Himalayan High Life
The next morning I wandered through Shigatse's Tashilhunpo Monastery, famous for being the home of the Panchen Lama, the second highest ranking lama in Tibet after the Dalai Lama. Located on a hill in the center of the city, the monastery's Tibetan name literally means "heap of glory", and after viewing its murals, statues, buddhas, resident monks and scores of devout pilgrims, I could see why.Overnighting in the village of old Tingri about 90km from Base Camp, day three of our expedition saw us up again before dawn in order to catch Everest at sunrise. Our headlights picked out the rough contours of the track in the inky blackness, as overhead the sky was a breathtaking kaleidoscope of stars. An hour later we entered the base of the Ronghpu Valley, and rounding a crumbling promontory of rock glimpsed Everest up close for the first time. The crystal-blue north face reared up like a natural chörten above the living river of gritty ice that forms the Rongphu Glacier. Back-lit and crowned with a halo of early morning sun, and plumed with a soft feather of snow dancing in the azure jet stream above her head, here was truly a goddess among mountains.
It was time for the final push toward the climax of our trip. Sprightly as ever, Jamdun jumped back into our trusty Land Cruiser and by late afternoon we were at the gateway to Mt. Everest National Park, streamers and prayer flags fluttering in the strong breeze. The highest mountain in the world, named after a colonial bureaucrat by the British, is known as Chomo-lungma (Mother Goddess of the Land) in Tibetan, and Mt. Qomolangma in putonghua.
After some passport and permit formalities near the town of Tingri, we switchbacked up the head of a steep-sided valley, each successive turn offering increasingly magnificent views over the road just traveled. Finally cresting a ridge past a colorful array of prayer flags and twin Buddhist cairns, we were rewarded with a view of dramatic proportions. Stretching across the horizon beneath a cloudless lapis sky was the colossal Himalaya Range, a chain of jagged, snowy peaks straining upward like the ramparts of an ice-bound fortress. From Mt. Makalu in the east to Mt. Shisha Pangma in the west, here were five of the world's fourteen peaks over 8000 meters, dominated by the massive pyramid of Everest.
After several years hacking his way through London's PR and advertising jungle, and another couple of years in recuperative sabbatical in France and Korea, Daniel Allen's quest for a more Bohemian-styled life of art and journalism led him to the Chinese capital, Beijing.
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