The long road to Mount Kailash.

Hi folks!

It was farewell Everest, and we were headed toward the sacred (in four religions!) Mount Kailash, which was to take us a full two (!) days. The route was as follows:

As you can see, we covered nearly 800 kilometers, which worked out at around 12 hours of driving. The views to be seen to both the left and the right along the full route were fantastic, but all the same, 12 hours – ouch!
Read on:…

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Tibetan autumn: the world’s highest (non-volcano) mountain.

Hi folks!

On our Tibetan adventure – onward; and today, our heads turned categorically – upward! Upward to one of my Top-100 Most Beautiful Places on the Planet, which happens to be the highest place on the planet: Sagarmartha, aka Chomolungma, aka Zhumulangma, aka Mount Everest! Oh my giant! Here she is, from the northern (Chinese) side, through a good long-distance lens (photos – DZ) ->

A little further, at dawn:

Further still – at sundown:

So, Everest is the tallest mountain in the world; everyone knows that, right? Thing is…

…It actually depends on how you calculate highest/tallest. Furthest above sea level? Furthest from the center of the earth? Or the highest peak of a mountain from its base? If we use ‘furthest from the center of the earth’, the highest point on the planet is Chimborazo in Ecuador. Its peak is a full 3.5km (!) further from the center of the earth than Everest. And if we take the ‘world’s highest mountain’ as the tallest mountain from its base to its peak, then the Hawaiian Mauna Kea wins: above sea level it clocks in at 4205 meters, but there are a further four to five kilometers of it under the ocean! That makes its total height some 10 kilometers! Locals in Hawaii even state it really is 17km high (!), since the weight of the volcano pushed the tectonic plate under it down by ~7km! More details – here.

But the true champ really is – as we all know – Mount Everest! It’s peak is the highest point in the world; the air pressure up there is the lowest on the planet; and from the center of the earth it is – after all – the highest mountain. It’s not a volcano ).

And that’s where we were headed – to Everest. Not up it – that is a feat requiring months of training; but at least to see it from down below. The first sign we were getting close to it was when we passed through these here gates – into Qomolangma National Nature Preserve (Qomolangma being the Tibetan name for Mount Everest).

That was the first gate; there’ll be more to come. Meanwhile we’re taking this here beaut-route:

Another gate; base camp – this way…

We had our documents checked (as we were used to by now), and then had a 90km drive ahead of us – to the protected territory, where we’d have to transfer to local busses to take us the last 20km to the base camp. Like this.

Here’s the mountain pass where we caught our first glimpse of none other than Mount Everest!

Hypnotic scenes…

Sunset!

The colors change every minute!

One thing stays lit up by the sun after everything else is already in the shade – Mount Everest, of course ).

Here some of DZ’s kit taking a time-lapse vid:

And here’s the resulting time-lapse:

Duly hypnotized, no one was there to wake us from our hypnotic state – we were well and truly entranced! Actually, eventually our guide did manage to bring us round – with his almost hysterical exhortations for us to get going as it would soon be dark…

Sundown shade from the mountains!

It’s getting brighter and brighter!…

I’ll hand the reins over to DZ for the photos of Everest…

boris_prok informs us that besides Everest there are another three 8000m+ mountains here! And here they all are ->

And if you have a lens powerful enough – you can get a pic of the fifth 8000er – Shishapangma (8027m):

The serpentine road is almost as impressive! ->

We arrive. Er, and find out we’ll be staying the night in these here tents/huts ) ->

Actually, once inside – perfectly fine: cozy, warm, clean.

Though very tired after such a long day, we simply had to go walkabout up here – so much closer than usual to the stars…

We were up at the crack of dawn – and it was out with the cameras again for the extraordinarily beautiful daybreak…

Here’s us lot – waiting for the first rays of sun…

The eastern slopes, as can be expected – start to brighten…

Direct sunlight – yes!

Other mountaintops also light up!

Good morning Everest!

Time-lapse!

The view seizes you, and doesn’t let go!

The green bears love the morning view too!

But we need to get back to the camp and plan our day…

Thus, the second thing we were to see that day was Rongbuk Monastery – the highest (Buddhist) monastery in the world.

The monastery is small, so doesn’t take long to give a full inspection. There’s not much to say about the place either, but – you are allowed to take photos!…

At the entrance, in addition to fire extinguishers – oxygen apparatus!

Modest inner square…

But with a view of Everest!

North Base Camp. This is where we stayed the night:

This is where climbs to the stop start out. It’s eight kilometers to the south of Everest, at the foot of Rongbuk Glacier. I’d love to come back here and simply walk around for a day or two. But climbing Everest? No thank you; not for me. I’m a volcano man, don’t forget ).

Unsold trinkets, and oxygen cylinders – frozen to the table! ->

And that’s all from Everest folks!

The rest of the photos from Tibet are here.

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Road trip – Tibetan style.

Hi folks!

Today, a few words about Tibetan roads and what it’s like to drive on them.

The first thing I’ll say about them is that they’re of good quality. Mostly asphalted, in places concrete; main thing: no holes or cracks. The only problem: for some reason, whenever a road crosses a bridge – any bridge at all, be it over a river, a stream or even just some water pipes – there are always installed some speed bumps. And since there are a lot of bridges, you’re having to slow down to go over these speed bumps all too often. I’m all for safer – slower – driving, but out in the middle of nowhere? After a while we got used to them: before taking our next photo-masterpiece we’d look up ahead to check there were no upcoming bridges.

