Before leaving Shigatse, we visited the synonymous Tashilhunpo monastery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tashilhunpo_Monastery) .
Historical Note: Tibet used to be divided into two, front and rear Tibet. Dalai Lama is responsible for front Tibet, with the centre being Lhasa, while Panchen Lamas were responsible for rear Tibet, with the centre being Shigatse!
The monastery holds nothing against Potata Palace in terms of aesthetics or architectural prominence, but in all other ways they should be equals. Housed within the monastery is the relics of the 4th to 10th Panchen Lamas. No pictures were allowed unless you were willing to pay a $100 fee..no thank you. There’s a lot of history relating to Panchen Lamas, so we’d recommend you do a quick wiki to truly ‘get it’.
On our way to EBC, we once again bumped into the pack of cyclists. It really isn’t easy, riding that far on such high altitude! The ride over to EBC definitely isn’t an easy one, but the roads have already been much improved ever since the 2008 Olympics because of the flame, but the U.N. restricts activity near the Himalayas, so the roads were smooth up until a certain point. Not only were the roads hard to get through, but the numerous gates and passes didn’t make it any easier. Due to the vicinity to international borders (since Everest is split between China and Nepal), and the ever sensitive areas we’re moving around in, we were glad we got all our papers before setting out.
To get to the Chinese EBC, you have to cross through a small town called Dingre (定日), and we grabbed a bite to eat before passing through the border guards.The drive up is only about 130km, but having to wind through numerous mountains and dirt roads, so in the end it took us about 3hrs to actually get there! And on our way, we saw two cyclists packed with their gear winding down the dirt roads with us!! Truly respectable cyclists =P
During the ride in, what really amazed us was the fact that there were VILLAGES within the mountain ranges! They were harvesting wheat and herding yaks. It was truly amazing as the average elevation was well above 4800m, but it was also many hours before the next civilization. Kids would run up to our car waving their arms high, knowing that tourists would bring with them candies and goodies. Our driver said to ignore these folks, as they aren’t poor at all…. but from our perspective these people are already living in pretty languid conditions.
On our way into base camp, we passed through one final village before winding along a river side road. From afar, the sun’s golden glow shining upon the peaks of Everest. Shortly, the sun sets and we were driving in pitch darkness. With the moonlight shining on Everest, our driver gently mentions, “Doesn’t the mountain look like a lama with a large cloth draped over his back?”…. and he was right! Unfortunately it was too dark, we couldn’t get a picture.
And as we got closer to base camp, there were several people standing on the side of the road, waving us down. At first, we were worried since it was dark and cold and thought their mopeds broke down, but our driver told us “They want us to stay at their place for the night.”…. !?!?!? That’s CRAZY…. Tibetans really work hard for their livelihood……
Finally arriving at base camp in pitch darkness, we quickly slide into one of over 50 tents. The host was very hospitable, firing up the poop-fueled (goat AND cow poop) oven and making us some hot tea. The better experience was outside, as we are now at 5200m above sea level, with Everest peering down at us and not a single cloud in the sky. YOU CAN SEE THE MOTHERFUCKING MILKY WAY!!!! There were so many stars, we could’ve created new constellations the Greeks never even seen…