Thursday, May 31, 2012

Flying High with Precious Flags

1. High for Everest
Tibet pushes you into survival in a dark moment with lots of tiny candles lit so you can see something. That's in those many monasteries and temples. Outside light is so bright and so strong that it sucks up life so that there's remote or a loneliness that would make Siberia seem a hot spot.

Yesterday our goal was Tibet side base camp of Mt. Everest. I had been told the road was paved and that seemed sort of a funny thing to do since four years ago I used every molecule of strength to trek for four weeks to get to the base camp on Nepal side, where most of the challenged climbers go. Touristas lie. A transversable road doesn't mean paved. I learned.

We set out early from our "motel" style guest house after a strange breakfast of peanuts, french fries, peel your own mangos and mangosteen, fried egg, fried pancake, and coffee or sweet yak tea. In a kilometer we had to stop a a Police Border Patrol to check our travel permits, visas, etc. This happens every day many times. Normally the guide shows the documents and they hand lift the single bar gate, and we go on. Today it was serious but we were first there and so the officers hand wasn't worn out. Everything has to be recorded by hand. We had one more of this type today and 3 more of the guide only
2. Tea with Pamba
3. Our crew preps flags
The road to Mt. Everest which cuts off of Friendship Highway (that goes from Shanghi China to border of Nepa)l suddenly turned into major gravel-dust wide pathway. It's not paved, alas. Just old fashioned wild west style of jockeying in your seat holding onto the car bars We curve like stiff snakes up two major passes - Pangla Pass is 17,108 ft was one but yesterday's Gyarsola Pass was 17,265 feet, the highest pass for our trip where we got our first view of Everest. Base camp is the same height as Pangla Pass. Mt. Everest stood like a brazen king, a mysterious great black wall with a knob on the top. It seemed easy to reach but was different than the snow covered range of Himalayas that included Makalu (5th highest in the world) on its left, and Lhotes (4th highest in world) on the right followed by Cho oyu (8th highest - sort of a wide mountain) and Shishipanma (14th highest). You spend the next 4 hours watching these glare at you as up them while we cover passes and blow away the dust. I was amazed at how we could see Everest all the time, unlike the Nepal side where you get a peek and don't really see much (clouds hang out there) til one reaches base camp.

4. I love Yaks
As we ascend, we pass descending yak trains, who paid no attention to my effort to stop them for a photo. They just dogged their heads strewn with colorful yarns, ribbons and bells and kept on going, the weight just shells of what they had lugged up for someones climbing camp. Suddenly we reached a nunnery (for Buddhist women and men) and a mile further was a tented city, base camp. It was fairly empty as most of the treks had ended and only three were yet scheduled to attempt this Tibetan side. Most of these tents belong to merchants who live there and spread their tourist ware in front of their tents - same stuff you get everywhere in Tibet - shell fossils from the ancient sea beds that these mountains were - beads, amber bracelets (how can there be amber in Tibet without any trees?) bronze Buddhist statues, rock things,same ole, same ole.

Nema and Purba found an old friend, Pamba, who treks to Nepal frequently and stays in their home in Pangboche. Pamba invited us into his warm well ordered for yak. I had watery hot chocolate.. You can imagine I'm rather yak-shy.

5. Nema hangs flags.
We gathered up some prayer flags from my granddaughter's lower school at St. Marys and hiked down the road a good distance - greeting more yak trains - so Nema, a true sherpa who has been up every mountain it seems, could climbed up huge rocks to find the most sacred place to hang these flags, not easy to do - no nails, hammers, etc. The wind immediately picked up the flags in its breath and you could feel the prayers of the children flying up past Mt. Everest to our Heavenly Father. I prayed in praise.

6. Flags hung
As we got on the road again, I was overwhelmed by the moment, but realized it was too easy and had I not had the experience in 2008 I'd have no appreciation for the struggle, the challenge, the pain and the accomplishment of that long haul where I learned more about life and its needs than any other time of my life. But I have been told that China is "going to" pave the road to Everest's Tibet's side. Then it'll be a joke. It's a day trip already for the tourist. Alas.

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