Friendship Highway to Everest


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May 8th 2017
Published: July 5th 2017
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EverestEverestEverest

...unbelievable, stunning...insert superlative of choice here...
Our stay in Lhasa had come to an end and it was now time to get in the van and explore the Friendship Highway and even more importantly Everest Base Camp...while in Nepal we had toyed with the idea of doing the trek to that base camp, but with it clocking in at around two weeks round trip we just didn't want to devote that much of our vacation to it...we did however take a plane tour out of Kathmandu to try and get a peek at the peak, and while we did see it in the distance the tour abruptly came to a halt halfway through as we turned around and headed back to Kat...no idea why, but with the safety of Nepali airlines being somewhat dubious we were glad to be back on Terra Firma, although disappointed we didn't get a better view of Everest...

No matter now, we were on our way to see the North Face of Everest, and with fingers crossed the weather that day would be in our favour...a lot of km's to cover before then so after a quick breakfast we were on the road and on our way...

Not much to
Prayer WheelsPrayer WheelsPrayer Wheels

...at Gyamtse Kumbum..
report from the highway itself, the scenery was beautiful but it was slow going climbing up and down over mountains along switchback roads, very cool though...plenty of stops along the way to soak in the vistas and stretch our legs, with the odd monastery or point of interest thrown in...started reaching some higher altitudes as well now, around the 4500-5000 meter mark which was higher than I had ever been...fortunately the whole gang was fine with it, slowed down the hiking a bit but no major side effects...

After the first long day of driving we arrived at Gyantse where we would spend the night...in the morning we did get to visit the Gyantse Kumbum at the Pelkor Chode Monastery which was really cool...with six floors filled with tiny chapels and more impressively what seemed like an endless amount of paintings, this "kumbum" is considered to be the most important of its kind...

Back in the van and back on the road; this day would include more stunning scenery and switchback roads, a stop at a local home along the way to join the family for yak tea and some fermented drink (the name escapes me, but a fancy ritual goes along with it while downing 3 consecutive shots when first served...haha...), the gateway to the Everest region and finally our first glimpse of the mountain herself, awesome!

Shegar was our stop this night, and with a late arrival and even later dinner we didn't see much of the town...we were all getting excited to see Everest the following day so an early night...

Short couple of hours on the road the next morning before we arrived at our destination of Rongbuk, alighting from the van to behold the majesty of Everest...it was right there! I could not believe how close we were, and would still be able to get about 10kms closer that afternoon...it was mid-morning and while we were chomping at the bit to get going, we were told to be patient and grab a bite to eat before leaving...didn't really understand why the wait but I think it may have had something to do with the weather; there were more clouds in the morning obscuring the peak and these seemed to lessen when we started out...just a theory and maybe just complete coincidence...

At any rate the time had come, we hopped back into the van to shave off some of the km's and landed at the Tent Camp...not to be confused with Base Camp, this is a bit of a derelict campground complete with yak-haired tents and souvenir stalls...also the furthest point you can drive to, the rest would be on foot...

Didn't hang around too long (really at all) before we all started heading up the road to begin our 4 km hike into Base Camp...we were now at about 5000 meters, so the altitude was noticeable and the going was slow for me...fortunately we caught a break with the weather; it was a beautiful day with minimal clouds, perfect for a nice hike in...we were slowly making our way up to 5200 meters, and about an hour and a half later there we were, Everest and Base Camp!

Wow...nothing more came to mind, utterly speechless standing there looking up at the most famous mountain in the world...obviously lots of views during the hike but now that I was actually there it was a truly peaceful yet extraordinary moment, one I will never forget...

After the obligatory photo ops at the 5200 meter marker (and a whole lot more with Chinese folks...westerners are certainly curiosities here, no idea how many Chinese vacation photos I'm in but it's a bunch...) we climbed the small hill adorned with thousands of prayer flags to soak in all the beauty of Everest and surrounding area...this is as far as non-trekkers can go, Base Camp itself is about half a kilometer further still but off limits to us day-trippers...no matter, the views were stunning and we had plenty of time to grab pics and to truly appreciate where we were...K and I had also brought along some prayer flags we purchased in Lhasa, so after we signed them Jinba helped us secure them in place, really cool experience...

Sadly our visit was up and now time to begin the hike back to Tent City...all downhill now so much easier which was nice...some folks went to check out the Monastery when we got back but I was kinda tired for some reason so opted for a nap in our room with no heat; just an electric heating pad on the mattress, and two feet of blankets on top...just barely did the trick, but have to say we took some solace in the fact that this would be our last squat toilet of the trip and likely last cold night...haha...crappy dinner paired with Dicky's fantastic homemade Ginger Tea and it was nighty night...

Back on the road and pointed towards Lhasa, two days of driving ahead of us...I really didn't mind, the van was comfortable for the most part, the scenery was amazing and it was nice to just zone out and watch the world go by...had the usual pit stops, passed back through the gates to the Everest region and it had snowed overnight, kinda weird and funny having a snowball fight with the gang where only days earlier there was none on the ground...Shigatse was our final overnight stop where we shared a huge delicious meal at the hotel, visited the Tashilhunpo Monastery in the morning and then back to where we started in Lhasa that afternoon...

We were to leave for Kathmandu the following morning, and normally a farewell dinner is had the last night of the tour, but due to restrictions placed on Tibetans in regards to passports (they are not permitted to get a passport unless they become Chinese citizens apparently) our guides would not be joining us, so this night would sadly be it...went to a cool place who's name once again escapes me but shared a ton of tasty dishes between us...Jinba got up and sang/danced a traditional Tibetan song, others in the gang sang a trad song from their country (I managed the chorus of The Hockey Song by Stompin' Tom Connors, kudos to all non-Canadians who recognize that...haha...) and then lots of hugs all around...

And with that our Tibetan adventure had come to an end...got to spend some more time over breakfast and the ride to the airport with Jinba, Dicky and Tashi before final hugs and sad goodbyes...

An amazing place, the scenery and star attractions were fantastic, but more importantly the people we met along the way and shared a laugh or two with will certainly stick with me...thanks for reading along...

(Some photos copyright of Karen C., denoted by (KC)...used with kind permission)


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MeMe
Me

(KC)
Pelkhor Chode MonasteryPelkhor Chode Monastery
Pelkhor Chode Monastery

...sadly did not get there, looks cool though...
New Friend...New Friend...
New Friend...

...stopped by this woman's home for tea and home brew, very cool...
Parabolic Dish...Parabolic Dish...
Parabolic Dish...

...used to heat water, loved it...
The lads...The lads...
The lads...

...receiving our yak tea...(KC)
CheersCheers
Cheers

(KC)


6th July 2017
Yak

Gorgeous colours!
But the yak looks sad, poor guy...
6th July 2017
Yak

Fo sho...
...yeah, loved the colours in this pic but they do look miserable...the Tibetan Mastiffs were even worse, chained up for tourist pics...
6th July 2017

Wow indeed!
Thanks for sharing your journey with us, your photos are amazing! So lucky you had such a lovely blue sky day for the hike to base camp :)
6th July 2017

Thank you...
...appreciate all the comments and kind words!
7th July 2017

Amazing place!
Very nice place ,thanks for sharing.
7th July 2017

Tibet
Simply amazing adventure. Really enjoying following along.
10th July 2017

Tibet
Thanks for reading along, it truly was a great adventure...
3rd September 2020

amazing!
you had an amazing Tibet tour.
3rd September 2020

Great trip indeed...
...fantastic country and people...

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