A Long Road to the Top of the World
On our way from Lhasa to Everest we stopped at many small monasteries and villages. The monasteries were all amazing but after a few hundred Buddhas it all blends together. We passed many villages that we home to Tibetan farmers. We stopped at one place where the made the local food called sampa. Which is barley ground into a flour and mixed with tea. I was lucky enough to be invited to try some with the local farming family. After we ate we compared pot bellies and i was put to shame. After lifting up my shirt i was swarmed by the locals that wanted to look at my tattoos. They touched my skin as if they could feel the ink. it was an interesting site. We also stopped at a huge glacier to take a rest from our 11 our drive to Everest. This was a beautiful site, except for the local nomads that set up shop on the side of the road and try to sell you things like rocks or jewels. It was cool for about the first five minuets but the you get tired of people walking up to you saying only two words…”hello, money….Hello, money…” I had to tell one man about 37 times that i didn’t want to take a picture with his Yak. But all i got was…”hello, money…Yak…hello…Yak…Money.” I know i sound harsh but it just becomes annoying when everywhere you go you cant even open a car door because kids are surrounding the car begging for money. However, being the intelligent person i thought i was, i figured… all they know is “hello, money” so why not teach them more? So as they would try to sell things to me i would just tell them the name of what ever they were trying to sell. “you buy!” “no…its a lizard.” … “say Lizard.” after pointing a few times and repeating myself they would catch on and repeat what i taught them. But then i just got “you buy lizard!”… Damn!
To give you a better picture the villages are very small. Smaller then most apartment complexes. They don’t always have electricity and don’t normally have running water. Houses are usually made of mud and stone but some are made out of cow pies. yup it is used to cook food…warm tents and houses…fertilize fields…build fences…you name it! it is almost as multifunctional as duct tape!
This trip was a long drive. Leaving at 10:30 am and arriving at 7:30pm doesn’t even explain it. We had to stop about 10 times for security check points that made no sense. We were on a two lane road with no other way in or out but they still felt it necessary to make us get out and show our passports every time. this is one of the many new rules. Also requiring a copy of the permits to enter Everest at every stop is a new rule…we didn’t have enough copies and thanks to our guide we were able to talk our way through. At one of the check points we were surrounded by begging children…nothing new…but this time Krista got wise. She was watching a movie on my ipod and realized it was a good idea to show the kids outside of the car the Simpson’s movie. they ate it up! they stopped begging and climbed over each other to see the picture better. As she took it outside and crouched down she was covered in Tibetan children fighting for position…it was quite the “western world meets Tibet” experience. It kind of wakes you up to the luxuries we have and take for granted at home. I mean, these kids have never even seen The Simpson’s before and i have it on my ipod!
The last 102k’s of the drive was on a rain soaked, hail covered dirt road that was winding in and around mountains and rivers. Being the little guy that i am…i was picked to sit in the make shift seat in the back of the suv, stuffed in with the luggage. I am lucky that i don’t get car sick because this was bad enough to make me feel a bit sick.
When we got to Everest Base Camp we were shown to our tent. This 20 x 20 room equipped with beds for 6, a stove and a large supply of blankets would be home for the next few days. We watched and waited for Everest to show it self through the clouds but we didn’t feel very lucky. We heard horror stories of people making the journey and staying for weeks without a single glance. Everest is tricky…if the clouds don’t break their ain’t nothing you can do. We thought we were in for a disappointment due to the heavy rain and bad weather on the way up. We were wrong. Within the first hour it started to break and we saw what was turning into the whole peak…the highest point on earth! People came running out of tents cheering and clapping! We tried to snap pictures but the lighting wasn’t the best since it was almost dusk. but it didn’t matter to us…We were all overwhelmed with what we were looking at. We all knew what we had been through to get here…from planning Tibet… to almost losing it… to paying way too much for it…to sitting in a trunk for 9 hours! It was there..in front of us in all it glory! Even for me, a person that has only seen Everest on a few episodes on discovery channel, and hasn’t done much research on it at all…i was overwhelmed. I mean, i thought i was going to get here and see a ton of peaks and not be able to tell what is what. You can tell. trust me. And when it shows it grips you. We all got together and shed a few tears. “We effing made it! We effing saw it!” It sounds cheesy in know, but it is powerful…it is something special. I mean think about it…how many people do you know that have been here and have seen the top of the world?
After about an hour the clouds took over again and so we went back into the tent. We played card games with the locals and sampled some yak meat, as well as yak butter tea. The meat tasted like a beef stew but the butter tea was not so good. It was literally hot butter and tea. The first sip was bearable but the smell soon starts to take over and it is not as much fun. I felt it was rude to not drink the whole cup so i slowly forced it down. Bad idea…it is better to drink fast because as it cools the butter taste just get stronger. Do me a favor…go heat up a cup of butter, drink it slowly and get back to me. i promise you will look at me with more respect knowing that i finished the whole thing.
The next morning we woke up just before sunrise to find that the clouds had taken over once again. This looked hopeless. Well…until the sun started to show and burn off some clouds. Still the whole enchilada wasn’t showing but we were given a few teasing moments. We decided to make the 4k hike to the old base camp which is now only used by the military. We sat atop a hill that we were escorted to by military personnel after another passport check. About an hour passed before the sunny weather started to really become a blessing. Here it was again…the big daddy was ready…if only one or two clouds would effing move! As we started to walk down the hill we turned to get our last goodbye and realized that the wind had shifted and we were about to see it all. picture this…a perfect sunny day…middle of nowhere…17,000ft up…the roof of the world staring back at us. Unreal. We saw it twice! people don’t normally get this lucky! after a ton of pictures and few holy sh*t’s we made our way back to camp. Everest stayed clear the entire hour hike back. We were told by many that this doesn’t normally happen…and we must be good luck. We decided that since we were able to get a full day of looking at the mountain it was time to head back to Lhasa where we were able to shower, breathe, and not poop in holes in the ground.