Himself flight lasted just over an hour and passed without incident. We took off to the left on the board (try to sit on this side) passed shrouded in clouds of Everest (or, as it is called in Tibet Chomolungma, which means «Mother of the Snows»). Enjoy spectacular views of different mountains and lakes of the porthole, down along the valley of the Brahmaputra River, landed at the airport Gongar. Immediately felt the altitude — 3,600 meters above sea level, the thin air caused a slight feeling of weightlessness and vertigo. It took several careful and picky searches various Chinese agencies, and finally left the airport. Meets us Tibetans put on our necks ceremonial white scarves-Hadak and helped to drag luggage up two jeeps, where he took first meeting. Two drivers called Vancha and Chödrak, and, as it turned out, they are not as simple as one might think. Owning licenses for transportation of aliens, and the availability of appropriately certified and labeled SUVs made their own in the local community is quite respectable and wealthy persons.
In addition to them, to us was assigned a Tibetan attendant named Tenzin Sonam. According to local law, the only one accredited guide must accompany each group of tourists from which can not be absent on a step. At first we suspected him of involvement in the Chinese security authorities, but it is a very poor knowledge of English and general timidity quickly dispelled that view. The group was also a Russian guide — Alexander Sukhanov recommended Moscow tourist company «Kailash» helps us in organizing the tour. In this trip she went to help us as an experienced guide, professional Tibetologist, an expert on Tibetan language, the main local attractions, culture and religion, the experience of life in Tibet. In fact, instead of providing all assistance in the investigation of her beloved country, it is making great efforts to keep us in the framework of the planned program, and tried to give us a minimum of freedom of action. And the content of its tours only slightly higher than the brief description of the object given in the tour program. As an organizer, she also performed very mediocre, not wanting to think more broadly and more flexible once the approved program. So its only advantage for us turned out to be the Tibetan language, and if not for the language barrier in communicating with the Tibetans, we would have sent her to retire much earlier than it did in reality.
If our local guide Tenzin owned Inglish it better — and it would be no longer necessary at all. But in this part of the country nor the Chinese nor Tibetan polls do not speak English. This also applies to taxi drivers and restaurant staff, and the majority of hotel staff. Only the souvenir traders are able to trade and primitive drum. Thus, neither the company «Kailash», nor her guide did not bring the expedition virtually useless (except for issuing visas, passes and hotel reservation jeeps), although the money received as the most difficult for a VIP tour.
So, a group of six people set off. Due to the difficult mountainous terrain airport is more than a hundred kilometers from the city. So the first thing we decided to not go to Lhasa itself, and in a unique Buddhist monastery Samye, located in more than two hours away, looking at the way the impressive nature of its beauty Brahmaputra river valleys and majestic mountains around. Surprisingly, these mountains of us (neither Ilya nor Alexander) had ever seen — they largely seemed made of … sand! Sand dunes and debris seemed to just flow from the mountain tops, beer casks of cracked — not otherwise explain why masses of sand clinging to the steep slopes and not crumble under the influence of gravity and wind. The striking natural phenomenon! Along with admiration, we did not forget to explore the surrounding area on a subject of interest to us even more stories of Tibetan Buddhism — hunting and fishing fauna.
Throughout China, hunting has been closed for many years. In 2005 the authorities without warning and explanation completely shut down the hunt for the country. Louder than all others regret it primarily mountain hunters, because now they were unavailable for five subspecies of mountain sheep! Without the Chinese and Kazakh sheep it was almost impossible to collect 40 Super Club Grand Slam Club / Ovis. The reasons for the walks a lot of debate — the preservation of animal populations, to the Buddhist prohibition on causing harm to the living, but of course, this is nonsense. Trophy hunters probably help to keep the number of animals than harm it, it has repeatedly proved. And the leadership of the Communist Party, we believe, is far from the Buddhist morality. The real reason is obvious — ordinary Chinese have forbidden the civilian weapons. And even hunting rifles, if they are not in the hands of soldiers and police, afraid of people’s leaders. We hope and believe — the mind wins, paranoia pass, the wind of change blows. In the meantime, we come across a variety of species of ducks and geese, fearlessly navigating on the Brahmaputra.
Along the way, we stop for lunch in the city of Tsetang, where they received first Tibetan culture shock. Along with the wide avenues, beautiful buildings, luxury sports complexes and monuments of the best, according to the guides, the restaurant was a very homely and unappetizing-looking diner. Well, we are not the first time, thanks to the Buddhas, there were no poisoning. In general, the local cuisine and our water organisms able to move without loss. The main thing — whenever possible, wash your hands or wipe with wet wipes, drink only water from bottles, from the suspect food is better to abstain.
In the Yarlung valley, the monastery of Samye, we arrived at dusk, settled for the night in the guesthouse (a modest hotel or rather hostel) with him. The morning began with a light breakfast and continue our tour of the monastery. It is the only monastery in Tibet, built in the shape of a mandala — a schematic representation of the structure of the universe, the Buddhist world view. Samye («immeasurable»), the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, built on the orders of the king to establish Buddhism as the state religion. Its history goes back more than 1200 years. According to legend, shamans and priests of one of the oldest religions in the world — Bon opposed the planting of the new faith and called horrible spirits that night broke all day built structure. But came the great Indian master Padmasambhava and practices (here known as Guru Rinpoche) in a magical duel beat them all, the most evil locked in a nearby mountain, and recruited by the most powerful, is obliged to protect business Sakyamuni.
The monastery was badly damaged during the so-called Cultural Revolution, when Red Guards Red Brigades wave passed through China and Tibet, destroying priceless works of art and places of worship. Samye was restored, but it is not what it used to, and the monks had quite a bit, and the doors weighs sign «tourist attraction.» But the place is still full of strength and energy. Untwist just in case the drums with prayers, we have examined in detail the Samye. Especially struck by two things. The first — a narrow dark corridor with high walls around the perimeter of the main hall of the monastery, painted ancient frescoes (murals total area of about 1,000 sq. M), which virtually no one sees. The second — the golden death mask of one of the founders of the monastery, his face a stretch be called a human (it is strictly forbidden to photograph). By the way, in this and any other monastery in Tibet, even the tiniest, be sure to constantly police post and / or the military. And some are so many that even a part of the dress in the form of fire that is not too conspicuous.
When finished viewing, at the same time we decided to climb to the very hill where Guru Rinpoche Bon drove demons. At an altitude of 3650 m above sea level without acclimatization and even the 150 meters it is not the easiest test — but the result was worth it, very much a view of the beautiful monastery and the valley. Further our path lay in Lhasa, the mysterious and the ancient capital of Tibet.
The main city of Tibet — Lhasa
We expected to see a small magical town in the mountains and were in modern Chinese city in the midst of construction. The fact that it really is the same Lhasa, eloquently testified a great Potala — an impregnable fortress on the hill, the seat of the Tibetan spiritual leader — the Dalai Lama. And all the old city break everywhere sticking valves and forests, the traffic is very difficult, and only the numerous rickshaws can pass on many streets. It looks like after the bombing — have to go on the plywood blanketed excavations, and somewhere and do you have to jump. The authorities are of the mysterious medieval capital of modern Chinese city to the pedestrian tourist area. We are in a sense, lucky — we found at least part of one of the former antiquities. Given the speed with which the Chinese are building, by the time the article was published in print in Lhasa has all the novelty will shine. The old center is already densely surrounded by modern neighborhoods with wide avenues, grand, like all Chinese, monuments, bridges, roads and buildings.