Anthony's Interesting Times 2004 travel blog

Me on way to Gyantse - by special request

Me again! In typical Tibetan countryside

Pelkor Chode Monastery, Gyantse

Kimbum Chorten, Gyantse

Kimbum Chorten again!

Inside one of the chapels in the Kimbum

Inside another Kimbum Chapel, more my type (for offerings and prayers)

More yak for tea, I do rather like it.

No bloody breakfast though, as nowhere was open. Nevertheless, a last goodbye to Lhasa in the dark, pilgrims doing their stuff even then and flames shooting up in the darkenss from the juniper burners in Barkhor Square. And then all in our Toyota Landcruiser and off we go.

Decent roads for about an hour and then off road via Kongkarchordi Monastery. The monks were in full swing, chanting, banging cymbals and drums, and blowing those big Tibetan trumpets. It was great, even darker than usual, even more skulls and stuff than usual, very atmospheric. I haven't managed to get bored of these temples yet.

And then very bumpy roads for the rest of the day, many with very alarming drops off crumbly edges. Fortunately Tashi - our driver (Tashi is Tibetan for lucky) is a careful driver. Unfortunately he doesn't speak English, and none of us speak Tibetan, so a lot is worked out between him and I in Mandarin, which has worked OK so far!

Next we snaked up and up on crumbly precipitous roads to the first 5,000 metre pass of the day. I have to say we are all feeling the altitude, but just headaches and coughs as yet. A very empty landscape, and then as we came over the pass - prayer flags everywhere - below us was Yan-Drok Lake, turquoise blue surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Down and around the lake, and then along various alarming roads to lunch. Then another great blue lake, a magnificent glacier, an icefall, another 5,000 metre pass, and then down to arriving in Gyantse tea-time this evening.

At 4,000 metres we are a 1000 foot higher than Lhasa, and as I said, my head is throbbing, but it all helps towards acclimatising to Everest I hope. We had a quick look at the local sights, they were great in the evening light, and the town is great, very Tibetan. The main 'sights' are the Pelkor Chode Monastery, particulalrly the Baiju temple, which was so atmospherically dark, we had to use our torches. Next to this is the biggest Chorten I have ever seen - the Kimbum - six floors of dark mysterious chapels, with a brightly coloured outside. And nearby is a hilltop castle called the Gyantse Zhong. Jorchen, Yumi and I are in one ensuite room, and Peggy and Yann next door in what is actually a rather nice hotel too.

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