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Title image - BAI takes you to: Tibet

Seven Days in Tibet Expedition Dispatch

November 2, 2012 – Lhasa to Gyantse

At 16,000 feet the yaks graze on the hillside. We were driving on the Friendship Highway, the highest highway in the world and at 17,000 feet we were on a hillside. This is the summer pasture for the nomads and farmers and they have not yet taken their animals down to lower altitudes.

The high arid terrain of the Khamba La Pass, 4800 meters, 15,800 feet above sea level.

The high arid terrain of the Khamba La Pass, 4800 meters,

15,800 feet above sea level.

At one point, they lived up in the valleys and on the hillsides, but the government relocated them to new towns on the highways. These new towns are made up of identical houses that have electricity and water. You can still see the vestiges of the old homes and villages in the distance.

Lhasa is a modern Chinese city. The same process occurred there. Most of the old city was taken out and replaced by new streets and buildings with electricity and water. When you leave Lhasa to drive to Gyantse, you drive through many of these new villages. We followed the river and then began to rise up through an aspen lined road and then, fairly quickly, drove up over the tree line.

Much of the Tibet we have seen is arid. It looks ancient. When we drove over the Khamba La pass there was virtually no vegetation, except what the yaks were munching on, and it was the same dun color as the earth. After miles of this, we dropped over the other side of the pass and were faced with Yamdrog Tso, a beautiful peacock blue lake at 16,000 feet. It is in the shape of a scorpion and nestles in the brown hills with a white mountain rising in the distance. The sudden appearance of this beautiful color takes your breath away. To see a lake like this (actually any lake) at this altitude is astonishing. No wonder it is a sacred lake to Tibetans.

The stunning blue of Yamdrog Tso

The stunning blue of Yamdrog Tso

To see what I believe most of us think of as the traditional Tibet, you have to get this far into the country. Here, the men and women and children wear traditional dress and farm in very traditional ways. We saw a hillside of fields being plowed by teams of yaks. We counted 12 teams. We drove by people harvesting and threshing rice, women tossing baskets into the air while men brought more sheaves and piled them into stacks. We passed flocks of sheep, herds of yaks and goats and cows (probably tzopkios) all with herders who looked like they had stepped out of a century or two ago. The cell phones were the give away.

The scenery continued to be remarkable; the endless brown hills (remember, they are 15,000 foot hills), rivers, glaciers and, in the distance, the Himalayas shining white against the blue sky. Yes, we had another flawless, blue sky day. Gerry still takes credit for this and we are starting to believe him.

We pulled into Gyantse in the afternoon.