Trip Start May 12, 2005
79Trip End May 14, 2006
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This is where we started the blog from.....so stuff before here is going to be a little thin at first; lots of work getting three months of stuff up to date. Arrived here last wednesday; the 10th. Coped okay with the altitude (it's 3,700m) 'cause we flew in from chengdu which is only 800m. Lhasa has a really strange vibe, usually after a week in a place you get a definite "feel" for it, but the messages are so mixed here; remote but as convenient as any city in china/ tibetan but many of the businesses are chinese/ cold and hot in a matter of minutes (at this height, the sun is vicious, but when it goes away...)/ spiritual but commercial (the barkhor square area, a major pilgrim circuit has "hip-hop central" a shop selling baggy pants and basketball shirts and also a Dico's chicken; chinese chain of KFC'esque commercialism.....
anyways, enough crapping on...what have we been doing here?
The first few days we were tired on account of the altitude...we walked from the bus station with packs (as we normally do) and the 45mins it took ruined us for the rest of the day
Met a few people at the youth hostel we are staying in (crazy place; they come in at 1;30 in the morning into the big dorms, turn on the lights and hassle people who haven't paid for their room that day!!!) and went to a Korean BBQ resturant..great tucker and really cheap. One the third day went to the Potala in the afternoon; an amazing structure, very ornate inside, views over the whole of lhasa and the surrounding mountains. We heard chanting and stamping coming through the roof of one of the little chapels and went outside to investigate
Mark went for a bike ride around the city the other day; fairly hectic streets, stuff coming from everywhere and only pedestrians are lower than bikes on the street-rule pecking order. Saw a nasty accident fairly early on...so took it nice and easy. Rode to the river, the banks of which are concreted..then north to get a view of Sera monastery; passed a huge prison; wonder how many political prisoners are locked away in there indefinitely??
Snuck into the jokhang temple for free, with all the pilgrims and our swedish friend Rickard. Quite honestly, just this temple makes the visit to lhasa worthwile, it is saturated with sacredness. The pilgrims do a circuit inside the monastery; the prayer wheels are soaked in yak butter, everything is greasy and "humany" the light filters in from the gaps above...really great feel. Did the outer circuit twice and then queued up for almost an hour to get into the inner sanctum (other tourists just skipped the line, but as often happens, standing in line was an experience in its self).... Inside the major building pilgrims feed their own yak butter into massive lamps and candle beds
Nice big, fresh and interesting vegie market just north of the Potala. We wondered how much of the produce was shipped in from china as growing bananas at 3,700m might be a bit of a challenge. Non-the-less it was an interesting market and some of the breads on offer were delicious.
Made a day trip to Gamden monastery....had to get a pilgrim bus at 6am and took about 2hours to reach our destination...The climb up to 4,700m was fairly spectacular and a good bit of acclimatisation for our 4wd trip...The tibetans on our bus made straight for the nearbye pass and mde offerings of prayer flags and incense...we kept our distance, don't like intruding and then strung up a prayer flag ourselves (these purify the air and appease the gods). Then we started out on the kora circuit, a pilgrims path which wound all the way around the hill where the monastery was perched. Stacks of yaks and flowers, some friendly pilgrims and of course, great views. Got back to the monastery and had a poke around; actually more like a small village around some bigger buildings (as many of the places of worship are in tibet). Funnily enough clare and mark got a little hungry around 11 and popped into a great little tibetan tea house for yak noodle soup, potato curry, stir-fried yak and greens and sweet milk tea
On the trip home a bag loaded with a thermos and other heavy things fell off the luggage rack and tonked clare square on the noggin...poor clare...but a great day in the end.
On our final afternoon in Lhasa we visited sera monastery, to the north of the city. Famous for the "debating" session every afternoon where lamas get nice and physical/fired up. Another village like setting and heaps of lanes to poke through..nice end to our time in Lhasa....
we leave here (lhasa) tommorrow and travel to nepal by landcruiser with a couple of brits
Lhasa to Shigatse:
The first day of our Landcruiser journey started early; before 6am and Mark had more visits to the toilet in the night than he would have liked!!! But on the road we got, with our trusty driver Tenzing (no isn't surname wasn't Norgay and he hasn't climbed everest) and two travel companions; John a Scot and Brian an Englishman. First stop of interest was a pass above Yamdrock Lake (called Kamba-La, 4794m); locals pull out all stops dresing up sheep, dogs, yaks and children for fee-paying photographers; needless to say the Clare squeezed out a few free shots