Referred by Tibetans as “Goddess Mother of Mountains,” Chomolungma (ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ 珠穆朗瑪峰) which commonly known as the Mount Everest, towers beyond the rest of the Himalayan peaks along the border between China and Nepal. From the north, tourists can come close to admire Everest’s majestic north face from the Tent Village (珠穆朗瑪峰大本營), where a cluster of tent structures were set up to serve tourists, while the real base camp for climbers at 5200m is off limit to normal tourists. At 5150m above sea level, the Tent Village of Everest Base Camp was the highest point in our entire journey. Arrived in Tibet for a week’s time and we were well acclimatized for the high altitude. Our plan was to stay the night at the Tent Village to boost our chance to see the world’s highest peak. Weather was of course the biggest unknown. It was not uncommon for tourists to be let down by poor weather and find the snow-capped Everest well concealed in the clouds.
At about 8:30am we left Shigatse for Tibet’s Everest Base Camp. In the car, we were excited and kept our fingers crossed to hope for a moment of clear sky when we arrived at the base camp. We spent most of the day to cover the 350km distance from Shigatse to the base camp. The route was mainly well paved along the China-Nepal Friendship Highway, except the last 100km of gravel road before reaching the Tent Village.
Shigatse is known as the “fertile land”. Along the journey, we often passed by golden fields of Highland Barley (青稞).
Political slogan such as “strengthen ethnic unity, create a beautiful Tibet” could be seen everywhere in Tibet, even on remote mountain slope.
As we headed west on the National Highway 318 (China-Nepal Friendship Highway), we passed by a number of roadside shrines and mountain passes with colourful prayer flags.
Despite Tibet is mainly arid in climate, its river valleys are fertile and heavily cultivated.
The National Highway 318, known as the China-Nepal Friendship Highway, is a nicely paved road that connects Shigatse with the Zhangmu border town.
Some parts of the valley seems like a semi-desert, covered with sand, gravel, salt and moss.
At around 2:30pm, we stopped by a restaurant at the intersection of National Highway 318 (China-Nepal Friendship Highway) and Country Road 216 near Shelkar/ New Tingri (ཤེལ་དཀར། 協格爾鎮) for lunch.
After lunch, we journey continued southwest towards the Everest Base Camp. Before our car left the National Highway 318, we passed by some highland pastures.
In less than an hour, we finally left the highway and arrived at the gateway of Everest National Park. Sangzhu dropped us at the admission office to get our admission tickets.
We continued to drive on Zhufeng Road (Mount Everest Road) for another 2 hours. The sun was moving west as we get closer to our destination. We were a little nervous because of the unpredictable weather, but also full of anticipation. At 5:20pm, we were just minutes away from Rongbuk Monastery. Beyond the clouds in front of us we could barely make out the profile and tip of Chomolungma or Mount Everest (ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ 珠穆朗瑪峰).
At 4980m above sea level, Rongbuk Monastery (རྫ་རོང་ཕུ་དགོན་ 絨布寺) is the highest monastery in the world. It offers tourists simple accommodation.
If the sky was clear, we could see the Mount Everest from the stuba at Rongbuk Monastery (རྫ་རོང་ཕུ་དགོན་ 絨布寺). Yet, luck was not on our side. All we could see was a thick layer of clouds.
We knew Chomolungma or Mount Everest (ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ 珠穆朗瑪峰) was right in front of us, but we just couldn’t see it with our own eyes. The Tent Village of Everest Base Camp (珠穆朗瑪峰大本營) was just minutes away. All we could hope for was a moment of clear sky before sunset.
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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet
Another day of fine weather, another day of lamasery visit in the Indus Valley. This time, we headed northwest along Indus River towards Kargil and Kashmir. With limited time, we could only reach as far as Lamayuru Gompa, and stopped by Alchi and Likir on our way back to Leh. We would have to wait till next time to see the lush green Alpine scenery of Kashmir near the border with Pakistan. Unlike the day before when we spent the day to hop from one monastery to another, this time around we would spend considerably more time on the road traveling greater distances between the three monasteries. Therefore, the hotel manager suggested us to hire a decent SUV for the day. We took his advice and hired an experienced driver and a comfortable SUV from our hotel. Tashi, a designated driver employed by Ladakh Greens Hotel, turned out to be a good guide and excellent driver who mastered great driving skills necessary for the treacherous mountainous roads. Apart from the time spent at the three monasteries, we were pretty much on the road for most of the day, speeding through the arid landscapes west of Leh.
Our SUV left Leh at about 7:30 in the morning and headed west along Indus River.
Soon after leaving Leh behind, we were completely surrounded by desert like landscape.
The confluence of Indus and Zanskar River at Nimo is a famous spot for white water rafting.
Students waiting for transportation at a small mountain village.
The mountain roads in Ladakh are popular for motorcyclists.
Road maintenance staff taking a break by the curb.
Before reaching Lamayuru Gompa, we reached a famous area with unique earth formation called the Lamayuru Moonland.
Peaceful landscape of wild flowers and scattered vegetation near Lamayuru.
Series of white stupas along mountain foot.
Crossing a bridge of prayer flags.
A group of students leaving a school building in a small mountain town.
A group of road maintenance staff resting beside the road.
Locals getting off a public bus at a small village.
Dramatic moon-like landscape and prominent gateway on our way back to Leh from Likir.
Basgo Gompa is another famous monastery west of Leh.
Magnetic Hill of Ladakh: an optical illusion of what looks like a downhill road is actually an uphill road.
Lots of colourful trucks were on the road with us during the day.
After seeing Lamayuru, Alchi and Likir, we headed back to Leh under the yellow sunlight in the late afternoon.
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Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi
The drive from Antofagasta to ESO’s (European Southern Observatory) Observatory at Paranal took about 2 hours. Driving in the Atacama Desert was not as adventurous as one might imagine. The roads, as least the ones that we took, were well paved and signed. For the first half hour we were driving on the Pan-American Highway (Route 5), where the road was frequented with trucks and long distant buses. Once we got off Pan-American Highway and ventured into the regional highways, we were pretty much on our own in the seemingly lifeless desert. Not a single tree or a patch of grass, only occasionally the roadside shrines that would stood out from the red earth, grey stones, and black asphalt. When we reached the entry road of the observatory, and not long after saw the four majestic Very Large Telescopes (VLT) on a distant hilltop, we were so relief to arrive safely and on time for our scheduled visit without getting lost in the Atacama.
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Read more on San Pedro de Atacama, 2013 South America
Day 49 – Arrival, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 50.1 – Geyser del Tatio, Atacama Dessert
Day 50.2 – Altiplano Wetland, near El Tatio
Day 50.3 – Machuca Village, Atacama
Day 50.4 – Stargazing, Atacama Dessert
Day 51.1 – Town, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 51.2 – Valle de la Muerte & Cordillera de la Sal, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 51.3 – Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama
Day 52.1 – Laguna Chaxa, Atacama
Day 52.2 – Lagunas Altiplanicas, Atacama
Day 52.3 – Tropic de Capricorn, Atacama
Day 53.1 – Pacific Ocean, Antofagasta
Day 53.2 – Nan King Restaurant, Antofagasta
Day 54.1 – On the Road, Atacama Desert
Day 54.2 – Paranal Observatory, Atacama Desert
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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought