Day 7: via Yandrok Tso to Gyantse
Gyangze Travel Blog› entry 7 of 24 › view all entries
Time really flies here in Tibet. Today we will leave Lhasa behind and drive into Tibet's countryside. Ils and I are not in the mood anymore for yet another greasy hotel breakfast and decide to eat in our room. I have my kettle to make a nice cup of tea and we eat the rolls we bought yesterday and the bananas. Not only does it taste superb, we also win a lot of time as we do not need to get to the breakfast room and not wait in line.
We'll continue our journey with six four wheel drive vehicles. Four passengers fit into one such jeep and we were asked to form teams with our fellow travellers. Ils and I decide to wait and see. After all there are already quite a few families and couples travelling with friends. We do not want to split those up.
And so we end up in the very first jeep, together with our Tibetan guide Jimmy and fellow traveller Stefan.
As soon as all luggage is on board, we get going. It's pretty cool, such a 4WD vehicle, and it's a lot more comfortable than the bus. It's rush hour and first we need to leave the city and wave the Potala goodbye. Too bad that it's again very grey and drizzling today. Let's hope it'll clear out still.
After a short ride we arrive to a lake we also passed on the way from the airport to Lhasa. It just looks a lot less inviting without the golden shimmer of the sun. But today we have time of a stop so I go to check it out anyways. This is a lake used by the Tibetans for a water burial. The dead body is dismembered and thrown into the water... for the fish to eat.
After this short intermezzo, we continue our journey through the mountainous landscape. As we are in the first jeep, it's funny to look behind and see the convoy of vehicles behind us. We try to take pictures of them in the sharp mountain curves, but the jeep moves too fast to get a really good picture.
A little further we get to the first mountain pass of our journey. It's still very grey and foggy and visibility is close to zero but that doesn't stop me from hiking towards the highest point. Not that easy at this altitude! After each step I need to catch my breath. It's nice to observe the numerous prayer flags moving with the wind and the many little towers of loose stones.
When everyone had to chance to stretch his/her legs and empty their bladders, it's time to go again. We have to climb a lot higher still, all the way to the Kambala pass from where you can see the Yamdrok Tso Lake. We do not stop at the actual pass, which is extremely touristic and full of vendors and beggars. Our driver is smart enough to stop a little further down the road from where there is an equally nice view but without all the buzz around it.
Despite the grey sky, the turquoise colour of the lake is very vibrant and contrasting beautifully with the plenty colourful prayer flags. A little further, there's a festively adorned yak with his owner. For a small fee you can have your picture taken on the beast. So touristic, but I don't mind! I'd love to pose for such a funny scene. There's also a dog and a goat that you can have your photograph taken with, but for me the yak is more than enough.
Another improvised toilet stop and we are on our way again, descending towards the banks of the lake. Our tour rep knows a nice place where we can picnic. We've all gotten a lunch box from Dunya so everyone's exited about it. We choose a quiet spot to eat our cheese sandwich and banana but too bad, just now it starts to rain.
We continue our journey following the banks of the lake, which is said be scorpion-shaped, and make one last quick photo stop before leaving the Yamdrok Tso completely behind us. We continue going higher and higher back into the mountains and the sky turns greyer and greyer again. We continue climbing until we reach a glacier on a pass of 5020 meters altitude. We stop first before the actual pass, again to avoid the circus of beggars and the likes.
A little further ahead is the actual pass with the mark stone. It's a true tourist circus with numerous beggars, children and yaks to have your picture taken with. There are also toilets, which are welcome as I really need to go. It's just a hole in the ground but so very filthy!!!
Because of the very overcast sky, I cannot really stop the top of the glacier and it is drizzling again. Therefore we don't stay too long. Just enough to catch the 5020m mark on camera.
The next stop is an artificial lake built by the Chinese. Despite the dark grey sky, the water is brightly turquoise.
This was the last stop before Gyantse. In the mean while it has cleared out and Gyantse gives a bit of a sleepy and dusty impression. We'd like to head straight to the hotel but the road is closed for construction. We need to deviate but our driver seems to be a little lost and we keep driving in circles in an attempt to find the hotel's courtyard. After a few more rounds we eventually find the right place. The lobby of the hotel is very large and looks inviting, but it's very cold. We can feel right away that we are at a higher altitude here. But fortunately our room has a little electrical heater and we have a nice view on the fortress above the city.
We agreed with a few fellow travel buddies to go and explore the town a little, so after dropping our luggage we meet again at the lobby. We wanted to go and explore the fortress but change plans. The threatening grey rain clothes don't look too inviting. So instead we look for the old Tibetan quarter, in the neighbourhood of the monastery. As soon as we are on route, it starts raining. Because of this, there's nearly no life on the streets, apart from two lonely cows. In a small shop very close to the monastery we get some extra bottles of water and make a few kids happy with a few toys; but then we need to get back to the hotel as it's nearly dinner time.
We eat at Gyantse kitchen, right across our hotel. Although it takes a bit of effort and skill to cross the street which is completely broken up for construction.
back in our room a nice hot bad sounds very appealing, but from the tap there's only cold water. Fortunately there’s a kettle in the room and I even have my own kettle to try and fill up the tub. But thank goodness, after about 10 minutes the tap gets warmer and warmer and with a bit of patience everything functions as it should so that we can get to bed clean and relaxed.