Tibet is more than Lhasa. We said it days ago and today we can ensure that we are facing one of the most impressive trips, visually speaking (and spiritually) that we have ever done.
7 Drepung, the largest monastery in the world in its day
Today we have taken the exit calmly (this is usually impossible in Asia where getting up early is essential). Having a less dense day has allowed us and around 9:30 we have set westbound from the city of Lhasa towards the foot of Mount Gephel where our first destination of the day is located with the usual traffic of the capital (and the love of the Tibetans)
Drepung Monastery is next to It will be and Ganden (which we will see on the last day), one of the three great sacred places of the Gelugpa sect in Lhasa (add the Kumbum monastery in the Qinghai regionwe saw near Xining) and its imposing white buildings stand out from afar
It is said that this monastery became the largest in the world since its construction in 1416 by Jamyang Choge Tashi Palden, one of the main disciples of Tsong Khapa, with 10,000 monks, 7 schools and where Dalái Lama V himself lived. while the Potala Palace was being built
Your visit from the parking lot and the ticket offices begins by making your kora clockwise, of course, and as we climb through another walled city (remember that the monasteries have a concept of city in themselves) we are seeing one of the best panoramic views of the Lhasa valley
Drepung also means "mountain of rice" and it has a lot to do with the landscape we see around us, with many buildings and white rocks that dot the surroundings
For all this and its greatness, the Drepung monastery became the main headquarters of the Gelugpa school among the great monasteries of the sect and came to have two centers of power, something like a lower chamber (Zimkhang 'og ma) associated with the Dalai Lama and an upper chamber (Zimkhang gong ma) associated with the descendants of Sonam Drakpa, the most illustrious teacher
So our walk takes us to Ganden Palace (not to be confused with the monastery of the same name), main residence of the Dalái until the construction of the Potala's palace and where we find the tombs of the Dalai Lama II, III and IV that we missed in this one and visit places like the Sanga Tratsang where there is a statue of the Dalai Lama V, a room of a goddess that does not allow the entrance to women or the tomb of the master Sonam Drakpa. Here you feel small!
Where have the tourists been? From this moment of travel we realize that, leaving behind Lhasa, foreign (and even Chinese) tourism is limited to the main important places and we hardly agree with them. We have made the visit to Drepung practically alone
The star of the visit, in addition to the Ganden Palace, is the Main Hall of the monastery or Meeting Room where all the monks are heading (we see the streets and greet you with their usual "tashi delek"). We still can't take indoor photos but tell you that it is the most impressive place, with imposing columns and thagkas, rooms, chapels and a unique spirituality
From there we begin a descent between charming streets, schools that became known as the big universities (Gomang, Loseling, Deyang, Shagkor, Gyelwa or Tosamling, Dulwa and Ngagpa) and places to stop to take a picture
And what is the current reality of Drepung Monastery? Although it survived the arrival of the Chinese in 1951 and the Cultural Revolution did not damage the main schools or main buildings, in 2008 it would be closed by the Chinese authorities after protests throughout Tibet until 2013. Just 300 monks live now and control over them is total
Sorry to put this picture but I never thought I would see worse baths than the Chinese (or some Syrians - and probably Indians for what they say -) for the world ahead. All (and I say ALL) the Tibetan public toilets that we have encountered are TERRIBLE (and this includes those of the monasteries)
You always have the option of having a tea somewhere where it is also not a wonder and always with the hole in the ground, of course, part of their culture
It is around 12'00 when we finish our visit to Drepung, we make some small purchases of extra drink for these days (23 CNY) and we look for a place to eat
Have we talked about yak butter tea yet? I tried it in this place ... to avoid! LOL. The very correct food, based on rice, noodles and yak meat
Time to set foot towards Everest Base Camp, our ultimate goal, in several days
The Tibet Plateau, life in the most extreme conditionsALTITUDE 3,656 m We are already on the fourth day since we arrived in the Autonomous Region of Tibet and at the altitudes of one of the highest cities in Asia, Lhasa, its capital. We continue to follow all the steps recommended to acclimatize to altitude sickness and one of them was to spend at least 3 days in this city before continuing to increase the challenges of the trip. We have done so and today we will enter the Tibetan plateau
It is important to know that there is no freedom to leave Lhasa abroad and a computer system controls where you are at all times. If your Entry Permit says that you will be 3 days in a hotel in the capital, the managers of the capital put your entry and exit. In all checkpoints and hotels from that moment they will look at this document and update your passage through the approved places. If something fails or you are not where you should be, the system jumps ... and bundles up! LOL
1 This story is part of a complete guide to our trip to Tibet and has many more items that will help you prepare yours. Mind you, Tibet is more than Lhasa although many packages are limited to it.