Apart from those pesky sleeping policemen, however – the road situation in the country: excellent; and that goes for minor roads as well as highways – even real remote minor roads 5000 meters above sea level well away from civilization.

Here’s the highway that runs from Lhasa to western Tibet:

Read on…

Buddhist Lhasa: Sera and Jokhang.

Hi folks!

As could be guessed, there are a great many Buddhist institutions and their respective buildings in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. And their caliber is world-class, too – also guessable. So, after our visit to the most famous of them all – Potala Palace – it was time for us to check out some of the others…

First up – Sera Monastery. And we were there at the perfect time – just after lunch, when an astonishing daily ritual takes place: student monks train their proficiency in… debating skills! Like this:

Read on…

Tibetan autumn: from Lhasa to Shigatse.

So its farewell Lhasa, and time to head out west toward Shigatse, Tibet’s second largest city. We were up at the crack of dawn so as to get as much sightseeing in as possible. We piled into a Ford Transit with all our bags and off we shot.

Now, on this Tibetan holiday we wanted to see a much of the country as possible – as per our usual modus operandi. However, there were three must-sees that we considered mandatory; anything else would have been a welcome bonus. The three must-sees were: (i) Lhasa (done); (ii) a view of Everest from the northern (Chinese) side; and (iii) Mount Kailash (including a trek around it). Those were the three main-course dishes we just had to eat; anything else would be bonus side dishes, which in the end turned out to be massive portions that really could have passed for a main course ). But more on those later. We’ll come to those when we come to them – in chronological order of how we encountered them.

Now a few words about the journey…

It wasn’t going to be a short one. It was around two thousand kilometers long! Still, at least the roads were of a good standard. They weren’t an autobahn by far, but still not bad. So we had several days ahead of 300-350km per day on the road, which took five to seven hours each day. Every day featured plenty of inspections of natural beauty plus the inevitable Buddhist temples and monasteries. But, oh, were the days looooong. Up every day at the crack, quick breakfast, cracking on along the roads all day, and reaching our hotel for the night late in the evening (sometimes too late for dinner). And like that every day. Oof!

Such a punishing daily schedule was real tough, but the surrounding scenery made up for it: see for yourself, in the following ‘small’ photo-video selection from the first days of our road trip:

Read on…

Lordly Lhasa.

Hi folks!

Here we are, back with more tales from the Tibetan side, particularly – walkies-time around the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, Lhasa. First up – panoramic pic of the city from the top of the hill upon which sits Potala Palace:

We weren’t going to walk around the whole of the city, just its central part that surrounds the Jokhang, which I told you about in my post on Potala.

Read on…

Tibetan autumn: oh-my-awesome!

Tashi Delek (བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལགས།།) folks!

Well, I’ve given you an overview of our Tibetan expedition route. Oops, and I appear to have given you a few Tibet on-the-road daily reports too. So now let me back up a bit, and give you a few words – and a lot of pics – from our initial train ride into Tibet: from Xining to Lhasa.

We were, as it happened, not far from Tibet, so no plane needed: we took the train instead. Well why not? After all, Chinese railroads are among the most advanced – and fast – in the world. Also, we were to take the Qinghai–Tibet railway, which is the highest in the world that carries scheduled passenger trains. But we had to take it easy – slowly – since Tibet is one really high autonomous region: its main city is 3600m above sea level, while much of the rest of the region’s populated centers are about 4000 meters. Accordingly, we took it steady so as not to suffer from altitude sickness, which I’ve talked about before. Accordingly, the first day of our Tibetan was completely rail-based: hurray! Why hurray? You’ll see…)

Read on…

Bechevinka – another abandoned settlement, this time in Kamchatka.

And you thought it was over? My Tales from the Kurilian Side…

I mean? Well, you would, since it’s been more than a week since I wrapped up the Kurils-2019 series, and two weeks since publication of the few (non-Kurilian) bonus tracks tagged onto the end (including Tyuleny Island, Aniva and the Commander Islands).

Well, this is the ‘bonus-track post that got away’. See, I was planning on including its content into the wrapping-up post just mentioned, but… since it is somewhat negative, I didn’t want to end the Kurils series – a very positive series – on a sour note. It just didn’t sit well with the warm glow of nostalgia already kicking in after our Kurils adventure. Accordingly, I saved it for later; and that later has now arrived…

At sundown on the last day of our Kurils expedition we reached the picturesque Bechevinskaya Bay, Kamchatka, which is a few hours gentle sail from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the peninsula’s main city. I’ll get to the pretty pics in a bit, but first – some background historical information about this place.

A shore of the bay is the site of an abandoned Soviet military settlement – Bechevinka. Its story is very similar to that of the abandoned settlement of Kraterny on Brouton Bay on the Kuril Island of Simushir. Well, except that they didn’t deepen the bay here with a gigantic explosion; everything else though – pretty much the same. Garrison settlement and military base, key role military role of the Soviet Union; then came along perestroika, it was abandoned (that is, literally – everything just left as it was) > rusting old infrastructure, desolation, neglect – like this:

Read on…