Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Head in the Clouds

My father is very fond of telling me I've got my head in the clouds (when he isn't telling me to pull it out of my ass), so this post is dedicated to him.  However, I would like to preface that it is hard NOT to have your head in the clouds when you spend a week at over 3650 meters (11,975 feet - for some reason I am much more comfortable talking in meters when it comes to altitude...maybe it's less daunting).
Day 1: Yumbulagang Palace, the one non-standard sight I wanted to see.
I was really worried about the altitude.  I had problems with it last summer, and Puno was only at 3830 meters (the highest I got last week was Everest Base Camp, 5200 meters above sea level).  Of course, my body then was used to being near sea level, whereas for the last year I've been living comfortably at UB's 1300 meters.  On the other hand, los farmacias around Puno carried all sorts of wonderful drugs for dealing with altitude, while nowhere in all of China, let alone Tibet, can you purchase Diamox.  I am stubborn and I didn't WANT to spend a few days acclimating, so I did some research, and came up with my own altitude cocktail...a coke twice a day and two Advil three times a day, at least for the first few days.  Caffeine and ibuprofen both help relax your blood vessels, so even if I couldn't breathe, at least I wouldn't be crippled by headaches.
For the most part, it worked pretty well (that or I was better acclimated, or perhaps it was the blessing I got from my home teachers).  The first few days I had a very slight headache, and then I was alright until the day we got to base camp.  At the top of the pass to Yamdrok-Tso (a scorpion-shaped lake) it was a little hard to breathe, but I learned circular breathing helped me some - a long breath in through the nose, quickly expelled through the mouth.  Is there any science behind it?  Who the hell knows...all I can tell you is it helped me feel like I wasn't about to suffer an anxiety attack, and helped me to catch my breath a lot faster.
Yamdrok-Tso is supposed to be an exceptionally beautiful lake.  From what I could tell, it actually was.  However, those clouds I had my head in blocked out the sun for most of my trip.  I can't really complain about this, because the one hypochondriac tendency I have deals with skin cancer.  Still, it would have been nice to see the lake all stretched out turquoise under the sun.
All of the photos in this post except the top one are from the fourth day of my trip.  We covered a lot of miles that day, going from Lhasa to Shigatse (originally I was only scheduled to go as far as Gyantse, but the Energizer suggested we go on, and I decided this was fine with me.  We passed several glaciers along the way.  Snow in the summer never fails to amaze me.
Gyantse was probably the most Tibetan place of anywhere we went during the week.  We went to Kumpum Monastery, and saw the palace on the hillside facing it (which is currently shut for repairs, which made me happier than ever that I decided to see Yumbulagang - Domestic Goddess told me she went here on the tour she did, but I wanted to see the other one ever since first seeing a picture of it).  After visiting the monastery the Energizer and I walked down a backstreet, where cows were hanging out, and dogs, and just enjoyed the quiet.


  1. This bottom picture is amazing. I wish we could have gone with you. These posts are definitely inspiring me to get the family to Tibet again (well, again for me and the kid, but it would be a first for Fire Marshall).

    1. Fire Marshall HAS to go. There are SO many photo ops (of course, you might be sick of the photo ops by the end of the trip). I've learned a lot this year about photography just by looking at his. I'd love to go back with you when you go, but next time I want to see Mt Kailash and the old kingdom of Guge.