Tibet - On Top the World
Our first morning in Tibet is a bright sunny brisk day. We are up on time and trudge through the muddy streets (it's like an old western movie) down to immigration. They can not stamp us in and give us our passports until out guide has shown up. He arrives 1 hour late get our passports stamped and tells us the porters are arranged, meet by out hotel in an hour. Again our guide shows up late with the jeep, but we load up and we are off!! We go about 2 miles and we have a flat. There are problems with the spare so they take the tire off and carry it back to town. In boredom, Stine, John, and I decide to walk up the road until they get the tire fixed and catch up with us. We proceed up the valley. The way ahead is climbing our way up the river valley until we reach the Tibetan plateau. So, follow the mist up the valley....
The jeep eventually is repaired and picks us up. Onward we go. We steadily climb out way up, passing into the snow line. Once again, this is the main road between Lhasa and Katmandu. We meet trucks coming the other way.
It has steadily gotten colder. Our backpacks are getting lighter now as we load on the layers to stay warm! Change of pace from tropical environment we started in so many days ago. We continue climbing and approaching the section of blocked road. A truck passing the other way contains the porters that was hired for us. They inform our guide the road is now open and we will not need to walk --- rejoicing! We continue on, reaching the cut in the snow. Essentially it is a section of road where the snow from the high peaks is sliding down the mountain. The government attempts to maintain a cut through this snow.
This is the first of the cuts, the small one. We waited here for 30 minutes whilst they freed a truck from the big cut - about 50 feet of vertical snow on each side of you as you pass, 1 lane wide. A truck had gotten wedged in the cut and had to be freed. We continue climbing, at times its 2000 vertical feet drop on the road to the river. "Do I have confidence in this driver and this jeep" you ask yourself. This drive is rated as one of the most scenic in the world. It is spectacular!! As we continue up we gradually get out of the snow, the high valleys.
We continue to climb to 3,800+ meters (12,400 ft) the snow continues to disappear and the landscape turns into a desert. We are approaching airplane cruising altitudes.
We reach the city of Nylam, our home for the evening. We book into a hotel and then go into it's restaurant where we join some Chinese people traveling through. We all huddle around a little electric heater to try to warm up. When the sun drops the temperature plummets. We go to bed. Already we are feeling the altitude. As you sleep your body drops off to it's natural breathing rhythm which causes you to wake up in the night with a massive headache and gasping for breadth. The next morning we change jeeps and drivers and continue on to Lalung Leh pass, our first real pass, 5300 meters (17,400 ft).
It's a spectacular view; prayer flags, piles of stones, skulls from animals - all offered to the god in the mountains. We also really feel the height. You can't do much before you are out of breadth. We continue on and I really begin to appreciate the Himalayan desert - more and more of it. We are now on top the plateau.
We also start to see the signs of life, our first house.
The houses are made of mud. They carry the 3 traditional colors for symbolic protection and also have prayer flags flying from the roof for further protection.
The local transport is a hearty little horse pulling a cart.
And when we stop at a village to observe some festivities we quickly become part of the entertainment. I was taking some pictures of some kids and on request I let one look through my camera. The gang quickly formed to take a look - their first time.
We stop for a barley noodle soup lunch. Not very tasty but filling. We continue on, our goals is to make the Everest Base Camp and sleep at a monastery there. One can quickly see we are in the impact zone - just look at the lines in the rock.
We now learn the road is blocked and we can not make the base camp. Very much to our disappointment. But we continue on up to the pass to get a good look of Mt. Everest - the highest mountain in the world!! We can see the plume billowing off for miles.
Everest --- it is spectacular.
We continue on to Lhaze we be stay for the night. We had been warned about dogs in Tibet from many sources. This town had a real problem - their were packs of them roaming the streets. At night while we tried to sleep, the packs had on going fights in the streets. The next morning there where a few dead dogs on the side of the streets. Another brutal night. But in the morning light we see the town.
Unfortunately we could not get into the fort on the hilltop. We go into Palkhor Monastery where we join up with some pilgrims.
We follow them up to the very top of Kumbum Stupa. At the top we see the holiest of places in the monastery. Even our guide has only been up here a couple of times.
At the entrance to each monastery are 4 watchful and protectful gods. Here are 2 of them. They are over 10 feet tall.
But as we look around what used to be a thriving monastery of several thousand monks is now only several hundred.
This area behind the remain monasteries used to be full of monasteries and housing, it is now only ruins. The signs of the cultural revolution.
We continue down the road toward Lhasa. For the most part the road only encompasses lots of desert, but there are a few great treats, like this glacier.
And the crystal blue waters of Lake Yamdrok.
We continue into Lhasa were we treat ourselves to a heated room and a hot shower!!