April 12 update – Kathmandu to Tibet – Communication Issues!
Today we arrived in the small village of Tingri on the Tibetan plateau at 4340m elevation. Tingri has been described by some people as the arm-pit of Tibet. I am not sure I agree with this. I think backside would be more appropriate. There is certainly enough faeces of the human, dog and horse variety flying around the main street to indicate we are very close to a backside.
Some people also call it a one horse town. I also disagree with that statement as I saw at least 4 horses pulling carts on my short walk before. It was nice to see the local dog population thriving in numbers (if not in health). I took some stones with me in my pocket in-case they got tired of me staring at them and decided to eat me.
Our first day of the drive was very productive. We drove all the way from Kathmandu, over the border into Tibet, through the village of Zhangmu where most people normally stop for the night, and onto Nyalam. Nyalam is located at around 3500m elevation and is a good height to start acclimatising. It was so cold in Nyalam when we arrived, I jumped into my sleeping bag and curled up into the fetal position to warm up. Thankfully it started snowing after sometime and this warmed up the ambient air temperature somewhat so that I could emerge and have some dinner.
Our choice of food and accommodation in Tibet is all controlled by the CTMA – China Tibet Mountaineering Association. Thus we wandered down to the CTMA run restaurant and tucked into a hearty dinner of ‘Chinese food’. Being married to a lady of Chinese descent and having lived in Asia for 14 years I feel qualified to make the comment that the food being served was not representative of the superbly tasty, imaginative and creative Chinese cuisine that I am used to. Cooking oil must be cheap in Nyalam judging by the amount being used in each dish, all over the floor and all over the tables. I have been eating as much as I can force down at each meal however am normally starving within 30 minutes. I assume this is an indication of the nutritional content of the food. Either that or I am a greedy pig.
My biggest challenge in Nyalam was to get my USB modem working for my computer so I could update my blogs. I had a China Telecom modem and it did not work when I fired my computer up. I realised I did not have the correct configuration software for the modem. The software I needed is a small 10MB file which I could normally download and install in less than a minute. If I had an internet connection. I sat down and tried many different things for over 3 hours to get it working, to no avail.
The next day I wandered up the main street of town (affectionately called the ‘Champs Elysees’ by my team member )and found a China Telecom store. “Ahh, my problems are solved!”, I thought excitedly. Surely they will have the installation software and I will be up and running in a few minutes? Unfortunately, I cannot speak any Chinese or Tibetan and the staff (a young lady with flushed cheeks and a loud shreaky voice) had no english. I called my friend in Shanghai who spoke Chinese and she spoke to the lady with the the shreaky voice. After a heated sounding conversation she finally shreaked back that it was impossible. But would I like a cup of coffee?
After the coffee, I left the store quite dejectedly and wandered back down to the hotel when I came across a small store with an internet sign on it. I wandered in. The PC’s were in all in Chinese language, but it turned out to be my lucky day. The husband of the store owner was in there and he happened to be the english teacher at the school in Nyalam. His name was Pasang and he sat down and helped me download the software and get my modem working. Nice chap.
I then had another surprise when I found that wordpress (my blog site) is blocked in China. So I have to use other means of uploading my blog posts so people can follow my progress. This is not the end of the world, but means I cannot interact with people easily and reply to comments from you people, the very nice readers who make them. I enjoy this interaction very much. I can still see your comments I just cant reply to them for the time being.
Today we drove from Nyalam to Tingri. This is a spectacular drive where we headed over two major passes, the Thong La (5120m) and the Lalung La (5124m). From the Thong La there is superb views of Shishapangma , the worlds 14th highest mountain. Her summit was covered in cloud unfortunately. After some more driving we had our first glimpse of Mt Everest, still far away. She looked huge, windy and cold, even at this distance. But extremely beautiful. I looked at the point I climbed to last year at 8350m on the North Ridge and could not believe how I had even got that high. There was a huge plume of snow blowing off the North Ridge, indicating the very high jet stream winds. These are normally in the region of 100 – 300km/hr. To the right of Everest we could see the worlds 6th highest mountain Cho Oyu. It was an inspiring and magnificent yet at the same time daunting site which made part of me want to climb back into my sleeping bag and curl up in the fetal position.
We will be here in Nyalam for two nights acclimatising, before driving a few more hours up to basecamp. So far I am taking each day as it comes, appreciating the drive-in, getting to know my team mates and enjoying the daily walks I take up surrounding hills close to the villages.
Our team consists of 7 climbers and 10 Sherpa staff, with some additional Tibetan helpers. I will introduce the team members in consecutive posts.
Lots of love from the rear-end of Tibet.
(uploaded by David Lim, 2225hrs, April 12th)