Sunday 1 Oct
Everest Base Camp, China
The Friendship Highway Adventure
A few interesting facts about Tibet. The yaks don't cope very well below 3000m, their internal organs start to shut down and my brand new 60gb shiny ipod doesn't work above3000m. Hard drive can't cope with the altitude. Don't you just love the balance of the universe?
So we left Lhasa with its delicious carrot cake, corpses of yaks being hacked apart on the street with axes and toilets so putrid they made your head spin - for the most fantastic adventure yet. We spent 5 days travelling by jeep (new this time i.e. old!) with our driver Tuesday (ironic since our last driver was Saturday) and a lovely English couple, Matt and Claire. Our adventure took us to Gyantse, Shigatse, Sakya, Rongbuk, Everest Base Camp, Lhatse and then to Zhangmu (the Nepali border). I could talk for hours about all that we experienced but since you are all working and I want to be outside experiencing things, I will try and keep it short and sweet.
We took in several monasteries and saw the famous 13 story Kumbum (citadel) in Gyantse with its 1000 rooms (after you have seen one, believe me, you have seen them all!), the Tashihulmpho in Shigatse where we did a kora (basically a walk around the holy site clockwise). We also checked out these bizarre stuffed wolves at they Sakya Monastery (you will know what I mean when you see the pics) and watched the equivalent of gum boot dancing being performed by some workers who were flattening a floor - making dull work rather enjoyable. In return I entertained them by having a shaved head which they all thought very amusing. Although Sakya used to house the largest monastery in Tibet in the 1400's it is now very remote and isolated and you're actually meant to get a special permit to go there. Whoops.
Luckily we aligned with our Kiwi friends again on this trip and so meals were raucious, Fawlty Tower like affairs where trying to explain the concept of cold beer to a mostly astounded and confounded staff almost always ended in hilarity and one of us heading off to the kitchen to do it all ourselves.
Everest. WOW. We were incredibly lucky and managed to see her without a single cloud - apparently this is extremely rare and we spoke to someone who had made 13 trips to Everest with only 3 good viewings, never as clear as on the day we were there. We took the scenic route up as John (Kiwi) has been there before and knew the short cut. As it turned out he didn't... and 3 1/2 hours later we finished a rather more strenuous version of the easy 1 1/2 hour walk to base camp. We arrived just before sunset and although we had a few casualties of the altitude it was nothing that a few tears didn't sort out and we spent a freezing night huddled under dozens of covers as the temperature reached -5 degrees centigrade outside. Did I mention we slept in tents? Peeing in the middle of the night was an adventure in itself. I can't say we made it all the way to the toilet...
The 4x4 driving was a crazy experience - I'm sure that one day the roads to Everest will be paved, but that day has luckily not yet come. None of us had ever driven over such extreme terrain and on one day we had to rescue 2 other vehicles in the space of 10 minutes. We were rewarded by awesome scenery but yet again we are having issues uploading pics so you may have to wait a bit for them.
If any of you are thinking of doing this trip - do it now before it all changes and becomes an easy tour bus ride direct to EBC. You will have the adventure of your life!
Dinner on the last night was another classic toilet moment. 'Sorry, where is your toilet?' 'Round the back' The thing is when you get there you realise 'round the back' is the actual toilet and the very fact that I surveyed the area (only 1 shephard in view) and still went ahead just shows you how flexible our standards have become.
Arrived at the border town, Zhangmu to a jostling crowd of money changers, the bureaurocratic Chinese immigration office and the bumpy ride across 8km of no man's land to Nepal.
To find the Nepal immigration office closed - ahhh how familiar... we must be getting close to India.