Days Like These - Part II

Trip Start Sep 08, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Tibet,
Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Base Camp is what it is and no words will describe the feeling of being in the presence of the highest mountain in the world even if its extraordinary mass is concealed behind thick cloud. We make our offerings and earn the slightest hint of a smile from Dolma as we finally see sense and get back into the van to head on.
Approximately six hours later, after another 100Km of dirt road, a second puncture - for which our seating position is blamed and not the driving -  a 5200m pass, lunch in old Tingri and hours of bliss on the smooth tarmac watching the most spectacular landscape and wildlife (including the magnificent black-necked crane) slide by and clear views of a shy Everest we are standing at the last high pass in Tibet. The last landmark of our tour. And remarkably my stomach seems to have settled itself.
There is nothing of interest after this, Dolma informs us and so we take our photographs of the Himalayan range spread out before us, we get our final blast of cold, oxygen-sparse air and clamber back into the shelter of the van.
Dolma was not being coy when she told us that was it. After all there were no more cultural 'moments' to experience. No more sacred land features. No more monasteries or temples. No more high mountain passes or revered lakes. What else could we possibly find of interest?
What there was amazed us all. What there was began as a slight dip, a shallow slope that fell away from us down to a little, gentle stream. The stream grew, picked up speed, cut a little deeper into the solid rock, became a river and began to carve itself through the heart of the Himalayas. The road began to twist, hairpin down as the river scoured a deep gorge beside us, dropping so deep we could no longer see the running water, only hear it resounding through the shadow-filled bottom. And where before the landscape had been abrasive hues of browns and stone greys suddenly our eyes were treated to the growing spectacle of greens as vegetation clung to the walls of this sheltered gorge.
And this was not a short gorge, not a quick twenty-minute sensation as you may get at most in the Lake District, not an hours delight as you may find in the Swiss Alps. We began the descent at about three thirty in the afternoon and by nightfall we were still clinging to its sides as we approached what must surely be one of the worlds most outstanding border towns, Dangmu.
- What is this gorge? we kept asking Dolma. What is it's name? as we swung around another hairpin and yet another phenomenal view was revealed. This is one of the most amazing roads in the world, we said. What is it called? What is the name of this river? This gorge?
- It has no name, she continued to reply slightly alarmed at our unreasonable interest. It is nothing, she muttered and started to complain that the low altitude was giving her a headache.
But the gorge was something. It was something that none of us had experienced before in our lives, not on this scale of beauty. Not in my cycling tours. Not in Louise's road-trips through New Zealand. Not in all Florien's Alpine adventuring. And this was so unlike the rest of Tibet, so foreign to all the landscapes we had seen from the train window, all that we had travelled through in the van and as the sun sank into the depths of the valley's V before us lay the lush hills of Nepal.

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