Today was a 30 foot walk to the Nepal boarder. We said goodbye to the guide, thank God! While our blog posts have been ‘tame’ about him, this guy ranks on my list of “worst people alive”. I know, harsh. From the lying about how far we walked, to shorting us water for his coffee, we exchanged ‘words’ many times along the trip. Well enough about him, the trip was awesome! Today we hung-out in Kathmandu and loved it. This place is a must to check out. The people are super friendly and the food is great.
Category Archives: Tibet
Woke up at EBC this morning with an inch of frost on the tent. The wind was much lighter today as we made the last 8km to the actual EBC for a close-up shot of Everest. We picked up a friend on the trail, self-named ‘Rover’. He followed us most of the way to keep guard from the birds.
Up close, Everest is in a class of it’s own. From the viewing area (a 30 meter hill around a parking lot, about 15,000 feet above sea level) Mount Everest is only 17,000 feet high. I guess maybe it’s the sheer iconic history or build-up that makes it look so much taller. The hike there was totally worth it.
After chilling at the mountain for 30 minutes, we packed in the van for the 3 hour drive out of the desert. While I loved the driver, this guy was treating an old cargo van like a hummer on the trail. It only took about 45 minutes before we blow up our first tire. Yup, you heard me right, first. Quick stop once we got on the highway to patch the tire and started the 180km drive to the Nepal boarder.
The drive from Everest to the Nepal is unreal. The geography changes from arid desert with no trees to a tropical rainforest in no time. We drove along a cliff / mountainside weaving in and out over what had to be a 2,000 foot drop to certain death (over dramatic Bobby). But, we made it, hence the blog post. Crazy.
Today we made it to Everest Base Camp. Killer day of hiking but well worth it. There are technically two base camps. One in the village of Rongbuk about 8km from the actual base camp. The actual base camp can only be accessed if you want to hike the mountain and costs a ton to visit. We opted for the village. The temperature changes from morning to night are unreal. You wake up with a thick coat of frost on the tent and by lunch time it’s 90 degrees in the sun. Even with SPF30 going on three times a day I somehow received 2 degree burns on my nose. On the plus side the scares make me look mean so no one in the villages come up to us and ask for money Going to sleep well tonight.
Today we hit the trail at 9:45 and didn’t stop hiking until 5:00pm. The trail had a ton more ups / downs than the first day. Not a ton to talk about this day, but some good photo’s. Today was the first day we caught a glance of Everest. Broke my sunglasses today, good thing for duct tape. We slept in a valley with wild yaks feet away from us. One tried to eat the tent at night but was unsuccessful. Had a bit of a fight with the guide today. As we asked for water given the 20km walk, his response of “we don’t have any more water because we want coffee later” didn’t fly with little ol’Bobby. Cheers.
Thursday (Sept 29) we started trekking. Rob and I were up ahead and our guide was behind us. The driver and cook took the van up to our first rest stop, which was about 5 km away. We made good time, even though Bobby was giving me a hard time about how slow I was going The altitude made it harder to breathe but nothing too terrible – just slowed our pace a bit.
At our first break our guide said since we were making such good time, we may just be able to do the trek in 3 days instead of 4. He asked if we wanted to go further planned today and we said we wanted to do the 15 km and reassess. Well, he completely ignored us. We were walking thru the desert that looks like Davey Jones’ locker with the sun beating on us — it was brutal! The guide blamed the driver and cook for us not making camp where we were supposed to (yeah right – if you met these guys, you would instantly know which one is the con man and it’s not the friendly driver or happy cook). But then we met a local on the road that laughed at Rob’s fish tattoo and told me he loved me a couple times (at least that is what I think he said), which was perfect to lighten the mood and forget about our guide!
We finally made it to the campsite, which was hidden from the road and we actually passed it and had to turn back to get there. The place is pretty nice — grassy area right by a stream. There were a few times today I didn’t think I could make it across the desert or up another hill. But I’m glad I did. So far, we’re still on target to trek all the way to EBC. But I do wonder how much further than 15 km we went today! I am guessing at least 20 km. Craziness to go that far in this altitude on Day 1!!!!
We busted out from our hotel at 9:15 today to make our way to Tingri. Today had the highest drive and longest of the trip. We topped out at 5,400 meters (on overland pass) and covered 240 kilometers. We stopped in a small village for lunch and had, what we were told is the most traditional Tibetean dish, Momo’s. They are like fried potstickers, but filled with yak meat. Very good! After lunch we hit the Overland Pass and got our first look at Mount Everest. With it being a good 100 km away, it looked kind of like the rest of the mountains.
Once we hit Tingri we were 60 km from the mountain and it started to really take shape. We stayed at the Snowland Guesthouse, but lets be honest I’ve slept in train stations that are nicer than this place. Debra and I both agreed within 5 minutes of being here that we would be sleeping in clothes above the covers. Nonetheless it is the last “hotel” before camping for 4 nights. Surprising, the food at the guesthouse was awesome. We had egg fried rice and the banana Momo’s, unreal!
