Sunday, May 07, 2006

base of the top

Day 3 of our tour took us to the base of highest mountain on the planet. The funny thing about this place is, once you are here, you are already well past half-way to the top! Still a far way off in the clouds, the death zone isn't the #1 tourist attraction. Why do we come here then? To brag to our mates? For our own personal exploration - bollocks! Yoga and astro-projection can take you anywhere. Then why? It is a desolate, cold and harsh pile of rocks in the sand. Not enough sand-castles at the beach as a child? My answer is: I'll let you know when we go there next time! Not a rhetorical question, however there are just as many answers as there are metres of altitude.

Everest,Cho-Oyu...prayer flags and the big mountainApproaching the base camp had a few hurdles. The one that sticks to mind is the compulsory, no alternative, Chinese government bus service... There were dozens of small 2-wheel-drive broken down buses in a back parking lot. No such thing as a schedule here... Lots of prospective passengers were stranded in the middle of the desert, holding a ticket. I'm not sure if the word service is appropriate!

The bus drove us up to the Rhongpu Monastery and dumped us there. We welcomed the opportunity to stretch our legs. Walking past this yak, we got our first glimpses of the giant mountain. Feels pretty good. Especially after stuffing our faces with a Snickers. If you ever wondered why yaks and mountain goats spend a lot of time sitting on their arses, it's an altitude thing. You get into the swing of it. After walking up the morraine and past Hotel California, we soon arrived at a cosy Base Camp and filled up on hot drinks.

The cairn atop the nano-hill serves as a divider between the expeditionists and the tourists. It also makes for the perfect prop for taking some great photos. According to one of the Nepalese guides, this is the largest number of separate expeditions to ever exist in the Tibetan Base Camp. 30 separate parties will make the attempt this season - that's not counting the Nepal base camp!

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