On the descent down the western bank of the river, small villages and on a small spur on the road side, the monastery of Tö.
Abstract= We take the Maphu la pass and visit the monastery of Shekar Dz. Then pass the Chinese check-points and the Tse la pass before going down again in a valley which we will follow up to the foot of Everest.
Chuchar. Early in the morning we are struck by the number of vehicles travelling at full speed, towards Lhasa. During the night on several occasions we were awakened by the sound of trucks travelling at high speed crossing the city. We learn that this year is a great pilgrimage to the Mt Kaïlas, the most holy mountain in Tibet. Mt Kailas is the object of pilgrimages among Hindus. Thousands of Tibetans of Central Tibet break their moneyboxes to take part in it. What is striking are the severity of the conditions these people will endure to achieve this pilgrimage. Both the trucks and the pilgrims are brown with dust. Many travel in the open air, clinging to the racks of the truck, regardless of the weather, day or night, their heads hidden under a bulky balaclava, This three non-stop days of travel would be martyrdom for us but nothing can stop Tibetans in the achievement of their faith.
Our breakfast is taken at "the Hotel of Farmer". Yesterday evening, the room was closed! 35 hours? We leave Chuchar. Shortly after having left the city we pass a checkpoint at the place where the road divides, the right-hand road leads to Namling whereas that of the left leads to Dingri and the Nepalese border.
We follow the latter. The road goes up in a desert landscape valley up to the Tse la pass (5264m high).
Close to the top, we pass many herds of sheep.
We were received warmly. The monastery is under reconstruction and I only give a modest gift because I was not able to change enough money in Shigatse.
We go down the valley and we stop in the new city of Baiba where the majority of the buildings are Tibetan. We found a restaurant for lunch whilst the guide went to the office to get a "pass" to access to the road to Everest. The last time I was there, seven years ago, there was only one Chinese building isolated in the middle of the plain which looked like an abandoned blockhouse. It appears that the country has enjoyed a certain prosperity and that the number of the houses has doubled since the departure of the Dalai-Lama.
At Baiba, is the junction with the road of Shekar Dzong located in a large valley on the right. Several km further this valley is splits.
On the right, we can see the new Chinese city (or Prefecture of Tingri) in front of the Tibetan city located at the foot of the spur which disects the plain in two. One can see in detail the ruins of the fortress which dominated the valley and the monastery on the north of the rocky edge. We park the Toyota and follow a quite narrow bendy track by climbing to the monastery. The path is narrow that it is difficult to imagine, how in the past, so many materials were transported for the construction of all the buildings. The monastery is in the middle of a field of ruins.
The first monastery was founded during the 13th century and spanned a site ten times larger than it does to day as we can see on the old painting of the site. We cross the gate of the enclosing wall by a series of steps because the incline is steep.
We visit the Dukhang and a chapel. The buildings are scattered on both sides of the path.
In this place we can also see the importance of the old fortress where several thousands soldiers lived.
We return to the crossroads of Baiba and continue in the southerly direction.
We soon arrive at another check-point where Chinese soldiers again peer at our papers... The road of Tingri is due E.
After several kilometres we take a southern road which follows a valley on the left, and in the first village, we came accross a second check-point which checks the "Everest pass" to reach Rong phu.
Many bends were negociated before arriving at the top of the Tse la pass (5234m).
The landscape has not been cleared and we hope to see the sight of Everest in Rongphu!
The Himalayan range seems very distant. Coming from the N, it seems that it is moving back as we approach it! In the descent, road works are in progress and the road quality is terrible. Over the month our spine has been subjected to extremely rough treatment. We have the impression we breathe again iwhen the driver decides to leave the road and cross through fields.
We descended into a fertile valley, cross Trashidzong and pass several villages before going up upstream which leads us to the monastery of Rongphu, 6 kilometres away from the Everest No1 North Base Camp.
The valley is broad enough and widens to give access to a plain with accumulated gravel more than 100m high. When the road forks, due south, we can see the top of Everest and the close peaks which pass again and again in front of our eyes open in wonder.
The track is difficult due to the numerous sections of road works we meet here and there along the road.
Arriving at Rongphu, we discovered a large white chorten. The weather was a little cold and the landscape not completely clear.
But Everest was there, with small light clouds masking its summit. The guesthouse, separated from the monastery, was composed of a series of rooms which formed an L facing the monastery on the opposite (or west) side of the road. Fifteen tourists have just arrived and we met them in the restaurant.
As in all the public places in China or in Tibet, the mere act of sitting down brings a girl with hot pot of tea and a smile. We raise the curtains of the window to wait the moment when the snowy top would be entirely cleared, but apparently it would not be cleared for this evening. The next morning, the group aims to go to the base camp on foot. Olivier will join them.