Today's, September 7th, drive from Shigatse to Shegar can best be characterized as speed up, slow down. While the Chinese have invested tens of millions into improving the road systems, the roads were riddled with deep – 5 feet – holes marked by rocks. Landslides created more blockages with house size rocks strewn across the highway and then there were
the convoys of Chinese officials traveling at twice the posted speed with police escort in full bloom – flashing lights and all. AND it was absolutely stunning.
The Tibetan plateau began to reveal herself just after we left Shigatse. The brown fields of barley were ready for harvest at the lower altitudes and Tibetan families were in full force for the fall harvest. Winter is just a few weeks away given this area’s altitude of over 15,000 feet.
The small villages dotting the hillsides gave character to a land not needing any. The Tibetan workers were colorful with red threads in their hair, colorful jewelry and gentle faces. Once again we shared the road with horse carts and an interesting contraption, kind of a Tibetan hybrid – an open engine mounted on two wheels pulling a wooden cart – a true horseless carriage!
One striking stop was where the mile marker on the road marked exactly 5000KM from the Shangi Central Post Office. A huge sign marked the location as well as the regular trinket vendors. But the kids left the mark. They asked us for money in a very aggressive style until they figured out we were not going to give in. Then they had fun looking at themselves on our digital camera displays and laughing easily as we tried to talk to them. At one point they were reciting the ABC’s in English!
We also entered the Chogomolga National Park or reserve that Tibet has set aside for protection of the Mount Everest region. Another huge sign, in Chinese, marked the spot and the officials stopped there for a while before speeding past us. On a clear day, you can get the first view of Mount Everest a few miles down the road but not today.
I really liked today. I felt like we were moving from city tourist to climbers. The openness of the Tibetan Plateau was awe inspiring. The views of an endless sky motivational and of course our first sighting of mountains well over 18,000’ was, well, you know.
Tomorrow is an acclimatization day and we will take a long hike higher to push our red blood cell generation. The next, Sunday we will drive to Base Camp.
One last thought. I don’t know what is going on in Tibet and don’t want to speculate here. But I do see improvements in health care, roads, power and communications. I also see the traditional way of life in full force from clothes to yaks grazing freely to small villages with lot’s of children. All I know is that they have their memories and that is a strong factor in individuals, families, communities and cultures. And that cannot be taken away by man.
Please remember, Memories are everything.