20151101

Onto "The Roof of the World" - Wowzers! Tuesday, 10/13/15


In these next posts, I'll attempt to chronicle our exceptional journey ... two 70-year-old average Americans, reaching way out of their comfort zone ... to the far east and our explorations of the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.

The wake-up call at 4:30am got us up and ready to go!  Our three-and-a-half hour flight from Beijing to Lhasa, the ancient capital of Tibet, left at 7:30am.  After a questionable lunch (as in, what is this?), the thick flat layer of clouds parted, showing snowy-capped mountain ranges below, one after the other on what looked like an otherwise barren landscape.  The smaller plane is very comfortable, with young, pleasant flight attendants, and those little head rest "doilies" that I haven't seen on seat backs in US planes forever.  Our group leader Lin Hu will accompany us to Tibet, where he'll be joined by two alternating native Tibetans, both good guys full of lore and information.  





This Road Scholar trip is not strictly a vacation, but a learning adventure combined with (in my opinion) exotic travel to spots on earth we never dreamed we'd see.  Heck, our retired lives are a continuing vacation.  But, this ... this journey to the Best of the Mountain Kingdoms is a dream come true.  We'll experience life, cultures and customs very different from our Western world in a mountainous terrain that will prove a challenge to everyone in our group.  And, we were excited to get our program started.

The City of Lhasa sits at 12,000' above sea level, and let's face it -- that's pretty danged high!  To combat altitude sickness, Diamox was recommended, and we commenced taking one tab twice a day upon arriving in Beijing the day before. Thanks to the high country hiking Jimmy and I did in the weeks prior to departure as well as living at 3200', we didn't suffer any of the symptoms that plagued some of the flatlanders among us, except perhaps feeling tired for a day or two.  Lhasa is nestled in a valley between mountain ranges, and the air was dry and thin.  


Gathering the luggage at Lhasa Gonggar Airport.  



The airport is one of the highest in the world at 11,500 ft, and it's surrounded by higher peaks!  Pilots landing here must be specially trained for high altitude maneuvers.  Located in another long narrow valley about 45 minutes from Lhasa, I don't think there can be much room for error!  I thought our descent and landing was sort of thrilling!

We have a designated small bus, the perfect size for our group and guide, and a driver.  This is our first experience with driving on the opposite side of road, and it seems weird.  Traffic is kinda crazy, lots of scooters zipping in and out, horn-honking, (but not rude or aggressive, mostly giving notice). Our driver steered our little bus thru mountain tunnels and over the Lhasa River before reaching the city.  On the outskirts we were surprised to see block upon block of nondescript high-rise structures being built.




I'm not going to discuss politics in this post.  Tibet is now known as the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.



At the DeKang Hotel everyone in our group was presented a traditional Tibetan white ceremonial "welcome" scarf.  The hotel itself is charming and colorful.  We'd asked for a double or queen bed for this trip, but this is what we got here.  It worked out all right ... we fell into these beds and were fast asleep at 8pm, cocooned beneath these cozy, warm comforters.  No partying-on-down, dudes, for any one in our group of 11 intrepid adventurers.  With three flights in as many days, no nap, early rise, and elevation issues, we were all exhausted!


This picture is zoomed in a bit, but from our nice corner room, we could see the Potala Palace, seat of the Dalai Lama.  Later in the week we'll explore it.


Our meals at the hotel are served buffet-style, but we won't be eating all our meals here.  Lunch today included what the group decided had to be a dish of Franco-American spaghetti from a can, among more appreciated ethnic-type foods.  The spaghetti didn't go over so well.  Dinner was much better.  After lunch, we piled in the bus and drove to beautiful Norbulingka (The Summer Palace), but I'll save that post for tomorrow.  Nope, we don't just sit around.  We get going!

4 comments:

  1. A great beginning! Looking forward to more, more, more!

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  2. Wow, looks like it is going to be a really great trip:)

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  3. Truly an amazing adventure. So wonderful to see the photos and hear your thoughts about it. No altitude sickness is definitely a blessing. You two did your homework!

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  4. And they are off exploring places where the air is light, and the altitude is high. We did the Diamox thing when we went to Peru in 2009. A little tired, a little breathless when we forgot to pace ourselves, but otherwise, like you, didn't have any serious issues.

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