Monday, 5 January 2015

Day 200: Nepal border - A Tibetan Kingdom

Shishapangma
A day of mountain views.  Leaving Everest to a new wave of admirers, we drove towards views of Makalu, then Cho Oyu (both fellow 8,000m plus mountains) then finally Shishapangma.  At 8,013m, Shishipangma is the little brother of the world's 8,000m peaks but it still belongs to an exclusive club (there are only fourteen of them in total) and the Tibetans speak of it with pride.

"This is our eight thousander," they told us.  "Everest is shared with Nepal, but Shishapangma is just Tibetan."

We got snap-happy over mountain viewpoints for much of the morning, then did the same again in the afternoon.  But there was one other noteworthy feature to photograph.  Large ruined buildings, completely different from the low, flat-roofed Tibetan homes of today, occasionally sprang up on the hillsides.

"They are from the Tibetan kingdom," our guide told us.  "It was a long time ago."

Since then, the British have invaded Tibet (a conveniently forgotten part of recent history) and then the Chinese tanks rolled in.  I looked again at the ruins; they seemed to belong to a far distant world.

In mid-afternoon, the landscape changed entirely from rolling hillsides and wide floodplains to gorges and v-shaped valleys.  Mountain streams carved through forbidding walls of rock and the road cut into the cliff side with a long drop below.  It all looked very familiar; we had entered the landscape of Nepal.  The shape of the natural world was not the only clue; we soon spotted a truck belching black smoke.  "It must be Nepali," we speculated, correctly.  Chinese order had begun to dissipate as we neared the border with its beloved but chaotic southern neighbour.  Tomorrow we will cross to a different world.

Mechanisation still hasn't reached some parts of Tibet
The Freedom Highway 
Ploughing amongst the remains of old buildings
As we drew away from Everest, Makalu became visible to the east
Approaching the Nyalam Tong La Pass 
Shishapangma from the pass 
Chinese trucks parked on the approach to Zhangmu.
At Zhangmu, goods are offloaded onto Nepalese lorries for their onward journey into Nepal.

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