Apr 14, 2015

Beverly Hillbillies meets the Wild West...

Heavy snow in the high passes has forced us to stop for three nights in Nylam. 

Nylam can best be described as the Chinese version of the Beverly Hillbillies meets the Wild West. Cows and dogs graze together along the side of the dusty road, eating cardboard boxes and whatever garbage they can find while the local people go about their morning routines - rolling up their shop windows, washing their hair, dusting off their front steps whilst eating their dry chapattis ready for another day of business. 
All the streetscape lacks is a roll of tumbleweed bouncing down into the Himalayan panorama to make the 'wild west' image complete.

Besides the culinary delights of the Snowland Hotel (which are not far off the grisly ‘jungle eating’ challenge on ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’, Nylam does offer one main attraction – the opportunity to acclimatise. A short stroll out of town quickly takes you from an altitude of 3600m up to about 6,000m. This acclimatisation stroll is essential to allow the body enough time to adjust to the thinner air. Our views from our 4200m resting point are obscured by the snow filled clouds – every once in a while a fleeting glimpse of an unnamed and snow covered peak is revealed.

Just outside of Nylam is a beautiful stupa, decorated by brightly coloured prayer flags flapping in the breeze. Wandering around the stupa feeling almost swept away by the powerful energy of the space, I realise that it’s a Tibetan burial ground.  Tibetans still practise the ancient ritual of sky burials where the deceased is cut into pieces and fed to the birds. To me the concept seems incredibly foreign, almost grotesque – but to the local people, it is a tremendous honour and opportunity for the spirit to leave the body and live on. As spiritual as I find the concept, I’m disturbed by the number of dogs that roam the grounds.

It’s been a great start to the expedition thus far – wonderful to get to know our Sherpa team, relax in the ‘relative’ comforts of Chinese hospitality and collect my thoughts on the journey ahead – am trying not to be overwhelmed by it all and remember to take the days and the hours one step at a time. Tomorrow I will get my first views of Shishapangma as we head to Chinese Base Camp. 

The news is that we are the only team on the mountain -  strange to read of the crowds which once again dot the slopes of Everest whilst we have an equally stunning 8000’er completely to ourselves. Shishapangma may just be this seasons best kept secret!

I must admit, I absolutely can’t wait!


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