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Day 59: Xangmu to Tingri

Tingri, Tibet 
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First glimpse of the high peaks on the road to Tingri. Gaurishankar on the right, Cho Oyu on the left and Menlungtse centre. The height of the mountains shields Tibet from rain clouds, creating the arid wilderness in middle ground.
Michael Palin - HimalayaIn the relatively short distance from Xangmu, we've made dramatic progress, vertically, if not horizontally. We're only 20 miles from the Bai Ma Hotel, but 5000 feet (1520 m) above it. Apart from a few poplar groves, the tree cover has gone and on the mountainsides bare rock shows through tight, tussocky cover. At a cold, exposed little town called Nyalam we stop to have papers checked before entering a new administrative zone. Women in masks sweep the street, outside a modern building a prosperous-looking man makes two of his employees unroll a length of carpet, which he proceeds to examine with great care. Recently completed terraced housing runs along the side of the road, an early indication of Beijing's plans to make Tibet a new frontier.This is a cheerless place, though J-P, never daunted, manages to find a shop selling wine and we roll across the River Matsang two bottles of Dynasty Red to the better.

The road continues upwards, over long, undulating, brown hills, until we reach the prayer flag-bedecked pass of Tong La, over 17,000 feet (5180 m) above sea level and the highest place I've ever been on earth (coming in well ahead of my previous record, the hot springs in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile at 14,700 feet (4480 m)).

Everything is bewildering, strange and wonderful. Running the length of the southern horizon is a chain of towering, white peaks and on the grassland below us a herd of yak, short-legged creatures, bodies close to the ground, their thick, black hair standing out against greeny-brown hills behind them.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 59: Xangmu to Tingri
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Nyalam
  • Book page no: 140

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