Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Going Down


Yes it's nearly the end of everything. I've spent the last week in Tibet visiting monasteries, admiring mountain scenery and wondering why Chinese chocolate tastes so bad. We've attracted dozens of curious Tibetans to our camps. Most of whom just stand and watch or collect our empty cans and jars. It's quite a strange situation.

Perhaps the highlight has been Everest base camp, or maybe the cultural festival at Shigatse or it could be the crazy villages we end up stopping at. I don't really know.

Everest base camp was an 8km trek at 5000 metres. Not as easy as it sounds. I left alone at 7am through the low cloud. With only some kit kats and a bar of inedible Chinese chocolate I stode (rather slowly) up the winding track. I was unable to see the mountain in front of me but I was pretty sure it was there. After all it was in the Lonely Planet. To cut a long trek (about 3 hours and 150 photos) short I finally turned round a corner about half a kilometre from base camp and there it was. Well I think it was Everest but a remarkable low fog bank suddenly rolled up the valley and after that I wasn't so sure. And then the truck passed me (a surprise as no foreign vehicles are permitted at base camp) but I wasn't going to give up. I trudged on past the concrete toiletl block from hell, past the Hotel California (I don't believe that this ragged tent was the one which inspired the song) and on to a stoney plain. And there it was. In less than a minute the morning sun had burnt off the fog and Everest stood before me. It was quite big. There wasn't time to appreciate the scenery as the was a monastery truck stuck in the river and only we could save the day. So we did. After that there was time for a quick motorcycle ride up to a scenic lakeside view point. And it was pretty scenic. The price included being carried over a fairly fast flowing river on the back of a Tibetan guide who was about a foot smaller than me. We I tried to cross it myself he wouldn't let me. I can't imagine how ridiclulous this must have looked but it can't have been any worse than our "Naked at base camp" photo which startled the local tourists as the bore down on us with video cameras at the ready. I'm sure this will appear on an internet site near you quite soon.

Now we're at some odd border town a few kilometres from Nepal. Kathmandu is only 3 days away and then.... Well then it's time to think about having a holiday as I'm shattered.

This was originally written on 24 August 2005. It is from my summer trip to Central Asia, China and Tibet.

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