Day 06: Day around the Lake; Return to Lhasa for the night -
Take in the serenity and beauty of Nam-tso Lake with a walk around the area. Head now to Tashi Dor Monastery, further east. The monastery is famed as home to an icon of the local deity, Nyenchen Tangla. Another highlight of the Nam-tso precinct is the opportunity to witness the nomadic lifestyle of the Drokpa people of the Changtang Plateau. (B,L)
Day 07: To Samye
Drive to Samye, crossing the broad Yarlung-Tsangpo River (known to us as the holy Bramahputra), en route, in a ferry to explore Tibet's first monastery, Samye Monastery. Built in 8th century, the temple compound is modeled to resemble the Buddhist conception of the universe and all the temples in the courtyard are cosmological symbols. Later in the day, youncan explore the vicinity or partake in a ritualistic ‘kora’ circumambulation around the village. Overnight Guesthouse. (B)
Day 08: To Gyantse & Shigatse
This morning, we’ve one more opportunity to enjoy the ferry crossing which gets us back to our vehicle for our day’s road journey. The route to Gyantse (3,950m) crosses the Kampa-La(4,794m), from where you can get the first glimpse of the stunning beauty of Yamdrok-tso (Turquoise) lake, one of the four holy lakes of Tibet, and Karo-La (5,010m). Visit the massive fortress, Kumbum, and Pelkor Chode Monastery at Gyantse. The monastery has a particular influence, for here there is rare unity of Gelugpa, Sakyapa and Bhuton, the three sects of Tibetan Buddhism. The center-piece of Phalkhor and the pride of the city, is Kumbum, the largest stupa in Tibet. It is a fine example of 15th century Newari art which speaks of strong Himalayan ties with Nepal.
After a further 1.5 hrs driving, we'll reach Shigatse (3,900m), the town in Tibet 2nd only to Lhasa. (B)
Day 09: In Shigatse
The foremost attraction, Tashilhunpo Monastery, has three main buildings that are worth exploring at length. These include the Chapel of Maitreya, which is home to an 85 foot tall Buddha coated in 275 kgs of gold, and the Palace of the Panchen Lama. For photogenic views of the monastery (or for those wanting to earn some karma), do a kora of Tashilhunpo, but bemindful of your pilgrimage being in a clockwise direction, as the world turns, so as to not offend the Buddhist ethos. An option today is to drive 19 km south of Shigatse to the 11th century Shalu Monastery. Of particular interest are the 14th century murals in the monastery, clearly influenced and eagerly inspired by Chinese, Mongol and Newari genres. (B)
Day 10: To Sakya
Our next goal is the monastic town of Sakya (4,280 m), reached after crossing two passes; the Tropu La (4,950 m) and the Lhakpa La (5,200 m). Clearly now The Himalaya stand ahead of us on the horizon of the plateau, like icebergs in a sea of sand. The highlights of Sakya are its two monasteries, located on either side of the Trum-chu River. Sakya, which takes its name directly from the Buddha’s original Indian name, rather oddly suffered little from the familiar dismemberment of Tibetan Culture and intrusive influence of the modern Chinese state. (Perhaps the dollar-signs of tourism saved it!)
However, perhaps somewhere named ‘Sakya’ may not be such a bad place to consider, in the interest of balance, that modern changes do include tremendous improvements in medical facilities, infrastructure – not least communications, roads and the new railway - and also in profane education. (B)
Day 11: To Rongphu
Leaving Sakya, let’s take the road turning off the Friendship Highway and head west for Xegar. Driving through photogenic villages with Himalayan vistas, we reach Rongphu (aka Rongbuk )after about 3 hrs.
Surely one absolute highlight of a journey in Tibet is sight of the world's tallest mountain. Locally known as Qomolangma, Everest soars above the Rongphu Monastery (4,980m); highest monastery in the world. Rest of the day is at leisure. (B)
Day 12: To Everest Base Camp & Old Tingri
In the morning, a two hour hike up to Everest Base Camp provides an unobstructed view of the peak; and from Camp the enormity of the mountain is utterly overwhelming.
Although Base Camp itself is nothing more than a small, rocky, glacial basin the view of the mountain’s enormity is stunning. During peak climbing months, Base Camp is a village of tents and climbers, but out of season there is only ghostly emptiness; for it is from here that the epic that is the story of Everest begins – with the Mallory/Irvine fateful expedition as long ago as June 1924.
After hiking back down from Base Camp to the road, prepare to travel back to Old Tingri (4,390m). (B)
Day 13: To Zhangmu Border and Kathmandu
Next day, through the dust that coats Tingri, the breathtaking sight to the South is the vast, white
obstruction consisting of famous North Faces; the north faces of Everest, Cho-Oyu, Lhotse and Makalu. Here too there are numerous ruined reminders of an18th century Nepalese invasion, including the fort of Tingri Dzong, which also played reluctant host to the British Younghusband military incursion of 1906.
The journey has saved one of the very best bits until last, for now comes one of Nature’s most dramatic transformations. On account of the rapid descent from frozen plateau to sub-tropical climes, everything changes; from scrub to forest canopies, from predominant browns to lush greens. From parched plain to cascading waters. This is especially so in the monsoon and post-monsoon period (July-November).
After Chinese Immigration and Customs in Zhangmu (2,300 m) is the short walk downhill to the ‘Friendship Bridge’, the border between China and Nepal.
After Nepalese Immigration and Customs the road winds through gloriously colourful pastoral scenes before climbing to Dhulikhel. Here we can look back north to see the serrated skyline of The Himalaya from their southern side. Kathmandu is just a two-hour drive away. End of Expedition. (B)
MEAL CODES: (B=breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)