This is the blog of Martin and Caroline as they go out and see some of the world

Wednesday 7 December 2011

To the roof of the world - Tibet

The train trip from Chengdu to Lhasa was 3 days and 2 nights long, the views from the window were amazing. 

We travelled up to 5000 metres at one point as we crossed over a high pass.  The train has the facility for you to pump oxygen into your compartment if you need it but we decided not to do that so we could try and adjust to the altitude.  We shared our cabin with a Chinese man who was heading to Lhasa for business and when he was met at the train station he was given some herbal medicine that is meant to help with adjusting to the altitude and he gave some to us to try.
We arrived in Lhasa and were collected by our guide in a minibus with 3 others who were on our tour.  We drove back to the hotel and us and 2 of the others from the minibus went out for dinner.  We had a Korean barbeque, we had yak meat and it is the most delicious meat that we have had in a really long time.
The next morning after a hearty breakfast we set off for our sightseeing day in Lhasa.  We visited Potala Palace that was built in 637 AD and was the former winter residence for the Dalai Lama. 

We then visited the Jokhang Temple which is the centre of Tibetan Buddhism.  It is the ultimate pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Pilgrims and the outside is surrounded by people walking clockwise spinning their prayer wheels or people prostrating themselves in front of the temple and we were told that nomads travel miles to the temple this way.

In the morning we had another good breakfast and headed out on the road in our bus.  We crossed over the summit of Kamba La at 4794m and saw a beautiful lake called Lake Yamdrok which is one of the holiest lakes in Tibet, it was a beautiful colour blue. 

We drove to the Tashilumpu monastery which is the home of the Panchen Lama although he spends most of his time in Beijing and only visits the monastery for a few months of the year.  The Panchen Lama is a very important person, he is chosen by the Dalai Lama and he is the person who discovers the next Dalai Lama when he dies and gets reincarnated into his next body but the current Panchen Lama is not the one chosen by the Dalai Lama, he mysteriously disappeared and has been replaced by a Panchen Lama chosen by the Chinese government.  It will be an interesting time when the Dalai Lama passes away to see who the Panchen Lama chooses.  We were told by our guide that we were not allowed to ask questions about this subject or talk about it in public at all. 

All through Tibet there were police on every corner.
We then drove on to Shigaste and checked in to our hotel.  We went for dinner in the hotel restaurant and chatted to an Australian couple which was nice.
Once we were in bed I heard a rustling in the curtains and when I turned on the light I saw a rodent on my back pack which ran away once the light was on.  I told Martin and he said that it would be OK and to go back to sleep.  After a while Martin heard rustling and turned the light on to see the rodent sitting on the dressing table, he then suddenly believed me and we went to reception to change rooms.  We were told that the hotel was full and could not move but after much discussion and telling them that we were not going to sleep in a room with a rat we were eventually told we could swap.  The man on reception then moved a couple of Tibetan men from their room and made them go into the rat room while we waited for them to change the bedding so we could sleep in their room.  The room stunk so we may have been better off with the rat!
We noticed that as we seemed to get higher in altitude the hotels and breakfasts got worse, we were not too impressed with the breakfast in the morning but we knew we had a long day ahead.  We were all ready to head off to go to the Rongbuk Guesthouse which is at 5000m which is where we were due to stay that night but 1 hour down the road the bus broke down.  The day before a warning buzzer had been going off but the driver just ignored it but it seems it was something to pay attention to as the fan belt broke and the alternator seized.  So we spent 6 hours at the side of the road.  A replacement bus arrived and we managed to get to Old Tingari to a guesthouse at 4300m.  There was no hot water in the room but we had a thermos of hot water and a jug but believe me it was way too cold to clean anything but your teeth.  The restaurant was really welcoming and warm and it was nice for us to all sit in the warm and eat some nice food.  The night time was not too great as it seems to keep themselves warm the Tibetan stray dogs just bark all night which is not good when the glass in your window does not fit the frame so it sounded like they were in the room with us howling.
The next morning breakfast was half a tablespoon of scrambled egg with 2 chapattis.  Not the best breakfast to start the day with but at least we had our bus back and so we headed off to Everest base camp.  We arrived there about 11.30am.  It was not quite what we expected and we would call it more of a viewing platform than being at base camp.  I am not sure if people climbing Everest even camp there.  We had the choice to walk back to the Rongbuk guesthouse for lunch or we could go in the bus but me and Martin and a girl called Megan decided to walk back.  We ended up walking about 5k and the sun was so strong that I think we all got a bit of altitude sickness as quite a few of us started to go down with bad headaches during lunch.

We started descending and made our way to Old Tingri to the Snow Leopard Hostel, to say we were all not happy with this place was an understatement,  there was no electricity, no running water, no food and the place was filthy.  If anyone ever gets offered to stay here as part of a tour, ask to go somewhere else! We went for breakfast in the morning by candle light and had 1 boiled egg with a pancake.  We were looking forward to finishing the tour and getting some decent food.
We drove to the Friendship Bridge and we passed through customs on the Tibet side and said goodbye to our guide and we walked across the Friendship Bridge to the Nepal border.  Myself and Martin and 5 of the others from the trip stopped for lunch at the border and we had a Dahl Bat for the equivalent of 70p all you can eat.  We managed to get a jeep for us all and we headed off to Kathmandu. We instantly took a liking to Nepal and the scenery around us was so green and nice compared to the baron sights in Tibet.

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