So yesterday we woke up in Shigatse and toured around the Tashilhunpo monastery. It is where the Panchen Lama is traditionally housed. Currently, though he is in Beijing…it’s controversial….anyway, it was huge and amazing like the other places we’ve been. We have been getting a bit monasteried-out, but it was still neat to see the giant buddha in the main temple. Most interesting, though, was that they are remodeling some parts of the main assembly hall. Women and men both were working hard and carrying very heavy loads; tons of bricks, buckets of mud, and hauling them up and over big stairs. Zoe liked playing in the rocks.
Afterward we got in the bus for a four hour drive to Shegar. The drive was scenic. More desolate rocky mountains, but along the valleys were some very interesting farms, people plowing with their yaks, lots of folks out seeding, and kids running around. The town of Shegar was very small, but our hotel was nice. No heat, but the bedding was super-warm. I think the comforters were all wool. They were super thick and heavy! Zoe enjoyed a long hot bath. We woke this morning at 5am to get some quick breakfast and hit the road. The goal was to get to the high pass between here and Everest as the sun rose. We made it, but there were clouds over the Himalaya’s so we kept driving down the road a bit. It was a long 100km along a graded dirt road, and was very dusty but better kept than we expected. After we got back down from the pass a bit, the clouds started to lift, so we got some wonderful pictures of the sunrise hitting the mountains. Everest (Qomolangma) was still obscured behind the clouds, but the rest were pretty and the clouds made for interesting pictures. The remainder of the drive down the road and to the Rongbuk monastery was uneventful; Zoe and I fell asleep.
When I woke we rounded a corner, and SURPRISE, there was Everest! Gorgeous. Only a bit of a cloud around her middle. We stopped briefly at the monastery and then continued to the tent city. There are about 50 tents semi-permanently setup as hotels and restaurants. The cloud completely cleared, and our view was amazing! From there we hopped an official park bus (the mountain is part of a national park owned by the government, who had many checkpoints along the way to make sure we were legit and had permits…thank god for our guides) and drove the remaining 8km up the dirt road to base camp. It was incredible. The mountain is just amazing and stands out from the surrounding brown dirt mountains like a huge rocky ice sculpture. We all felt fine; no altitude problems. In fact we had been higher over a pass a few days ago.
It had been very cold in the morning, so we were all quite bundled in our winter clothes. I wore my new wool Tibetan dress, and was super toasty. Zoe had fun running around playing with rocks and watching all of the yaks carry supplies. There were a lot of climbing party tents just past base camp; we (tourists) were not permitted to go past a certain hill to this area. We got tons of pictures, though Zoe didn’t like posing and is looking at yaks, rocks, or generally trying to just play in most of them. The day was just awesome. We stayed for a long time taking pictures and playing…Bryan uploaded a bunch of pics. (He has been the one in charge of selecting pictures and adding captions since Yangshuo)
After our fill of the mountain, and as more tourists showed up we bussed back down to tent city for a nice lunch of fried rice in one of the tents. After 10 minutes on the bus we realized we didn’t have doggy!!!! OMG!!!! They very kindly turned around so Bryan could run into the restaurant tent we got some rice in…there was the dog. Wow, that could’ve been a disaster. Then, we got back into our bus for the long ride back to Shigatse. It took about 6 hours to get here, though we stopped once at the summit of the pass to take some final pictures. The drive was pleasant enough. Zoe enjoys the bus. She likes to stand and look out for yaks, cows, sheep, goats, dogs, and tractors. She also enjoys watching her Animal numbers and Animal Alphabet videos on the computer (thank you Tyler for helping me figure that out!). She colors, too, or plays with her stickers in her notepad. We have also collected a small pouch of toys for her…an elephant, some little monkeys, some bracelets, and a tiny buddha that she plays with. It’s great when she naps, too! Tonight we are at a different hotel in Shigatse. It’s nice, Zoe took another bath. Today she expressed her first desire for things from home. She asked for “chair time” in the bus, and then pitched a fit when I told her we didn’t have her “boat” for the bath. Otherwise she’s been great! Tomorrow we are just driving back to Lhasa…6 hours.