5 Days to Everest — Day 3
On the third day of our trip, all that was planned was a quick jaunt to Shegar, about 100km from Lotse. However, as we got on the road, it began to snow. That made the roads a little more difficult to get across. We got to the last pass between the two towns and it was snowing harder than ever. However, after a minute of heading down the hill, it stopped. After a few more miles, we noticed some folks over to the side of the road waving us down, so we pulled over.
This was a couple of Swiss guys who were biking from Lhasa to Khatmandu in the dead of winter. Insane. One of them had some kind of a stomach virus and was unable to ride. While we didn’t have room in our car, Kernby volunteered to ride his bike into town, around 25mi away. It took about a half hour to get things transferred and for him to get bundled up, then he and the other Swiss guy started riding down the hill.
We took off after them and quickly passed them with a blast from the horn. We rode for a while more, then came to a small section of road lined with shops. The driver stopped and proclaimed it to be Shegar. However, according to all our accounts, Shegar should have been about 7km off the road. After about a half hour of translating, we discovered that this was considered a part of Shegar and that the staying in the real Shegar (also called New Tingiri) would have cost us too much time the next day when heading to Everest. It was not clear what the rush was to get to the 93km of dirt roads that make up the path to EBC, but the driver was adamant. However, he agreed to take us to the other town after we’d eaten and gotten Kernby back from his bike trip.
When this all happenned, it was still only about 2pm, so we went to get our permits to drive to EBC and our permits to enter it. Then we went to the town of Shegar and headed up towards the monastery there. On the way, we encountered plenty of local kids who knew the words that all poor Tibetans seem to know: “Hello. Money.” Brian played with them for a while, dancing around and chanting the mantra as if it were a game. The kids all laughed and had a good time, but didn’t stop begging. After a while they got tired and didn’t want to follow us up to the monastery, so we climbed the hill that was between it and us.
We found out later that there was a much easier trail, but we had a great time scrambling up the loose dirt and rocks. The monastery was officially closed to tourists for the day we had been told, but the doors were all open and there didn’t seem to be anyone who minded. Shortly after we arrived, we realized that some kind of a ceremony was going on in the main building. We walked over that way, but it ended when we arrived. The many pilgrims inside filed out and smiled at us and bid us “Tashy Dele”. We followed them out of the monastery and down the hill.
We all piled back in the Land Cruiser and headed back to the hotel. This is when we found out that the electric heaters in our room were of no use, since the town didn’t have power after 2pm. The only light was from a lantern and the heat was provided by sheep and yak dung burning in the stove. The combination smelled terrible, so the three of us headed out to wander around in a giant field just outside of town.
We strolled about aimlessly, each taking a different direction. There were giant runoff canyons formed by the melting snow. These were quite fun to explore. While I was coming out of one of these, I noticed a young shepherd boy standing at the rim looking down at me with his herd of goats behind him.
We spoke briefly in the few words we knew in common and the few hand gestures that we could make sense of. His name was “Urtoo” or something that sounded like it. He invited me to take his picture and I obliged him. Later, we were walking through the same gully and I had the opportunity to show him his photo as well as other pictures, such as that of the Potala and Tashilhunpo palaces. I also shared some of my bubblegum with him. Eventually, he had to go back in his direction and I went in mine.
Back at the hostel, Brian and Kernby told me that they’d had a similar experience with some folks who invited them to their home and gave them authentic yak butter tea and tsampa. The Tibetans are a very warm and welcoming people, and this sort of thing is common in their culture.
That night, we all went to bed fairly early since there was nothing to do in the cold and dark. Later on that night, Kernby woke us up to go out and look at the stars. You could see into forever that night, but it was too cold for me to stay out too long. But Kernby grabbed some blankets and went to sleep in the field.