|sunda, photography, india, thumbnails|
| lunch of fried bread and jam, off again, more plains and yellow hills, ruins and dust storms, Everest (Quomolongma) and others in more mountains approaching, hot springs bubbling out of red rocks (mineral deposits?) in a Tibetan compound, and Tingri, Potala Palace architecture, women spinning wool, ponys fucking,and trucks and Tibetans, and green uniformed Chinese. Two Hungarian climbers on their way back to the rest of their party, the group of 10 (who set out from Kathmandu on the same bus as us), still bickering about fifty cents here and there, for Gods sake feel something other than money and organisation. A pink lined dorm and a room with couches, tables, wood stove and Tibetans! Breathtaking country, a bit too quick, cycling would have been nice. Tibet, the photos in the books come to life.
5 May 1996 Not a good sleep last night,
tossing and turning with the cold and the altitude (real or imagined I'm not sure), the dry air doesn't help either. Anyway got up early and went for a walk which was really nice. Yellows and blues and shadows, trucks and telegraph poles, an old fort on top of the hill in red stone, a moon and a sun both low in the sky, cold hands and a bit of time to myself :).
The toilet at the hotel we are staying at
|4 May 1996 Tingri (4,342m)
Tibet proper, stark, barren landscape, brown and yellow and ochre hills, shale slopes and blue blue skies, snowy peaks behind, dry cold dusty, a visit to Milarepa,s cave, child monks -money -pens -no!, Dutch ladies we are travelling with giving balloons, temples, thankas and the Dalai Lama, oil lamps and the cave, light through a bright window with flapping veil, photos of Patagonia (one of the child monks so called after his jacket), on the road, no money, follow the river, dry villages, up the hills, patches of pointy snow, more dry yellows with traversed roads, and the blue! Lalung pass (5,200m, 5,050m?) lots of prayer flags, lots of colours, dry colours in the wind, lots of snall stone piles, lots of snowy mountains in a long thin vista, definitely the most spectacular scenery yet, maybe, high barren plains, a landrover in space with a trail of dust, everything in wide angle, the Nien Chu now flowing with us, light blue trucks with trays and tibetans, road grading with a branch and a stone, more villages, white wash houses with red and black stripes. A stop at a village with a ruined monastery (Gompa), up on a feathered hill, villagers down below yakking the feilds, villagers up above looking through the camera, photos here, photos there, not really happy,
| dies, their flesh and bones decaying to dust while their horns live to endure the ages.
7 May 1996 The drive to Rongbuk was
fantastic. Bit of to-ing and fro-ing with the checkpost guards at Chay about fees on the way into the park, ended up paying 520 Yuan which is less than the 600 Yuan CITS wanted to charge anyway. Probably the best view I have ever seen in my life (he says!) from the the top of the Pong La pass. The north face of Everest, Makalu, Lhatse and Cho Oyu and the whole rest of the range sitting up there in icy black and white and blue above the red brown mountains stretching up to them. Clear as, and so dry and earthy. Prayer flags, a small pedestal showing the mountains, a dead eagle, the road, us, and the sky stretched out in all directions a clean thin blue and a shortness of breath and sense of the altitude (5,200m again)
8 May 1996 Not having much luck in making
time for the diary, travelling quite quickly so theres not much quiet time at the moment. We've called a rest day today (Shigatse) so I'll try and catch up. Want to do some reading also (all go!).
So the drive to Rongbuk was beautiful, if not a little rough and a little longer than we had expected, four hours or so from the main
| is set right up above the receptable rooms for want of a better description. You can climb the stairs to a waist height wall and a fine view of the town and the plains (have you ever noticed how often it seems the toilet ends up with some of the best views in the place - the palace at Orchha and Collins place for instance). Perched up there in the light of the full moon dropping four days worth of constipation into the dark hole below was... sniff... beautiful... sniff, I even had a guy come up and ask me if I minded if he took a photo, set up his tripod on the wall and everything, forgive me if I don't share this moment with you.
So I'm back after my walk, everyone is still in bed (in our little party anyway!) and so I'm sitting here in the kitchen come lounge, come dining room, writing (I wish everyone would get up and give me some company).
