25 November 2010

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Sunday 14th November – Saturday 20th November 2010 Tibet Unplugged The next few days were effectively spent driving back to Kathmandu from Lhasa (around 1,200km the route we took) so to avoid lots of repetition of ‘we spent several hours on the bus..’ we’ll cover the big events in one hit. Please follow the link below! So. We left our decidedly chilly hotel in Lhasa (noting that none of the places we slept had anything close to heating) and spent the next hour at the bank, waiting for a couple of people to change money. There were ATMs there… we eventually rolled out of Lhasa towards Gyantse (alt 3,850m), our first ‘on the road’ stop. To reach the town, we had to go over 3 high passes at 4,995m, 5,560m and then 4,600m, the views and scenery were stunning, in particular the first pass overlooking Yamdok lake. Gyantse itself was something of a ghost town. Having once been the second largest town in Tibet, it now found itself – having been Chineseified – quite sad. Hundreds of dogs wandered the streets all night, barking at pretty much anything that moved, making for a rubbish night’s sleep (a recurring theme we found in Tibet). Local legend has it that the dogs are reincarnated monks who didn’t study hard enough. The town highlights were a Fort (closed) and a monastery. While waiting for N to return from her tour of the Monastery, K was approached by a vendor from the market, offering a bowl (‘yak bone’) for 5 Yaun (around 50p). Declining politely he later heard that some people from the trip had bargained hard for 4 and managed to secure them for £15. Impressive! Onwards to Shigatse (alt 3,800m), another monastery town, with a great kora around the outside, lined with prayer wheels. Our guides, Puskar and Tashi decided that they would introduce us to Tibetan nightlife by taking us to a ‘disco’ which was a very glorified Karaoke bar with local dancers doing turns from time to time. It was quite an eye opener. We left before the dance floor became too crowded. The next day saw some very tired people trundle towards Sakya (alt. 4,280m), a town notable for the fact that we were given electric blankets in the hotel – toasty. Oh, and it had a nunnery which you could just drop into. The nuns were very friendly and didn’t seem to mind at all when some very out of breath westerners came to visit. The following day was something of a surprise. We had expected to be doing more driving along and then stopping, but at the second pass of the day (alt 5,050m) when we got our first view of Mt Everest from the ground, it was announced that we were going to head to base camp that day. We had apparently made good progress along the unpaved road (at the expense of whiplash). So there we were, Rongphu Monastery, the highest in the world, around 5k from Everest Base Camp and sea level,...

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