We stayed in Tsedang that night, still in the Yarlung Valley. The Yarlung Valley is a strange place, part desert, part river, part planted forest. Some of the sand dunes reach almost to the top of the surrounding peaks, quite spectacular. The The next day, on our way to Yamdroc-Tso Lake we actually ran into a sand storm. I for one (in ignorance I suppose) never expected to experience this phenomena in Tibet. Yamdroc-Tso Lake is quite beautiful. A brilliant clear turquoise colour surrounded by mountains. As seen from Kamba-la pass at 4794 meters. I was experiencing shortness of breath and a slight headache, I put this down to, I put this down to the altitude. It made climbing up the steep slopes more difficult, had to take a few more rests. I would experience this feeling again at different times while in Tibet. Thomas was also feeling similar, Fatima and Angus were OK.
When we arrived at the pass we got out of the 4X4 to the cry of Shit! Shit! On looking around there was a woman pointing to what looked like a sheep pen yelling. "Shit!" "Shit! She was selling the toilet, the most unique vendor yet. Fatima paid the two Yuan and did her business. Thomas also invested in relief, separate pens of course. We climbed up the slope to get a better look at the lake and surroundings. It was quite a wonderful sight. There were small wild mountain flowers being visited by bees, beautiful clear blue skies, a smell of freshness everywhere. On the way down Fatima said she would go to the toilet once more before leaving. There was no attendant there at the time. After we were walking toward the car when we heard a woman calling. Shit money! Shit money! She was chasing after us. There was for a moment a staring standoff between Fatima and the woman. The woman looked at a rock in a threatening gesture, Fatima looked at a larger rock. "Shit money" she said. "I wish I could". Said I. (Humor lost on her) A Tibetan man came up to support the woman's claim. Thomas explained that they had already paid. Conflict over situation defused. I'm sure the woman didn't know that shit is an impolite word. It is proof, though, that shit happens. This was not the last time we would witness this kind of unfortunate, unfriendly, aggressive behavior. All in all though, Tibetans are a warm friendly people very welcoming and pleasant to be around.
Further down the road the driver pointed out a site for water burials. The friends of the dead person, not the family, take the body to the site, dismember it and throw it into the water for the fishes to devour, with the belief that the body is meaningless and it's the soul that leaves the body and goes to heaven. This is an alternative to sky burials. Which turns out to be a matter of economy, many can't afford a sky burial. He also pointed out a sky burial site along the way, high up in the mountain. Here the body is also dismembered and left for the vultures to eat. The vultures are considered sacred in Tibetan folk law. They believe that this act is the last act of generosity of the living world. Both burials are also practical as it would not be possible to bury people because of the climate and permafrost.
Next morning we headed for Gyantse. The driver said he would take a short cut to make up for road works that would otherwise force us to do some back tracking. It was a very long and uncomfortable short cut. I now know the meaning of off road. We traveled through desert like terrain, experienced a sand storm, had the stuffing shaken out of us and were very glad to get off of the "Short cut". We also passed workers bringing in the harvest, mainly barley, which is a staple in Tibet. I don't want to sound too ancient but it reminded me of when I was growing up in a small village in England. They stacked the sheaths of barley in much the same way as was done back then, when I was just a young whipper snapper. Ah fond memories. I'll gladly tell you about some time if you ask. We had dinner at a restaurant run by a pyromaniac, see pictures. Next morning we visited the Pelkhor Chode Monastery, known for it's 108 chapels and 9 tier pagoda. The temple is quite spectacular but, I must admit I was feeling a little templed out by this time. Thomas and I did a quick tour to the top, exited and sat in the shade outside, chatting and waiting for Fatima and Thomas, who enjoyed exploring every little nook and cranny of each of the chapels. In the afternoon we headed for Shigatse.