About Me (2)
General Stuff (9)
New York (3)
People I've Met (6)
Preparations and Inspiration (3)
Lurking Around on Travel Sites
In My Own Bed
Pray For It
Seattle and Interesting Uses of Pyrex
Heading to Seattle
Weekend Out of Hippyville
The $330 Trip to the Oregon Country Fair
July 4th, 2004
More Books I've Read
Why Are These People Talking to Me?
There And Back Again
I Wanted To End It All
Summing Up the Gobi
May 10, 2004
China Update Part Deux
Ok, to continue my updating of what's been going on:
After running over the two donkeys, we started climbing up into the high passes of the mountains. The two highest were over 5000 meters, which for the imperialists, is 16400 feet. I was extremely glad I was in the hands of a professional Landcruiser driver than a wacky old rickety busdriving maniac. The roads had tight switchbacks besides drops of hundreds of feet. At the second pass, we caught our first look of Lake Yamdrok-tso, a Tibetan holy lake. It's a controverisial place because the Chinese want to use the water for generating hydroelectric power but it is feared by the Tibetans (and others) that this will just drain the lake within 20 years. The Chinese were convinced not to continue work on the power station idea up until 1989 by the 10th Panchen Lama (sort of the second in command in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama). Now that he's died, the Chinese are back at work building and I was glad to catch a glimpse of this aquamarine beauty while it still exists.
Right after seeing the lake, we passed a sizable mountain, Mount Nojin Kangtsang which topped the region at 7200m (23616 ft). It was a nice warm up for what was to come in a few days.... At the bottom of the pass which allowed us to see this mountain, there were yaks, a stupa, and a bunch of really annoying nomads who wanted to sell us massive crystals. Why the hell would I want to buy crystals (in essence rocks), no matter how well cut they are? When we didn't want those, they offered us their toddler daughter, and finally resorted to just plain begging for money, our clothes, or anything that wasn't nailed down.
We stayed in Gyantse, the next town of decent size, and I nearly cried when I saw the shower- three sad drips of hot water. I did my best with it, and cleaned myself up only to feel severely gross the next day. I popped a Benadryl to get through the impressive monastery there. We then set off for Shigatse.
Along the way we stopped at a local's house and the owner invited us in for some dried yak cheese (this stuff could crack your teeth in half), barley (like popcorn but smaller) and chang. Chang is beer made from fermented barley and unfiltered water- a odd tasting combo. Everytime you took one little sip, the woman would run over and top up your glass. Fortunately, the barley beer is extremely weak and no one got shitfaced. Another few minutes down the road we stopped at a tsampa mill. The mill workers were covered in the stuff, which has the appearance of flour. They all came out to see who we were and Anthony was told he couldn't possibly be American because all Americans are huge.
Finally, we made it to Shigatse, one of the biggest towns in TIbet. We visited the monastery there on a holy day and pushing through the crowds was very tiring. For people seeking enlightenment, the Tibetans sure shove each other around like animals!!! It was worth it and we got to see the largest chorten (tiered chapel building) in Tibet and different styles of buddhas than we had been seing because it belonged to a different sect. It even has the famed sleepy buddha eyes you see everywhere painted on the sides. An impressive structure indeed!
Before leaving Shigatse, Ant and I attempted to do some shopping to pass the time. I walked up and down the local market but all they were selling was crap- fake turquoise (it was rubbing off), fake coral (ditto), plastic amber, and crappy bronze door knockers. I did find a few places that sold tradtional wool Tibetan shoes but none of them fit because my big fat leg couldn't get into the lower part of the boot. They're really cool looking so it was a disappointment.
After Shigatse, the group made a brief stop at Sakya, another monastery. It was well, pretty standard except for one chapel which was devoted to supressing demons. Above the door, which was painted like a demon itself, hung stuffed wolves, vultures, and dogs, all swinging in the breeze. It sent shivers down my spine so I can imagine it works on demons as well!
The following day was a slow buildup to the climax of our trip- Mount Everest. We were scheduled to be there for my birthday, so I was excited to see the landscape change the closer we got. We caught our first glimpse of Everest (or Mount Qolomongma in the local tongue) from a far distance. Even though we were miles away, you knew just how massive this mountain was. It stood out. Being that we were on a high pass in the Himalaya foothills, the wind kept kicking up and Ant and I peered out of the windows instead of freezing our asses off. It didn't prepare me for what we'd see closer up...
On the night before my birthday, we arrived at a small monastery just below Everest Base Camp. It was early evening and I wasn't feeling all the great- my stomach and lower end were not being cooperative and I had to keep running to the bathroom. We were getting to higher altitudes (5200m) so it was expected that everyone's bodies would protest. And protest my body did- my only consulation was the crapper had a view of Everest and a nice cool refreshing breeze. Everyone had to wait for me to move on to Base Camp but we made it there just as dusk was falling.
The night at Everest Base Camp was not one I will easily forget. When we arrived, it was soooooo cold and we were sleeping in semi permanent felt nomad tents. I piled on the clothes and prayed I didn't have to run to the toilet and bare my white ass in the BITTER cold. I didn't, WHEW. We played mahjong, had tea, and I ate boring steamed rice. When I finally headed to bed, the tent was so cold that Ant had to pile so many blankets on me I couldn't move underneath them without help. And oh, my CRAZY dreams.
I've been learning loads about Tibetan Buddhism since being in Tibet (go figure) and one of the manifestations of the protecting goddess are the 21 green Taras. In my dreams/hallucinations (I can't say which they really were) I saw crazy whirling green goddesses EVERYWHERE. I kept waking from my head spinning and my heart racing. Another Buddhist character that kept appearing was the 1000 armed/eyed and 11 headed Avolkashvara, a manifestation of the Buddha of Compassion (who the Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of). As you can imagine it was the longest night I'd had in a while.
Luckily, the madness was worth it. Before I had gone to bed, Everest had taken on a stunning golden and pink glow and when I woke up it was a completely different mountain. It had a cloud ring all around it, but you could still easily see the top. I took about a MILLION photos before we packed up and left. I can't describe it so I'll just have to post a few photos soon.
It was a great beginning to a 28th birthday but the rest of the day was fun too. You'll just have to wait until my next post to hear about it though.
Posted by Claudia on May 10, 2004 08:51 AM