Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dropping off the end of the world...

Dish washing with the cow.
Market place along the roadside
Real work men on their way to clear yet another slip
One of many faces from the bus window
Rice patties
A first glimpse of life in Nepal
The Friendship Bridge which divides Tibet from Nepal,
we crossed on foot as the bus was stuck in traffic.
Nepali trucks lined up in the 8 kms of no-mans land
on the Tibetan side of the border.
A look out the bus window is not for the faint hearted!
Guard rails have not yet been invented here!
The snow ends, and vegetation again begins!
Prayer flags on the 5200 m pass
before dropping into Nepal.
This will be me next time! Brian from Canada
on the last pass on the plateau

Tibet lies at an average altitude of 4300 m, in the shadow of the Himalayas, this makes it extremely dry, barren and cold. After crossing a pass at 5200 m, the road plummets to Kathmandu at an altitude of just 1340 m. The change in landscape is indescribable! Nepal is a tropical lowland covered in Banana palms, rice patties, monkeys and people everywhere. The pictures show the contrast!
So far the Chinese have not managed to tame this incredible valley! The ride from the
plateau to the lowlands, a trip of less than 200 km, takes more than 12 hours!

To Everest and Back on Foot

Sunrise, relief from the -15 degree night.
Mt. Everest, 8848 m
Everest ahead, Cho Oyu to the right, what more do you need?
Crossing the ridge for the first real view of the hill.
River crossing, very icy on our return as a storm moved in.
Mt. Cho Yyo at the head of the valley, 8156 m
Another chilly start to the day!
Nomads moving through the highlands
in preparation for the winter.
Three Yak herders enjoying a cup of teas and biscuits
in the wind at 4850 m and -5 degrees.
Looks easy from here! Just 3648 m above (and 40 degrees colder)!
Mt. Everest Base camp, 5200 m

Leaving Lhasa we caught public transport and hitch hiked to the Nepali border along the Northern Friendship Highway, stopping to hike with our lives on our backs to within17 km of the peak of Everest at a maximum altitude of 5360 m and temperatures down to -17 degrees. Walking a total distance of 140 km in 7 nights from Tingri which is about half way between Lhasa and Kathmandu.


Life on the street in Tingri
The first view of Everest! Just 73 km away.
View along the Friendship Highway
Attempting to avoid roadworks hold ups.They
were still there when we finally got through.

Monks boots, Tashilhunpo Monastery
Young monks, Tashilhunpo Monastery
Two old monks encircling the Tashilhunpo Monastery
Crossing the river from the Samye Monastery
Making cotton candle wicks, mine were never acceptable, Samye MonasteryOne of many monks trying my shades, Samye Monastery
My three new friends, Nam-Tso Lake camp
My home, Nam-Tso Lake
Dried Yak dung fuel for heating and cooking, Nam-Tso lake

Toys come in all sizes and shapes, Nam-Tso Lake
The worlds highest lake (apparently): 4718 m, Nam-Tso
A change in the weather, Nam-Tso lake
Yak meat pillow, Lhasa
Closing time! Lhasa
Stamp carver with hand stamp prayer book pages,
takes two days to carve each stamp for each page.
Raw, frozen yak meat; a rather tasteless treat, Ganden Monastery
"Try to hide from the westerner", Ganden Monastery
Prayer flags above Ganden Monastery
Pilgrims setting out prayer flags, 4650 m at 7.30 am
Ganden Monastery under reconstruction, 7am pilgrimage
The Potala palace, Tibetan home to the Dalai Lama
Old women looking for Dalai Lama pictures in the Lonely Planet
Food preparation, Drapong Monastery
Old man, Drapong Monastery
7000+ peaks near Tingri
Watching a game of cards, Rongphu Monastery

Tibet is difficult to describe, the Chinese are working hard to destroy the culture, of the more than 5000 monasteries that existed before the occupation in the 50's, only around 500 remain today. Many of these are still in a state of reconstruction. The political and spiritual leader of Tibet is the Dalai Lama, yet anyone caught with a picture of him will be arrested with an unknown outcome. Evidence of the Chinese "invasion" is everywhere! The friendship highway is being turned from a dirt track into a sealed road to whisk Chinese tourists rapidly to all the sights and then on to the Nepali border, in the hope that they will be attracted to move there. The train to Lhasa, a "gift to Tibet" according to the Chinese is on track to move as many Chinese immigrants onto the plateau as possible and to eventually move out the natural resources of this fragile landscape. The Tibetans do live an extremely hard life! The harsh climate and high altitude make the land void of green for all but the monsoon months of the year, almost nobody has access to clean, running water; rather water is normally collected from amongst the trash in small streams and rivers and boiled before consumption. Trash is a huge problem! There is no education regarding the impact of rubbish, it is everywhere! Even the most pristine mountain streams are often tainted by wrappers, batteries, etc. A sad scene! The children are being taught from infancy to put their hand out to all westerners, this is followed at an older age my "Hello, money?". I paint a picture amongst the opposite extremes; beauty is everywhere, in the people, the land and in their way and ability to survive!