We started our 5 day overland journey to Kathmandu from Lhasa at 6am. Prior to piling in the Toyota 4-wheel drive, we loaded up on muffins and REAL coffee from The Summit Cafe, an upscale, Starbucksish-type joint serving up fresh, brewed coffee. The cafe is completely out of place in the bohemian, cheap, touristy area of Lhasa but is a welcomed respite. And for coffee drinkers, like Adam, it sure beats Nescafe. I, (hello, my name is Abby and I'm a Coca-Cola addict), am fortunate enough to never be deprived of my beloved ice cold carbonated coffee...it's everywhere.
Adam jumped in the front, passenger seat and Roberto, Lahavitte and I comfortably squeezed together in the backseat. We lucked out with our driver...an English-speaking Tibetan named Dawa...competent and careful.
After driving for about 2 1/2 hours, we stopped for a photo op at a pristine, mountain lake. Several local Tibetans swarmed approaching tourists as they paraded costumed yaks, dogs and goats, hoping to earn a few coins in exchange for a picture with their prized pets. That day we passed through two high passes, one at 14,700 feet and the other at 16,000 feet. We grabbed lunch at a small village, feasting on noodles and veggies, before heading on to Gyantse, another 2 hours away.
Once we arrived in Gyantse, the 4 of us walked down to check out the ancient fort, which was closed. Adam played a quick round of hackeysack with some local children who were playing outside the fort. It's amazing how responsive the children are to the slightest bit of attention. I suspect the parents are too hard at work to make ends meet, therefore there isn't a lot of time for just playing with their children. The children too, are subject to a heavy load of responsibilities , from tending sheep to running the family store, to babysitting their siblings, etc. The family unit is a necessity for mere survival.
In the morning, we toured the Gyantse Monastery, housing a large stupa chock full of temples. We next headed over to the Gyantse fort, perched high above the town, offering spectacular views of the area. Directly outside of the fort stands a modern, Chinese "liberation" monument. Having finished our Gyantse tour, we hopped in the car and drove to Shigatse.