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  American Autumn Shishapangma Expedition 2005: Finally in China


Sunset on Shishapangma from Base Camp

 

We made it into China! Dave and I are sitting here in an Internet Cafe in Chengdu. It is pretty hot, overcast and humid here, and it 1 has a similar "tropical" smell as Lima, but not nearly as full of diesel fumes. We have been traveling for something like 34 hours.

 

Chengdu is a huge city, 2 million population, with 11 million in the surrounding area. We are staying in a very nice downtown hotel. No problems with flights at all, and the tour operators (Mr. Fuching and Maggie) were right at the airport to meet us. Hats off to David Christopher for the great arrangements.

 

Our layover of five or six hours in the Seoul airport was interesting. It is an architectural beauty, absolutely immaculate, gleaming steel and glass, a nice place to hang out. I actually had an excellent mocha there, and changed US$5 and got 4,800 Wan (the Korean currency).

 

Upon entry to China, I declared the Iridium satellite phone that we borrowed from Mike Ferris as "communications equipment", and expecting trouble, approached the customs desk with trepidation. There was nobody at the "Items to Declare" station, so another clerk took me. I pointed to the X in "Yes", but she waved at the paper, crossed it off and checked "N", and waved me through. Nice to know bureaucracies are the same all over the world.

 

I am writing this at 3:00 p.m. Chendu time, which I think is about 14 hours ahead of the midwest U.S. Tomorrow morning we fly to Lhasa at 10:30 a.m. We spent a comical time in a pharmacy with probably 30 young Chinese girls in bright green nurse's uniforms trying to help Monty find some medicine. Eventually most of them drifted away to other patrons, but we received many amused looks. The pharmacy also sells mysterious dried herbs, fish parts, various what look like grey mushrooms, and other things of suspicious nature.

 

Tomorrow we should be in Lhasa, Tibet, and hook up with Val. Then the expedition really begins. I have been reading my Lonely Planet guide, and am really looking forward to visiting the Jokhang, a sacred Tibet Buddhist pilgrimage circuit in Lhasa, and exploring Lhasa. I have to do this before the climb, because I won't be back to Lhasa. If things go according to plan, I will be riding a truck out from base camp to the Nepali border with Pratep (our Nepali cook), and will meet my father in Kathmandu for a couple of days of sightseeing, then to Bangkok for a day. We will see if that comes to pass.

 

I spent the long long flights reading about the Dalai Lama's travels. The book was written by a Chinese friend who is very close to him, and a frequent travel companion. This book is illegal in China, so I wanted to get through it before arriving. We were going to bring some pictures of him to distribute, but those too are illegal, and we were afraid of getting the Tibetans in trouble, as well as ourselves thrown out of the country. The visit to Lhasa should be amazing. We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

 

--Eric

Updates

 

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