Everest…Not!

Cho Oyu, Himalayas

As we approached the Pang-La Pass 5,120 meters (16,900 feet), Thomas, Dimitri, Irina and I were keeping our fingers crossed hoping for clear weather to see what is considered one of Tibet’s most phenomenal Himalayan views featuring the king of them all – Everest.

Losang smiled and indicated that we were about to reach the view point just as our car wound around the last corner and the stunning panorama came into view. Wow!

I jumped out of the car with my camera and immediately started climbing up the ridge to my left to find and even better vantage point. Oohing and aahing my way upwards, I snapped dozens of pictures of Everest simply stunned by the incredible mammoth.

Twenty minutes later – still snapping away – as Thomas and I were discussing nature’s masterpiece, a Chinese man who obviously understood our conversation looked over and said, “Excuse me, you are not photographing Everest Continue…

Xigatse

Tashilunpo Monastery Xigatse, Tibet

Xigatse, the second biggest city in Tibet, resembles Lhasa in many ways.

Most importantly it is the location of the Tashilunpo Monastery, traditionally home to the Panchen Lama. The massive monastery is second only to the Potala in gold covered Buddhas, jeweled burial stupas, colorful frescos… art everywhere. It also contains what is supposedly the largest gilded Buddha in the world. I don’t know if it is the biggest, but it was certainly the most awe-inspiring Buddha I have ever seen. (I kept going back to the chapel to look at it again.) Once more, no pictures of the interior due to the most extortionate photo permits known to mankind.

Not surprisingly, there were not nearly as many pilgrims at Tashilunpo as in other major monasteries. Certainly, its importance as a pilgrimage site has declined since the Chinese abducted the real Panchen Lama in 1995 and replaced him with Continue…

Gyantse

Monk Standing on Kumbum in Gyantse Monastery, Tibet

Gyantse is easily the most beautiful and atmospheric town in Tibet. There was so much to see. I could have easily stayed a week – but, unfortunately, we only had one day, now that we are on a tour schedule.

To fully take advantage of our single day, we started early – even before sunrise. This may sound terribly early, but the sun doesn’t come up before 8 AM in Tibet – China can’t be bothered to introduce time zones. As we walked over to the Gyantse Dzong, a fortress high on top of a hill in the middle of town, Continue…

Our Pilgrimage Begins!!!

Tony with our 4 x 4

I can’t believe my dream of doing the Kailash kora is going to become a reality. We finally got the permits! After all the paperwork in Xining and Lhasa, the stress of arranging transportation, and the challenge of finding people to split costs, everything seems to have miraculously fallen into place.

Dimitri and Irina showed up with a huge apple pie, which they had specially ordered to celebrate our departure. Can you believe that? An apple pie in Lhasa!!! We are so lucky to have found such cool people to go with.

In addition to a driver, the Chinese government has just recently started requiring that an official guide accompany travelers outside of Lhasa. We were warned Continue…

Stress, Stress, Stress

We are scheduled to leave tomorrow on our 17-day trip to western Tibet and the permits are still not here! I guess, eight days of paper-pushing is just not enough time. If we wait any longer, we either have to cut our trip short or overstay our Chinese visa (which would cost us $100 a day in penalties). It’s infuriating!

How are We Doing This?

I am sure a lot of you are wondering how we are actually managing to submit so many postings while traveling through such remote locations. The truth is that there is a buffer time between where we are traveling and the postings on the blog.

Clearly, we have not had Internet access on every mountain top or in every monastery where we have stayed. We write the postings as we travel and then load them into the blog software when we find an Internet cafe. The postings are gradually automatically being posted as we travel to our next destination.

The big challenge is correctly guessing where we will next have Internet access. If the postings suddenly stop, you’ll know we chose poorly.

Secrets and Yak Butter Lamps

Yak Butter Lamp in Monastery

The monasteries here in Tibet are filled with more than Buddha statues and yak butter lamps. There is tremendous anger and bitterness.

Unlike Kham and Amdo where anti-Chinese sentiment seems to have cemented into a healthy cultural pride, the monasteries of the Tibetan Autonomous Region seem unhealthy. There is a palpable sense of paranoia, which seems to be eating away at the monastery culture itself. Monks whisper warnings of Continue…

Carla and Richard

Carla and Richard at Nam Tso Lake, Tibet

Carla and Richard, a Dutch couple from Utrecht, are taking an unpaid leave from their jobs as surgical nurse and IT professional to travel the world for ten months. The amount of time was a compromise of Carla’s 6 months and Richard’s 12 months they had wanted to travel, so, I guess, Richard won.

Their trip started out in Russia where they soon had to face their biggest challenge so far Continue…