6 May 1996 pm. Rongbuk Monastery (5,020m)
Tibet - land of yaks horns, and of goats horns and cow horns, horns everywhere, sitting on walls like the one above,or lying amongst the rocks waiting to be ground into dust, even ornately carved on piles of the carved stones (prayer horns?). They seem to be like an indestructable component, the number of which just steadily grows as generation after generation of animal
|road. The older of the two Dutch ladies was not impressed however seemed in a better mood the next morning. She is one step off being a bitter old lady that one! "India was just horrible, filthy, etc, etc..." Anyway I'm not in the mood for a talk on group dynamics! Once we were over the pass it was along the valley floor for most of the way which must have been just under 5,000m. A few villages, the houses with little dabs of black and red again, and the prayer flags and flat roofs making them look a little like the villages of Luke Skywalkers home planet in Star Wars (from a distance)! Each village also has a little bunch of trees that is kept irrigated, for birds or aesthetics? I think it must be at the start of the crop seasonand everyone is out in the fields ploughing and scraping and digging, men, women, children and yaks, a real village community atmosphere, and early in the morning until late at night also, in the sun and the wind and the dust storms. Even with their dark skin a lot of them have bad sunburn problems. You pass a few people whose jobs must involve them being outside all year round driving tractors or donkey carts etc. who have ski goggles etc, looks quite funny. One guy had goggles that looked like they came (and probably did) from the first attempts on everest! After the panoramic views from the pass it was in and out of the villages and fields and odd ruins with the mountains only peeking|
|over the hills here and there, like snowy giants sitting quietly in their domain keeping an eye on us as we approached. Rongbuk Monastery itself is really nice, pretty basic little village on the side of a hill with a small monastery and stupa, gompa? and the shear north face of Everest up the valley a bit in all its splendour. An amazing view, the whole of the mountain from 5,000m up sitting there uniterrupted in front of you. This side of the mountains is a lot drier than the Nepal side and the weather has been clear for most of the day (brilliant, fantastic, great... Hmmm...!). The place was deserted when we arrived, a fact demonstrated further by the non-appearance of anyone even after the excessive horn blowing of our driver, Gesung, to atract some attention. We managed to stop him going to town on the horn (seemed to kill the sanctity of the place somehow!) and settled ourselves in a room that was open. Stone beds with cushions that turned out to be really comfy, a little stove on which we managed to boil some water and eat some two minute noodles later that night, and a Romanian climber with sciatica and bronchitis who hobbled up to base camp the next morning much to our amazement, he had a terrible night - really heavy breathing and continually up and down with his leg.
After a couple of hours of settling in and finding sunny spots and generally trying to come
|to grips with the atmosphere of the place, the monks (or were they just the villagers, or both) started arriveing en mass with bundles of wood and supplies etc. on their backs. We started talking to some of them the most memorable being a young boy with a flute who looked after the shop and the dorms, they were really nice people, uninhibited and warm and eager to talk (not quite the stone throwing monks the guide books mention!). They fetched an old lady (nun), who opened up the monastery for us to have a look at, she was quite quite quiet and obviously a bit sick of being at the beck and call of tourists who want to see the monastery! We gave her a pair of maroon mittens that Ange had knitted (spare since leaving them behind accidently before trekking), which cheered her up a bit, hopefully that will make up for all the calling tourists a bit! Quite nice thinking that little pair of mittens will live out their days up at 5,000m in a little monastery village near the base of Everest (what more could a pair of mittens wish for!). The monastery itself was small but nice, some fairly recent murals, the monks robes sitting looking like the monks within had recently vapourised, a pile of prayer books and even a lamas hat (I call them that because I don't know what they are called), or two. It was a suprisingly warm nights sleep but I was plagued a bit by heavy breathing and headaches which I|
| hadn't felt up until then. Sleep at 5,020m, a bit on and off, I did finally manage a deep sleep about five or six in the morning only to be dragged (kicking and screaming - well sleepy eyed and in slow motion) out of it for the walk up to base camp. 7:00 in the morning, keen!
The walk up to base camp was nice, a couple of small temples/shrines/gompas/stupas-chortens along the way, one full of inch high carvings of deities, must have been hundreds of them, saw a rabbit (doesn't sound like much but in this barren country!) and even a pack of deer, but above all else, above the deer and the chortens and the temple it was cold - fucking cold! The whole of the valley was still in shadow only the tops of the peaks lit up in orange and white on the west side. The river was half frozen over and covered in snow in parts(not much other snow apart from that), bits of ice trundling down in the water - must have been cold!
Anyway after thoughts of the Alis (The Dutch women were both called Ali with different intonations!), back at Rongbuck wanting to get underway and of our heavy breathing and tired eyes and of potential headaches (I took a diamox
|which actually helped clear the headaches from the night before), we resisted the urge to turn back and rounded a corner into the sunshine to a view of multicoloured tents and a central building and satellaite dish amongst the scree|
|a couple of balloons. Pulled out the red wine (50 Yuan a bottle!) we'd been saving especially for this moment and trundled down to the local restaurant to celebrate Skadis 21st birthday. Was a good time, nice and relaxed. Ali complained about her tomato soup when the bill came even though it was red and wet which is all you can hope for a lot of the time "yes that is what I ordered but that is not what I got!" head back eyes staring upwads demanding I know not what - retribution, attention? Slept like the preverbial and needed it...|
| landscape, Everest brilliant in the background to it all. Fourteen teams from every nation you could think of (almost!) apparantly. Stayed for half an hour or so soaking up the sun and sitting amongst it all Made it, felt really good, and in fact really different to trekking in Nepal, different country, different scenery, no lodges, which I hadn't expected. Maybe we will have to trek to the base camp on the Nepal side just to see what it is like one day - maybe!
It was then a slightly easier walk back in the sunshine and a long drive - left around 1:00 arrived at 9:30pm - to Sakya, too long actually with only one stop for lunch at a restaurant at cross roads in the middle of nowhere, I'm not sure if it had a name but I would be willing to bet that it mean't place of dust and expensive food in tibetan if it did! We probably should have split it up into two days but we were all keen to get where we were going.
Sakya (4,280m) Got into Sakya and it was late, it was dark, and we were tired. Feeling a little better after having our stuff in the room, a kind of tired, placated feeling, like we had blown up
|Old Tibetan currency
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