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Brian’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 15 Feb 2007

Location: Trip to Everest, Tibet

MapBlasting across the alkali flats in a jet-powered, monkey-navigated... ummm The 5-day land cruiser trip to Mt. Everest:

We teamed up with a couple of Canadians Kamson and Kernby (a father son duo). Our first stop outside of Lhasa was the frozen lake of Yamdruktso. We were greeted at 5,100 meters by a bunch of boys with leashed dogs and a yak completely dressed up in traditional Tibetan garb. They immediately wanted us to take pictures of them. I thought back to other people in Lhasa wanting their picture taken so they could be "famous" outside of the country. So I told them to smile and snapped a few pics. Sucker! There were about 6 of them all together doing the same thing to the others. As soon as we were done taking pictures they wanted Y5 a picture! I would call it buyer beware IF I knew I was actually buying something. I refused to pay and told them I deleted the pictures. They started to get hostile with Kamson (the dad) because he was the only one who spoke Mandarin and were starting to get very agitated. He appeased them with Y30 for all of us and we drove off. The Tibetan driver never said a word. I think it was obvious he was in on the ambush.

The next stop was the Gyantse carpet factory. Supposedly the best carpet in all of Tibet. Ill remember it for a very very different reason. The factory was more like a small village of buildings. Beau and Kamson wandered into the display room of final products. Kernby and I wandered into the wool spinning room. It had 8 women well over 40 sitting on a dirt floor brushing and spinning sheeps wool. They seemed innocent enough, as most sexual abusers probably do. Communication started out simple with all of us writing our ages in the dirt floor - at least numbers are universal. This 49 year old woman motions me to come closer to her so she can show me how to "pull wool" or so I thought. So I squat down and she hands me the brushes used to pull the wool apart. I begin pulling and pulling and I am all focused on getting this wool ready for spinning when......she gooses me! She reached right under my squatting legs and gave the merchandise a poke. I was in disbelief, but best of all this entire act was caught Kernby's camera in a movie. Now, like Costanza, I feel the need to explain a few things... first, it was cold, there was shrinkage, plus I had on 3 layers so I was well defended. But the entire scene was a riot, especially when they tried to grab our butts as we left! Some lonely women in Gyantse.

The first city for sleeping was Shigatse - home of the Panchen Lama (the vice pres of Buddhism). The Panchen Lama's monastery, Tashilhunpo, was basically left untouched during the cultural revolution while all the others were being routed. This is because of the Panchen Lama's willingness to be a spokes person for Mao and Communism. In fact, the Chinese state that the Panchen Lama requested the 'liberation' of Tibet and the subsuquent cultural revolution. So the Panchen Lama has a bit of a sorted history. But he did eventually speak out against the Chinese invasion and was jailed for 14 years. The Panchen Lama died in 1989 and his reincarnation is known as the youngest political prisoner in Tibet. The current Dali Lama has stated that he will refuse to be reincarnated in a Chinese occupied Tibet and has even suggested that he might be the Last Dali Lama.

Lhatse was the next town we stopped for rest. Lots of driving and the only thing worth mentioning was the bath houses we stopped to take a peep at... and I mean peep as in peeping tom. I was expecting some hot springs like those in Wyoming, but this was more like some old sheds with a hose running to it. How this even made the tourist map is beyond my comprehension. I felt pretty awkward watching local villiage women bathe as our driver ushered us into the shed. But, at least they had baths because the next two towns didn't! In fact, the next one didn't even have power. The other noteworthy event in Lhatse was the local restaurant that somehow had fresh fish. Fish so fresh he brought it out the front door of the restaurant flipping and sliding all over the concrete - then began to beat the ever living crap out of it with the dull side of a cleaver and de-scale it right there on the sidewalk. At least it was fresh.

Tmrw Shegar and Mt. Everest.