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Gyangze, Tibet

Overland from Lhasa to Gyangze

sunny 57 °F

After four days of acclimating in Lhasa, it was time for our real adventure into the highlands of Tibet. Equipped only with our guide, our driver, a land cruiser, and Kevin’s full bag of snacks, we hit the road. We drove to the top of Kamba-La pass (4794m) and stopped for a view of Yamdrok Lake. It was breezy up there so Robin suited up in traditional Tibetan wear and warmed up with a lovely Yak named Anko.

We continued on over Karo-La pass (5010m) and then to Kharola Glacier. In total our first day’s drive was about 270k into Gyangze (3950m) but it only takes 1k of driving through a Tibetan community for us to notice a few things. First we noticed all the many colorful prayer flags waving about, either strung between rooftops or waving off of a bundle of sticks coming straight out of the rooftop. Each color represents something sacred:
Blue = sky
White = clouds
Green = water
Yellow = land
Red = fire
Our first thought was green=water? wtf? but then standing on top of the pass looking out at the scenery we noticed all the elements represented in the landscape with the dry yellowish clay rocks covering the hills and the reflection on the water making the lake appear slightly green. Here is an example scene, can you find all 5 elements in the picture?

The other thing we noticed fairly quickly was the enormous collection of yak-pies (aka dung) stacked up at each house. The farmers collect the horse and yak-pies then splat them against their walls to dry in the sun. After the poo dries, they stack each one up like bricks and create massive pyramids or walls. They do this because there are no trees in the high altitude for wood so instead they burn the dried yak-pies to fuel their stoves and keep the house warm in the winter.

We visited Pelkhor Chode Monestery in Gyangze and walked through Tibet’s largest stupa. This stupa has many floors filled with singleton rooms that you could access from the balcony of each floor, and in each room there is a larger than life sized Buddha statue with all the walls decorated and painted with a story about that specific Buddha. We didn’t even attempt to visit each room because there are over 10,000 Buddha figures in this one stupa.

That night we stayed in Gyangze and eventually learned a Tibetan card game called 51… trying to learn the rules without a proper English speaker made for an interesting game of cards in which the objective of the game kept changing. We got the blood flowing early the next morning when we narrowly escaped a pack of wild dogs. We were walking around the Gyangze Dzong (Fort) and managed to get inside a fenced area that must have been really nice in its hay day, but has now turned to a ghost town over run by litter and dogs. Yelling and throwing sticks we held them off as we hoped the fence back to civilization. We then cautiously ventured off the road and up the back of the Fort’s hill for an awesome sunrise view of the city.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 00:43 Archived in China

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