Wed, Sept 25, 2013
I felt great after waking up this morning – I think if I can keep the dust and pollution away, I will stay healthy. We wanted to leave the hotel by 8:00 so we could set off for Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet Autonomous Region. Shortly after leaving New Tingri, the guide side “If you turn around and it’s a clear day, you will see Mount Everest.” As each of us jumped out of the truck, we were in absolute awe of the sight we were seeing – Mount Everest and other surrounding glacier covered peaks with 100% clarity. What a gorgeous sight!
A bit further, we crossed a pass at 5,248 meters. This is the highest elevation I’ve ever been to date (we will be crossing some higher passes later in China).
We continued driving. There is an interesting system there – you go thru a checkpoint and they give you a minimum amount of time to get to the next checkpoint. This means we sometimes must sit by the side of the road for 30 or 40 minutes. We used one of these opportunities to have lunch and lots of locals enjoyed the show!
On the second wait, we went for a short walk and visited a couple guys herding sheep and goats. It seems that all the shepherds spin their own yarn and knit as they watch the flocks. The guy we met today was knitting soles to a pair of shoes.
We arrived in Shigatse in the middle of the afternoon, and set out for a tour of the local monetary. The complex was huge with several chapels containing the remains of past Dali Lamas and Penti Lamas (2nd in importance). One of the chapels contained one of the world’s largest gilded Buddhas.
For dinner, we went to the “Sumptuous Tibetan Restaurant” and I ordered the “Yak Sizzler” as I was getting tired of noodles, bread, and dumplings for every meal. The Sizzler really met the spot – tender steak with vegetables and french fries.
We walked back to the hotel on a nice pedestrian street in the refreshing evening air.
Back at the hotel, we ran into another overlanding truck called “Madventures” who we’ve been paralleling for the last week. They also had to wait a few days in Nepal and must now rush their way thru Tibet. That company made the choice to go to Everest Base Camp in just one day from the Nepal border. No one was very ill but they said it was very cold, half of them were sick, and there was very little view of Everest. Added to this, the road was very terrible for many miles. They just got into Shigatse late that evening, so they hadn’t seen the Monastery in the beautiful late afternoon light that we saw. After hearing their story, I’m now happy we made our leisurely way thru southern Tibet.
Thurs, Sept 26
We had a nice breakfast at the hotel – with hard boiled eggs and lots of vegetables. The guides were out getting their required licenses to drive in China so we had a few free hours. Licensing involves driving tests, eye tests, multiple permits – alot of red tape. It was sprinkling a bit so I didn’t venture too far. However, I did walk down some of the shopping streets to get a nice view of the Potola palace of Shigatse (not THE Potola palace which is in Lhasa). I stopped in a few shops, including some nice Tibetan carpet shops. By the pre-approved meeting time, the licenses were still not ready, so we headed out again to buy snacks for lunch. I also looked at some of the fancy shops on the main shopping street – it’s surprising how expensive things are here – about American prices.