Today we left Shigatse for New Tingri. Encountered several police roadblocks today where the drivers are told how long they should take to travel to the next checkpoint. As the times appear to bear no resemblance to actual travel times, we had to make several roadside stops to ensure we met the time frames. We passed through many Tibetan villages and saw lots of activity in relation to harvesting of the barley crop. Passed through Tsole Pass (altitude 4,500 metres) which, like many sites in Tibet is festooned with prayer flags. Had a stop over at Sakya Monastery, from where the current Panchen Lhama is meant to live. Appointed by the Dalai Lhama, the current PPanchen Lhama is under house arrest in Beijing. The Monastery is filled with artefacts, treasures etc and would be irreplaceable, as are all these monasteries, temples and palace.
Lunch was at a "restaurant" in a little town after leaving the monastery. We were the centre of attention for many of the locals. Whilst the meal was plentiful and good, the restaurant had its own character. There were already many flies in evidence, but when they opened the curtains on the main window, literally hundreds of flies were disturbed and took flight. Passed through Goato Pass, which with an elevation of 5248 metres, is higher than Everest Base Camp, and provided views of snow capped mountains. Whilst Everest Base camp is still closed to visitors, I did have my photo taken with the road sign.
Eventually arrived at New Tingri (also known as Shegar) where we stayed at the Everest Hotel. This is apparently where many Everest expeditions choose to stay. Having said that, we stayed in the new section, which was an experience. Whilst the rooms were large, they did not appear to be new, and the rooms share a common loange and entertainment area. However, the generator stopped a couple of times in the evening, and is turned off at late at night until the early morning.
Left the Everest Hotel at 7:00am to travel to Old Tingri for an early morning view of Mt Everest and some of the other mountains. As soon as we left New Tingri, we had to stop at an immigration post where we all had to present our passports for inspection. Then back on the bus to New Tingri. We stopped at several spots or views of the mountains. I was a little dissappointed with Everest, as it is behind other mountains and not as inmpressive as one would expect. But still, I've seen Mt Everest and got the photo's to prove it (Everest is just off centre in the attached photo, behind the other mountains). This morning is the only time I have needed my parka. Otherwise, Tibet has been hot and sunny.
Lunch was at a restaurant in a town called Nyalla.
This afternoon, we left the Tibetan Plateau, and made the descent to Zhangmu, with an altitude of only 2,300 metres. The road down the plateau is long and winding, along the sides of a valley. However, twicce during the descent, we passed checkpoints. Zhangmu is a busy town on the sloping side of the valley, with what apears to be a single winding road weaving through its centre. Along this road trucks are parked for kilometres waiting to get through Chinese Customs and to Nepal. Our bus driver showed great skill in negotiating the narrow road and parked vehicles and oncoming traffic.
The lush greeness of this part of Tibet is in stark contrast to the dry and arid plateau we have been on for the past week.
Tomorrow we queue up for processing at the Chinese Customs office, which our escort advises can take 1.5 hours. We will then meet a new local guide and bus for our time in Nepal.