This morning we hit up the Gyantse Fort. The palace is placed on top of a mountain in the center of town and is in the middle of a rebuild given the Cultural Revolution. We were able to walk almost to the top and the views of the city were great. After that we hit the road to about 90km. During the drive we stopped along the way and saw a traditional barley mill. Powered by water, stones spin and grind the barley into a fine powder. Good tasting but kind of different.
We made it to Shigatse around 2:00pm and decided to visit the monastery on our own. This monastery is the largest in Tibet covering 300,000 square meters. Inside is the largest budda within Tibet measuring 22.5 meters high. In addition we caught a rare sight of a monks dancing and a music festival in the park. The band played with traditional drums, bells and horns. I’ll be honest it sounded like the worst high school garage band, but had heart.
Had a couple little “hick-ups” with the guide, but hoping it works itself out. The guide is about 140 lbs and has the voice of a gospel singer when it comes to money.
On Monday (Sept 26) we tried out a Lhasa breakfast and it was pretty bad. But you had to try it to know! Afterwards we headed back to the hotel to pack-up before leaving Lhasa. Our guide, driver and now cook picked us up and we headed out of town. It was a long day of driving but the views were amazing. The Yamdrok Lake was an amazing sight. It is the most vibrant turquoise blue that I have every seen in nature. Behind it were snowcapped mountaintops. WOW! I was feeling the altitude until we got to the lake and then it was forgotten.
Once we got to Gyantse we checked out the largest stupa in Tibet with over 70 rooms. For 10 RMB you can take pictures, which we weren’t planning on paying but if you don’t pay, they make you leave your camera at the front. No way we were doing that so we paid the $1.50 and enjoyed taking pictures of all the Buddhas and protectors. One man that was there praying gave me a nudge and indicating that I should be praying to the statutes. There were not very many tourists around so we were alone in many of the rooms and able to pray without being self-conscious. I prayed to the protectors to protect us on this journey and chanted a few rounds of Om Shanti. It was wonderful. I even started talking to the deities and explaining that I know I do not practice Tibetan Buddhism but that we are all praying to the same things and are all one. I hope they understood and were not too offended by the picture taking!
Tsien (our guide) taught us a few things today — he said we all have a choice on how we live (you can go east, west, north or south) and it is up to us how we spend our time here in this life. And we also learned a few Tibetan words — Tashi Delak is hello and Tu She is thank you. Hopefully there will be more to come!
Sunday (Sept 25) we went to the summer palace, which is where the Dalai Lamas lived before the Potala Palace and also where they spent their summers before leaving Tibet. The grounds were beautiful with flowers and lots of green open spaces. We walked around and also saw the quarters of various Dalai Lamas. My favorite was the 17th Dalai Lama’s rooms, which included a western bathroom complete with a bathtub and western toilet! After the summer palace it was back to our neighborhood for lunch and then out for the afternoon to the Jokhang Temple. The temple itself was full of tourists, which was a bit overwhelming. You can always tell the Chinese tourists because they push and shove, even in a temple to make an offering! The Jokhang Temple is the first temple in Lhasa and was built on a lake (after it was filled in). Crazy that they were doing that kind of construction back in the 700s! The view from the roof of the temple was awesome. You can see all the way to the Potala Palace and out over the Bangkor Market. It was breathtaking — and not just because it was up several flights of stairs in high altitude!
From there we headed down to the market and began making our clockwise loop around the temple. Our guide took us to a shop that was super overpriced and said we should just look around because they have cool stuff. I’m guessing he gets a kickback for bringing people there but since it was no pressure to buy and they did actually have some cool stuff, it was fine to take a quick look around. After that, we worked on our bargaining skills. Rob won with his sunglasses for 25 RMB when the original asking price was 65 RMB. I bought a bracelet and only got it reduced from 15 RMB to 10 RMB. Disappointing percentage wise but considering it is only $0.40, not too upsetting!
Yesterday we had a full day of walking and checking out Lhasa. We started the morning visiting Potala Palace. As you enter Lhasa this huge palace captures your eye and stands prominently over the city. The sheer size is hard to express. The palace is literally a mountain with walls. For a bit of history, the initial palace is the red section in the center. Later the white palace was built around it. The red area is the religious palace and the white is for government use. The palace is also known as the Winter Palace and is where the past Dalai Lama’s tombs are held. We spent about 2 hours walking through and around it.
Daily hundreds of Tibetans walk (clockwise) around the palace and spin the hundreds of prayer wheels around the palace. While very touristy, the locals still out number the foreigners.
After a break for lunch we headed out of town for the Drepung Monastery. This place was much less touristy and was really cool. The Monastery is still in use and we had the great privilege to see a monk debate on our visit. The debates are a chance for the training monks to ask questions about their teachings and test their fellow classmates. We were not allowed to take pictures, so to paint you an image, it reminded me of images of the Socrates debates. Think of 20 to 30 people paired in twos taking turns asking life / spiritual questions. One of the coolest cultural things I have seen on the trip so far.