Our First Of What Would Be Many Flat Tires
We had noticed upon arrival in Gyantse that the front passenger tire had a big bulge in it. We pointed it out to the driver and he motioned that he would change it. He does not speak English, so communicating on the trip has been challenging. It turned out that all he did was switch the tire from the front to the back. We were only 10 minutes or so outside of Gyantse when it blew. We were stopped in front of a small Tibetan farm along side the road. We were there for about half an hour while the driver put on the spare tire. A lady came out from the house. She approached the truck and starred into the windows. She looked at everything with great curiosity. She seemed to be enjoying the Tibetan music the driver had playing. We said hello to her in Tibetan, but that was about all we could communicate. We all just kept exchanging smiles with her.
A Delay Due To Road Construction Turns Out To Be A Social Gathering
Further along the road we were made to detour by some police. We had to put the truck into 4 wheel drive and go through some rustic Tibetan villages. When we eventually came back to the main road we looked back and could see the police in the distance. We were made to detour for no apparent reason, there was nothing wrong with the road. Many times we had to go off the road like this and do side detours. We came to a bunch of 4 wheel drives in front of us. We got out to see what was happening this time. Our trip seemed to be full of delays and detours. The road ahead was closed for construction. It was to reopen at 5pm, so we had about an hour to wait.
We have noticed they do construction here in an all or nothing mode. They don’t do sections of the road or just one side at a time like we do in North America, so that some traffic can still continue through. Instead they just rip up miles and miles of it and have it all in complete mayhem, bringing all traffic to a halt.
The delay turned out to be a great social atmosphere. All the travelers in the other vehicles gathered around to chat. Soon locals were coming out of the nearby fields to check things out. We had to keep a close eye on the vehicle as peering eyes were fixated on objects inside.
A Tibetan man approached Jack. He was yet another person curious about our Tibet Lonely Planet book. Seeing the pictures in the book may be the only time some Tibetans get to see images of the rest of their country. He was a Khampa Tibetan, they wear their hair in a long black braid that they wrap around their head with a red scarf.
He knew some of the places and pointed to the pictures with great pleasure. He couldn’t speak any English, but was getting across that he did not know where some of the pictures were. Jack showed him on the map of Tibet. When he was finished looking at the book he did a strange thing. He unwrapped the red scarf from his hair and took down the braid. Then he held up the book and tapped the edge of it on the top of his head. He thanked Jack and wrapped his hair back up.
We have no idea what this all was, but we now consider our book to be blessed in some way. In actual fact he was probably blessing himself with it. Maybe he knows or has been told there is a preface in the front of it that was written by the Dalai Lami. On that subject, we are lucky this was not ripped out by the customs officials at the airport. We have heard this happens to many travelers. In some cases they have confiscated the entire book! We buried ours deep in our backpacks.
We Decide To Alter Our Trip And Go To Sakya
Finally the road opened back up. We had decided while waiting that we were going to a village called Sakya. We originally wanted to go there, but were told by the agency that the road was closed. The group in front of us was going, their driver said the road was open, so we were going to follow. We drove for sometime through beautiful mountains. They are so close to the road you feel like you can reach out and touch them. Then we went through a pass that offered an incredible view of the valley below. We stopped for a picture. High up on a hill was a big set of prayer flags. We had Thomas, our fellow traveler take a picture of us. It was a special day, our 15th wedding anniversary, What a great place to be to celebrate it, we couldn’t think of a better place to be than Tibet!
Yet another detour was in front of us. Suddenly the road ahead was clogged with construction. We diverted and had to 4×4 under a bridge and along a bumpy road. We thought our driver was lost again, as this seems to be a common occurrence for him. He proved us wrong this time though and found the main road again. The turnoff sign to Sakya appeared in front of us. It was another 25km to the town and we could see it far in the distance.
Wandering Around The Little Village Of Sakya
We arrived and found the place we wanted to stay for the night. It wasn’t too hard, the town only had a few streets. The hotel was very pleasant and modern for such a small place. It was the only hotel in the village with water, but unfortunately their machine was broken that pumped it in. We got a substantial 100 yuan discount for the inconvenience. The beds were the most comfortable we had slept in for a long time. Too bad the water was not available, the bathroom had a huge soaker tub.
We spent the rest of the evening climbing up a mountain to a set of large stupas. The view was very nice on top, it looked over the town. On the way we passed by many locals. They looked at us with curiosity. Some said Tashi Delek to us and others smiled. We stayed up on the mountain until the sun was starting to set. It was raining in the distance and we got a double rainbow right behind the stupas creating a nice scene. There were ruins scattered along the mountainside. They were remnants of buildings that were destroyed during the invasion of the red guards.
In the morning we went to the monastery. It was founded in 1073. It was one of the largest in Tibet prior to the cultural revolution. This monastery is very unique compared to the others in Tibet. It was built like a fortress with watch towers on each of the corners. The monastery has many chapels. There is a very spooky protector chapel that has ugly stuffed wolves hanging from the entrance. The inside has scary looking monsters and masks. There are also paintings all over the walls of intestines and other human body parts.
Sakya was the capital of Tibet in 1268 to 1354. Here the alliance between the Sakya Lamas and the Mongol Khans developed to rule Tibet. In 1251 an abbot of Sakya became the ruler of all of Tibet. This was the first religious government with a lama as head of state. It set an important precedence for Tibetan government.
Onwards To The Dusty, Middle Of No Where Village Of Lhatse
We left Sakya at about 1pm and traveled to our next destination of Lhatse at an elevation of 4050m. This is the smallest town of nothing we have ever been in. The town literally consists of two roads that intersect. It is in the middle of no where and there is little to do. We stopped here because it is the only place between our last town and Everest Base Camp. It is much too long of a drive to get to the base camp in one day.
The main road is lined with ugly looking boxed style buildings. They consist of tire repair places and small confectioneries selling toilet paper and water. We managed to find a place to buy some fruit. There are a couple of guest houses and one large Chinese style hotel. We stayed at a Tibetan style guest house called Lhatse Tibetan Farmers Adventure Hotel! Oh boy, what an adventure! There is no water to wash in except at the more expensive larger hotel. Apparently there is a local bath house for the people that live in the town. So this would be day number two with no water for us. We were getting pretty smelly!
This place is about as rustic as you can get. There are only a couple of dirt roads that make up the town. Most of the other groups in the 4×4 convoy ended up coming to stay at the same place. It was not like they had a lot of other choices! Surprisingly there is a town disco. They have a disco ball and the whole works. We were invited out by some of the other travelers. We declined, we all had to be up by 5:30am, they were obviously hardier than us. They ended up staying out until 3am, how crazy!
I had my first boob grabbing experience here, by a young girl of all people. I walked out the front door of our guest house and was suddenly stunned as this girl grabbed my boob and made a big blowing motion with her face. I guess boobs are a big attraction for the Tibet people. This would not be the last incident of this kind for me.
We went to the main store, it had water, packaged noodles. dried yak meat, and some snickers bars. It also had a small bulk food section with some nuts and other dried substances. They had sticky paper on the container lids, it was covered in hundreds of flies. The rest of the store had some outdated clothing. Everything was very dirty and disorganized.