Gyantse (3,950 meters)

Gyantse BuddhaWe back-track toward Lhasa from Samye to pick up the road to Gyantse. The drive was about ten hours. We had some trouble at a police checkpoint and were delayed an additional hour. On the way, we climbed our first really high pass, the Kamba La at 4,794 meters (about 14,400). We could see snow-capped peaks in the distance. Prayer flags and cotas blew in the wind. Eventually, we came to a huge lake, the holy Lake Yamduck. The Dalai Lama requested no fishing in the lake because is is a holy lake. But the Chinese now are reportedly fishing in the lake. At certain times of the year, pilgrims walk around the lake; it takes several days (unless you are prostrating at each step–then it takes weeks).
We got into a construction zone. Everywhere in China they are building roads, bridges and hydroelectric plants. The local farmers were living in tents and putting up stone walls for the roads, culverts and small dams and jack-hammering their way through hard rock walls. Reportedly, they are paid 10-15 yuan per day. Their counterparts from Chengdu are paid 100 plus yuan per day.
We passed a huge glacier at 5,020 meters. It had a name like Garalong. But someone called it Snowland. There was a huge stupa in front of the glacier and several locals wanting their photographs taken for a modeling fee.
We passed farmers attempting to grow crops in this high, arid climate. They used irrigation ditches. Then we passed a reservoir filling up, a dam, and a hydroelectric plant under construction. I learned a village was moving because it would soon be underwater.
We visited Pelkor Chode in Gyantse. Built in 1427, it has a classic shape of six floors with each higher floor smaller than the lower so it forms a triangle or cone. They had a photography fee, meaning I could take photos. Most temples do not allow indoor photography. Reportedly, the government is encouraging the temples to allow photography to foster tourism. The older monks are appalled by the notion. Some of the younger monks see it as a way of furthering their cause. In any event, I got some good photos (no tripod or flash allowed). From the top of the temple is a good view of the city and old fort.

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