2 It is NOT possible to travel to Tibet for free. Beyond the Chinese visa itself, it is necessary to obtain a Tibet Entry Permit that you will be required to catch any flight / train that goes inside and during your trip. This procedure ONLY AND EXCLUSIVELY can be obtained by hiring a tour with a specialized agency. We have traveled with Youlan Tours which also allows you to design a Tailor-made trip with different unique experiences to traditional routes throughout China, working with Spanish guides.
3 It goes without saying you must have travel insurance but BE CAREFUL, BE CAREFUL, you need an appropriate one that allows you to perform activities up to 5,200 meters and not everyone has that coverage (or almost none). Ours, as always, is that of IATI Insurance although this time we need the BACKPACK mode to have all the coverage at those altitudes
They separate us 120 km from our final destination of the day (about 3 hours), Lake Yamdrok, but from the moment we left we began to realize that the altitude not only affects our physical state but has turned this antiplane at 4,000 meters into an extremely inhospitable place that remains frozen 6 months a year. However, it leaves places of incredible beauty like the Yarlung Tsangpo River Valley born in a glacier west of Tibet, leaves impressive canyons and sacred monasteries on its banks and reaches the state of Arunachal Pradesh in India
It is incredible to think how in this landscape of salty lakes and arid mountain ranges the human being can adapt but it has been so over the centuries. Populations of nomadic shepherds have been able to survive accompanied by those woolly bovids called yak between 4000 and 6000 meters of altitude. It is said that the Kekexili region after Antarctica and the northern Siberian part, is the worst place on the planet because of its impossible living conditions
After a thousand and one curves, some stop at viewpoints prepared for it and the first checkpoint to miss the Entry Permits (where only "Bruno" has been lowered -recorde that since yesterday our guides are Bruno and Tambor, haha-) we begin to see the high inner mountains of Tibet
Yamdrok Lake, a turquoise lake where to sleep at 4,500 m highALTITUDE 4,767 m With an area of 638 km2 and more than 72 km long, Yamdrok is one of the four largest sacred lakes in Tibet and still has many puzzles ... and here we are! in the highest viewpoint (has parking) of this Kamba La mountain pass of 307 Provincial Road (known as Southern Friendship Highway) over 4,800 meters watching its intense colors.
We begin a descent along the opposite slope to which we have climbed, also winding with thousands of curves, to the place where we will sleep tonight.
ALTITUDE 4,441 m It tells the mythology of Yamdrok that has divinatory powers They come from the transformation of a goddess named Yamdok Yumtso as the lake is also known. Would you guess that some Spaniards coming from so far away would camp on its banks?
Beyond legends, what is known is what science says: if the Yamdrok dried up, life on the Tibetan plateau would be impossible. That is, it acts as the true lung of Tibet and today we can see it in view of our drone "Perejildo" (The first day he can fly the entire trip -we will tell you the procedures to do it legally everything-)
Be that as it may, the landscape is a true wonder, nestled between mountains and with numerous bays and inlets and that turquoise color that seems taken from the same Caribbean... a few meters higher. It seems incredible because its surroundings are intense green without having any kind of vegetation or appreciable trees but if herds of yaks and sheep at this time of the afternoon
Beyond beliefs and monasteries, Tibet has a series of mountains and sacred lakes that have great spiritual value for its faithful.
- Among the mountains stands out clearly the mount Kailash, a tantric deity that legend associates with Buddha and his doctrine, with Guru Rinpoche.
- Among the lakes there are 4 sacred in Tibet that Tibetans consider abodes of the protective gods and are Lhamo La-tso, Namtso, Mana Sarovar and this where we are today, Yamdrok. They all have their own pilgrimage and special spiritual powers are attributed to them
A snack "made in Spain" (things that you bring in your backpack) enlivens the afternoon while our cook (we had not told you that today a chef has joined the expedition just for tonight) prepares a great dinner.
The rest of the afternoon we spent touring the area, adding layers to our clothes because the temperature starts to drop a lot and even calling the family from this privileged place (this was unthinkable 10 years ago) thanks to the router that accompanies us on this trip (You have now available the article "How to connect to FB, Whatsapp or Instagram in China? VPN" with all the explanations)
After enjoying a delicious and varied dinner we realize that the absence of moon leaves us a dark night full of stars, possibly the most intense and "close" we have ever seen
Today We slept in an accommodation under that million stars, on the banks of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world next to the ghosts of gods venerated for hundreds of years by the Tibetan people and seeing in the distance the snowy peaks of the Himalayas . Possibly camping in such a remote place in the world is not for all travelers but the mysticism of this meadow full of yaks in the middle of Yamdrok Lake, sheltered by hills whose prayer flags are now shaken with the wind, is one of those snapshots that stop the time that we will not forget this adventure and tomorrow will bring us closer to that goal ... Everest!
Isaac (with Sele), from Yamdrok Lake (Tibet)
EXPENSES OF THE DAY: 23 CNY (approx. 3,07 EUR)