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My travel itinerary – a recap

A general view of my travel route, Summer 2010 [click to view larger]   A detailed view of the Lhasa-Kathmandu “Himalayan Journey” route with SnowLion Tours [click to view larger] My itinerary: TIBET: Chengdu to Lhasa (by plane) Lhasa-Yamdrok Lake – Gyantse – Shigatse – Everest Base Camp – Tingri – Zhangmu (by 4WD Land Rover) NEPAL: Zhangmu – Kathmandu (by car) Kathmandu – Sunauli (by bus) INDIA: Sunauli – Gorakhpur – Varanasi (by bus) Varanasi – Delhi (by train) Delhi – Dharamsala (McLeod Ganj) – Manali – Chandigarh – Delhi (by bus) Delhi – Singapore – Chengdu, China (by plane) TRAVEL TIME:  6 weeks WEATHER / CLIMATE:  high altitude, blinding sun, heat, humidity, monsoon rains, mud, dust, pollution, clean mountain air

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The scenic route, then goodbye to Tibet

North from Everest, and off the beaten track: cloudy skies and vibrant colors after the rain     Heinrich Harrer, author of Seven Years in Tibet, in his sequel Return to Tibet, describes the Tibetan landscape perfectly: We were driving to Shigatse via Gyangtse.  Under a blinding sun, in a brilliant pure light, the full glory of the Tibetan plateau was spread out before us.  This landscape seems to be tailor-made for the Tibetan religion.  Or is it that the Tibetan form of Buddhism could only have arisen in this landscape?  It is amazing how peaceful this scenery seems to the viewer, even though it contains all the elements of wildness…. Henrich Harrer, Return to Tibet, Great Britain, Phoenix, 2000, p.134 We had experienced the blinding sun; now after a night of rain at Everest, we had bypassed Rongbuk Monastery (the world’s highest) and headed out of Everest Base Camp. Instead of following the dusty road by which we had come, now turned into a mixture of mud and rocks, the driver veered off to the left, onto a barely-visible track. We would follow this lonely trail, which shifted from rough and bumpy to smooth and sandy at a whim, for about the next two hours. The landscape had changed overnight from dull rocky brown to green and gray due to the rain.   As soon as we turned off the main road, I was amazed by the clumps of foliage and grasses which glowed with a deep and vibrant gray-green. The colors were

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To Everest, and beyond

On the road again: we leave Shigatse in the morning, bound for Qomolongma (Everest)   This is a fast tour. In better circumstances (less expense, fewer Chinese government restrictions), this itinerary could be stretched into two weeks or more.  However, that’s what it is: an itinerary.  that means being shepherded from sight to sight, ticket booth to ticket booth, paying special “tourist” prices to see monuments, and traveling a well-worn path during which we saw the same people over and over again.  Call it the Tibetan conveyor belt. Not to say it detracted from the magnificence of what we were seeing, but I couldn’t help feeling that Tibet is being commodified, prettied up, and selected portions Disneyfied, with the same manufactured trinkets for sale wherever we went. But I digress. The Big Event was coming up. Qomolongma (Mount Everest), would challenge our altitude tolerance still further, as Everest Base Camp would be at 5,200 meters. By comparison, Lhasa had been 3,700 meters. The day, as usual, was cloudy, with spotty sunlight as we drove through earth-brown, rocky terrain. At length we arrived at a mountain pass bedecked with prayer flags, and a huge sign announcing that we were entering Qomolongma National Nature Preserve. Entering Qomolangma Nature Preserve   Typical mountain pass decoration - snapping in the wind and carrying mantras and prayers to the four corners of the earth   Then, in the distance, there they were: the snowy peaks of the highest mountain range in the world, raised to the heavens millions

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