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Over the pass and through the valley

After five days on rough roads I am back in Lhasa and am nearly at a loss for words. If I dig deep enough I think I can find few. However, I know that it will only portray a fraction of what I felt, saw, and experienced. Hopefully with in a week or two I will be able to post some pictures that do justice to the beauty of this country.

After Shigatse we drove on the friendship highway (a misnomer if there ever was one - it isn't friendly, and ninety percent of it is unpaved, occasionally it is little more than a cantering path or a river bed. True it is a way that is high but that seems to be stretching the definition of highway a bit) east to Shegar, also known as New Tingri. The next day we awoke with the rising sun (at nine a.m.) and headed to Chomolangma (a.k.a Everest) base camp. We arrived at Rhongphu monastery around three p.m. and attempted to hike the remaining eight kilometers up to the famous 5000 meter high camp. I only made it seven and was rewarded with a massive 24 hour headache that 1000 mgs of Aspirin and another 1000 of acetaminophen couldn't kill. It was still a beatiful hike, especially when the snow started coming down in large soft fluffly flakes. Of course this meant we couldn't see any mountains, or even more than fifty feet in front of us. This didn't stop four Germans from heading off into the whiteness trying to find a glacier and a place to set up a tent for the night.

Our driver took us back down to the monastery where we stayed for the night. It was a true cultural experience. What sort of culture I couldn't say - from what I understand Tibetans (especially around Losar) are usually a bit cleaner than these nuns. The outhouse was so full it was literally overflowing and we all opted to brave the wind, snow, and open air behind the building instead of step inside that place. The rooms looked like they hadn't been cleaned in years and for dinner we ate instant noodle soup (the kind that comes in a cardboard bucket that you fill with hot water) and we had to bribe people to light the stove. Of course there was no electricity.

It was still fun and now everything seems posh! I have never enjoyed two-minute-noodles so much in my life. The altitude was a bit much for my blood though and I was glad the next day when we decended to lower lands. In comparison Lhasa seems warm. We returned last night, after spending the morning at Tashi Lhunpo, one of the largest monasteries in Tibet and home of the Panchen Lama.

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