Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Itinerary. Rongphu, Lao Tingri and Zhangmu, Tibet, China.

Oh boy. Best I can tell, when we leave Sakya, we pretty much are entering the wild, wild west of Tibet. First stop. Rongphu which is known for its monastery and for the fact that it's the launch point to Everest Base Camp.

Situated at an elevation of 4980m (16,338 ft), Rongphu Monastery holds the distinction of being the highest monastery in the world. According to the Lonely Planet guide, Rongphu once served as the center of religious activity for around a dozen neighboring religious institutions but is now experiencing quieter times with only about 20 nuns and 10 monks in residence. With Mt. Everest serving as the backdrop, the Monastery and its chörten in the foreground should provide for some spectacular photo ops.

From the Monastery, it supposedly only takes 90 minutes to hike the 9Km to base camp and there's not much of an incline - ascending only 220m over the 9Km. I should be well acclimated to the elevation by then and if my lungs are cooperating, I think it would be worthwhile doing the walk - I'll just take it slow. Not sure what other alternatives there are.....but one way or another, I will make it up there!!

From Rongphu, we begin to descend in elevation as we continue on our journey back to Kathmandu. Next stop. The bustling metropolis of Lao Tingri situated at 4390m. Okay, who am I kidding? Lao Tingri, a bustling metropolis? I could barely find Lao Tingri on any map of Tibet let alone find an image to post up on this blog. Lonely Planet describes the town as
"a photogenic huddle of Tibetan homes that overlooks a sweeping plain bordered by towering Himalyan peaks."
I read that as the "ïtsy, bitsy town in the middle of nowhere surrounded by big mountains". Whatever it turns out to be, I'm looking forward to getting there and maybe just soaking in the vistas. You never know, it may just prove to be a welcome break from touring monasteries.

Our last Tibetan town before crossing the border into Nepal is Zhangmu and it should be an interesting place to hang up the backpack for the night. By the time we reach Zhangmu, we'll be on the southern side of the Himalayas where the landscape is much more green and lush - rainfall slams up against the tallest mountain range in the world and deposits itself in this region. Apparently, the population of Zhangmu also reflects its geographical location - a mix of Tibetans, Nepalis and Han Chinese. Though it's described as a bit of tourist trap, I'm thinking it'll be nice to be back in "civilization" and I'm hoping there's a chance for a hot shower!
Located 8km south of Zhangmu is the Friendship Bridge which is the border between Tibet and Nepal. From there it will be about a 4 to 5 hour ride back to Kathmandu where experiencing the Hindu festival of Dashain awaits me!