Trip Start May 20, 2010
195Trip End Sep 05, 2011
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Day : 48
Temperature : 0 degrees - 35 degrees
Weather : Sunny with scattered clouds - Rainy
Altitude : 5,200 metres - 1, 500 metres
Qomolongma or Chomolungma - Mother Goddess of the Earth - otherwise known as Mount Everest. But for the purpose of this blog I will refer to her by the traditional name of Chomolongma.
Out of everything we have done over the past six weeks this was going to be one of the highlights so far, and for me personally perhaps one of the highlights of the entire trip. Kevin, Renske, and I left Lhasa full of excitement in our 4x4 land cruiser with our driver Wangbe and our guide Tashi. On the first day we drove for about 4 hours past the stunning scenery of Yamdrok Lake and onto Gyantse (altitude 3,950 m), a typical Tibetan village, where we stayed overnight in a rather bleak Chinese hotel. The following day we made the relatively short 2 hour journey to Shigatse (altitude 3,900m) where Tashi our guide applied for our travel permits. We stayed in the Tenzin Hotel, which was in the Lonely Planet, but obviously things have changed in the past 3 years since the spotlessly clean toilets were anything but clean, the restaurant which should have been a great place to hang out had been closed down and the air-conditioning in our room no longer worked! Our third day was the longest drive being about 4 hours to New Tingri where we passed through more military and passport checks. We stopped for lunch and bought our permits which allowed us entry into Chomolongma Park. We then turned onto a dirt track road, passing even more passport checks, for a 100km bumpy ride up over another high pass at 5,250m where we were due to have magnificient views of Chomolongma, Makulu, Cho Oyu and many other peaks. Unfortunately it seemed the entire Himalayan range was covered in a blanket of cloud and we saw absolutely zilch
How can the sight of a mountain be so overwhelming? It's just a mountain isn’t it? But this isn’t just any mountain. Chomolongma towers at 8,848 metres above sea level, that’s the same altitude that commercial aircraft fly at, high enough to be in the jet stream! This is the highest point on our planet and it was right in front of us. How on earth can people climb so high? We were at 5,200 metres and the wind was fierce! What must the conditions be like up there? Maybe you will only succeed if Chomolongma allows you to! And if she doesn’t then you will be lucky to make it down alive….and many people haven’t, in effect making the mountain a gravesite. Strange to think of it this way when you are looking at it.
It’s inevitable when you are travelling that your thoughts will often return to home and the people whom you have left behind. On this particular part of our trip our thoughts drifted many times to our friends Nigel and Saskia, and particularly Nigel who we know would have loved to have been here, and who we wished was here with us to share this amazing experience. So, Nigel, I’m sure one day you will make it here and climb Chomolongma, and when you do we will be sitting at base camp supporting you every single step of the way!
We left the mountain towards Nepal, each of us in our own little worlds, lost in our thoughts and memories of Chomolungma
The following morning we had an early start for the border which was only 10 mins by car away. Unfortunately, we got pulled over by the army and for some reason we weren't allowed to drive any further! Out of the jeep again, rucksacks on, and we walked another 10 mins to the border. We bumped into 4 travellers who we met in Lhasa, then again at Everest Base Camp....Uschi from Germany, James from England, Karl from Australia, and Ryan from the USA. When the border opened we all piled in, only to be met by more painful security checks by the Chinese.....every single bag belonging to every single person was opened and thoroughly searched - for pictures of the Dalai Lama!!!
We crossed the "Friendship bridge", passing all the Chinese armed guards, reached the Nepal side, bought our visas, and instantly it smelled different, the people looked different and dressed different! All the taxi drivers tried to rip us off for prices to Kathmandu, so we wandered down the mountain roads in the hope of catching a public bus, but even the bus driver tried to rip us off. We stopped to rest whilst James and Uschi walked back up the road in an attempt to find some transport. They returned victorious, standing up in the back of a pick-up jeep having found someone on the street with a vehicle willing to take us to Kathmandu. We spent the journey in the back, sat ontop of the rucksacks and waving to the friendly lorry drivers and kids at the side of the road, and finally arrived in Kathmandu last night.
How nice it was to finally have a shower and feel clean again after 5 days! We now have no definite plans, only to get some laundry done and start exploring Kathmandu, which looks and smells and sounds fantastic!