If you could transport a Toyota Landcruiser back in time to the days of Old West, and then on the “road” conditions of that time drive it across the desert, prairies, and finally across the Rocky Mountains; then that is how I would describe my trip from Lhasa to the Nepalese border. The scenery on the five day trip was both mind numbingly boring and jaw dropping beautiful. The one constant was absolutely disgustingly poor excuses for hotels along the way. None of which included heating and few included toilets and/or showers. Although I did not use this particular company, the following link gives you an idea as to the route taken (http://www.tibet-tour.com/route/f004.html).
The highlights of day one are one heck of a beautiful lake view and a high plateau desert crossing. Check out the pictures of both. The lake view scenes include tons of yaks and the desert scenes include tons of sand (ha). I just never thought that I would see a desert at such a high altitude; way cool. The monastery in Gyantse, which was supposed to be our featured attraction, was just another monastery. Impressive enough, but if you’ve seen one monastery you’ve seen them all. Thank God Buddhists are non-violent or they would shoot me for saying that.
There is no way around it, day two and most of day three pretty well blew. A bad, overpriced lunch in the middle of no where and a bunch of brown landscape pretty well sums up day two. The first half of day three was pretty much the same save for the dozens up dozens of switchbacks, but man when we reached the top of those switchbacks was I blown away; Mt. Everest! We could not have timed it better. The sky was crystal clear and the view was perfect. I let out a “wow, wow, wow” when I saw Everest the first time. The rest of the folks we a tad shocked with my volume, but equally pleased with the view.
Days three and four were pretty much spent at or near Mt. Everest Base Camp. As you can tell by the hundreds of photos that I took of Everest, I was pretty impressed. To summarize my time there it was beautiful, I had lots of headaches and shortness of breath due to the altitude; it was way too cold for this fat Texan; the food was terrible; and the toilet conditions were disgusting. Ah but the view.
Our off road trip from Everest to “Old Tingri” was far and away my favorite part of the trip. Using the URL above find Everest Base Camp and then plot a course to the left and a little bit up to the RED mark on the map; that’s right no roads. All we saw was one amazing landscape after another with the occasional village, yak cattle drive, old dust board wagons, and honest to God real-deal Tibetans just living life. Our driver really outdid himself that day.
Day five was a sprint for the Nepalese border (with a broken camera) complete with new scams, new scenery, and totally new people. It is mind blowing how a little thing like the Himalayas can change a landscape, a people, and a way of life. To give you an idea of the extremes, my first meal in Nepal I was actually given a fork for the first time in almost four months!
I know that you will all be saddened when I tell you that I will not be writing an entry about Nepal as I am just passing through in route to India. The highlights of my week here include REAL ITALIAN PIZZA, multiple trips to the Indian Embassy, a three day trek in the Katmandu Valley, a trip to the camera shop, and one day (tomorrow) sightseeing. I leave for India on Friday the 3rd. The first stop is Varanasi which is one of the oldest cities in India and is yet another sight for pilgrimages. The difference this time is that they supposedly carry dead bodies to the Ganges River there. I’ve been told that I will almost certainly get more than a glimpse of a few floating corpses.