Thursday, December 6, 2012

7 Days In Tibet

The road from Lhasa to Gyantse.
Yamdrok Lake, Tibet. 
Typical Tibetan village dwelling, complete with drying Yak-pies.
Karola Glacier.
Detail of glacier. 
Another detail of glacier.

Tashilompo Monastery, featuring Tibet's largest Stupa.
One of the 4 guardian kings. Playing guitar.

Just posing in front of some big mountain... called Everest!

Our driver, Matt and our guide.
One of the highest road passes in the world, 17217.8 feet above sea level. 
Matt walks among prayer flags.
This guy just walked up and climbed up on Matt's shoulder and didn't want to get down.

River-powered mill. Grinding barley into Tsampa.

Sunset view from our hotel in Dram, Tibet.
After spending a couple days in Tibet's capital Lhasa, we woke up early and started driving out into the vast open dryness of the Tibetan Plateau. Our driver played Tibetan and Nepali techno and house music most of the way. I was into it. It made me want to hit the club with my boys.

We drove through plains past treeless, dusty mountains and a few pilgrims prostrating their way towards Lhasa. Our guide said that they mostly coming from Qinghai, on the eastern border of Tibet, a trip that takes 2 months. Luckily they do get to take the train back home.

After a couple hours, we headed into the mountains ourselves, climbing ever higher in elevation. Precarious switchbacks along the sheer cliffs lead us to one of the highest lakes in the world, Yamdrok. It was electric neon blue in color.

We drove around the massive lake and into a small town called Nagarsi, where we stopped for lunch. The food was good but the highlight was the ginger lemon honey tea.

Back on the road for about an hour and we came to a glacier situated between two mountain peaks. After takes some photos, we drove to a second glacier. Both of which have been reduced in size considerably in recent years.

The mountains gave way to a valley and we passed several sandstone foundations of long ago abandoned dwellings and forts. Some of which having been destroyed during the Sino-Nepalese War. We then passed another glacial lake, this one was more of a Miami Dolphins blue. Eventually we entered Gyantse, Tibet. I think the town's human population equals that of it's dog population. Big black dogs were everywhere, as well as a few brown and tan mutts.

We spent the night at a hotel in Gyantse and woke up early again to get on the road. It was a short few hours to Shigatse, where we ate lunch and went to the Tashilompo Monastery. We spent the night in Shigatse and got on the road early once again.

The drive to the border town of Dram (or Zhangmu) included passing three of the highest road passes in the world. The highest being 17217 feet above sea level. Approaching Dram was pretty incredible. The town is literally perched on a steep mountain side, each street being one level lower than the last. Our hotel there had a great view down the valley, one side being Tibet, the other side Nepal. In the morning we said goodbye to our driver, guide and Tibet. We went through the China border and walked across the 'Friendship Bridge' to Nepal.

We may write more on Tibet soon, as all it's beauty, complexity and struggles have left a big impression on us. The Tibetan people, including the tour operator, driver and guide were all wonderful.

- Matt