymbals.. it was all extreemly 'holy' and moving.... a note of comedy was thrown in as the younger monks (maybe 6 years old) where clearly getting board towards the end and would put on there mohican hats at the wrong moment, and one young tearaway snatched the symbols and started crashing them at random moments until an old monk grabbed them back and refused to let him play with them again. Another highlight of Sakya was the chinese hotel we complained at being forced by the PSB (police) to stay in, it turned out to have boiling water, a bath and bubble bath, much to our delight!

The following morning we drove to Old tingri and started psyching ourselves up for the trek to base camp and arranging permits and yaks......and then watched the sunset over Cho-oyu and Everest in the far distance (60km to base camp from here).
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