Shigatse: Day 21-22 (Elevation 3840M / 12600FT)
October 10, 2010, 6:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Today we approached the most civilization that we had seen in close to a month. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet and has really expanded since I last rolled through in 2004. After weeks of nothing but open landscape it was wild to come upon paved streets crowded with car dealerships and multi-story discos.

After a good night’s sleep in a clean, soft, elevated bed a few of us (those who did not sample the multi-story discos, tee-hee-hee) went for pilgrimage to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. The monastery was founded in 1447 by the first Dalai Lama but it is more famously known for being the seat of the Panchen Lama, the highest ranking tulku lineage after the big DL.  The expansive complex was busy with pilgrims making offerings:

(more photos to share but they’re refusing to load!)

In Shigatse I was able to reunite with my dear friend Mike. Mike and I lived together in Lhasa for several years and he’s now situated on a farm outside of Shigatse where he is helping with a Braille without Borders project. Among the myriad of wonderful things he does for BWB, he has established an organic garden initiative where he teaches Tibetan blind students and adults to plant, grow and harvest vegetables. He has also been helping local farmers rethink their use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We took a trip to the farm as a group and wandered around the beautiful property, its classrooms and cheese factory, and row after row of green houses with Mike as our guide. Here he is with one of the season’s newest carrots:

After our idyllic afternoon in Mike’s company we head toward Gyantse, our last stop before reaching Lhasa. On the way we took a break at one of the few remaining water mills where roasted barley grain is turned into tsampa– the barley flour that is a staple of the Tibetan diet. Fast running stream water flows into the mill, turning the stone grinding mechanisms. Tibetans prize tsampa ground in this way over that processed by machine: they say it’s not only better tasting but far more nutritious.

Me and the jolly man of the mill:

(That’s tsampa on the lense)

We enjoyed the sun and stream-side mill with a picnic of BWB tomatoes, artisanal cheese and freshly baked bread then head the rest of the way toward Gyantse…

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