Go country, Shigatse and Lake Namtso

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August 25th 2017
Published: August 25th 2017
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After 3 days acclimatising and monasteries, it is time to go country. Driving out of town on an approximately 7 hour journey, through a couple of check points and up the mountain side, kilometres of climbing, hair pin bends, green tinged mountains and mobs of yak which apparently begin to show above 4000 meters. The wild yak is unable to survive below 4000 meters, the cross breeds working their way down the altitude scale over time.

Of the traditional farming the Yak farmer is the prosperous one. Average mob size 120 – 150 value of around $2200 to $2500. Mostly the males are wandering the hills the female, Dri, kept closer to home for milking. The Yak milk is the survival tool for the high altitude workers, along with the meat and dung for the fire. Yak cheese, butter, meat, hide, wool, skulls, tails all very prized in the cities. Yak butter tea the champagne of teas, yak butter for the monastery candles, such huge versatility coming from the one easy care, high altitude animal.

Half way up the mountain we stop for smoko and traditional tourist shots with the huge Tibetan dogs and sit on a yak. Airs getting thinner, for me breathing a bit laboured.

At the pass, close to 5000 meters we get a look at Yamdrok holy Lake, spectacular scenery, prayer flags covering the pass, tourist cars, buses, vans crowding the car park, time for some snaps and continue with our journey.

Through beautiful fields of small holders on every piece of available and carveable land. Rape seed, two types of barley, Tibetan oil, all in their traditional plots, villages scattered along the river valleys, the higher villages abandoned till winter as the herders living out in the hills with their stock. A small twist to the tale of the shigatse and other country areas, illegal in Lhasa. A woman may take several men as her husbands commonly brothers, seen as a strengthening of the family bonds and the small holdings.

The once farming town of Shigatse has disappeared under construction, much the same as Lhasa over the last 5 years. Population of Shigatse district 2010 120,000 now a bustling city of 1,500,000, in the newer city, wide boulevards, Armani, yep another Chinese city.

The next morning returning to Lhasa its,” not another fucking monastery”. Tashi Lhunpo Monastery took care of all that. At the end of a potholed, under construction, track, was this beautifully presented monastery, the usual crowds of local devout, crowds of tourists and pilgrims, somehow the place moved me to tears, tears of wonderment, tears of joy, tears of sadness that others will always want to interfere in another’s expression of worship.

Day 2 of our country trips started off with half a new crew, picked up a couple of Americans from a 5 star Hotel, he coming out lugging a large oxygen bottle and two more into luggage, here we go. Sure enough they were a pain, altering the bus dynamic and especially a pain to DeKye our guide. A gander a Lake Namtso Lake facilities and she became mortally ill and wanted to be driven back to Lhasa, 6 hours, needless to say they were still there in the morning. De Kye guide absorbed it all with a smile.

The life of a tour guide is strictly controlled, these are the people with the most contact with foreign ideas and idealists. Yearly re education, selection process includes rigorous background checks, no black marks, no bad eggs in the family, no family living overseas.

At the moment Tibetans cannot get passports, those that do and go away, are unable to return, except for short yearly visits, all very controlled, random checks, street security, strictly controlled highways with many traffic and security checks

Some small compensations are allowed them such as free medical and education, denied the rest of China.

Namtso Holy Lake at 4700 meters has a stark beauty with a small seasonal tourist camp nestled by a rocky caved outcrop. The accommodation was bare, the food inedible, it rained all night all in keeping with a stark experience.

Return to Lhasa on the friendly highway that stretches from Shanghai to Nepal border, no doubt to go a lot further. Some of the infrastructure is stunning, from the sweeping railway structures, tunnels, support camps, great roads and bridges and trucks, trucks, trucks they can move some stuff.

A great experience Tibet, thank you.

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