Reting is one of the more mysterious monastery's I have visited during my travels in Tibet. I noticed I did not write a review from my last visit, so I will offer a bit of a background from my experience there.
Reting is far and remote, considering some of the more reviewed and traveled to monastery's. I added this to my trip because I enjoy the interaction with the remote seldom traveled to locations. Reting is set in a beautiful lush green area against a mountain covered in Juniper trees. It is located in the Rong-chu valley. Although Reting suffered a great deal of destruction during the Cultural Revolution, it remains one of the more beautiful settings and monastery's. Reting is home to the 7th Reting Rinpoche, a very high distinction.
My visit was not has enjoyable as I thought it would be. Upon my arrival there seemed to be a silence among the monks. Several we friendly and my guide introduced me. There is a small guest house where you can sleep and get a meal. As I ate lunch, a monk returned and spoke with my guide. He was told that the 7th Reting Rinpoche would like to meet me and my group so he can practice English. We were very excited. As we made our way to the residence, we were stopped and told that the Rinpoche was now taking a nap and could not meet with us. We were told this by two men in street attire, not Monks.
Some background here of what I learned later. The 6th Rinpoche died in 1997 and in 2001, the Chinese government announced the reincarnation of the 6th Rinpoche had been located and set in place. Reportedly, the current Rinpoche is under the watchful eye of the government because the Dali Lhama does not recognize the selection.
Rongphu monastery is the world's highest monastery. It belongs to the Nyingma Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Sitting at the foot of Mt Qomolangma's northern slope it offers a great view of the mountain. There are simple rooms for tourists, climbers and explorers.
As it is located in Mt Everest National Park, you cannot get there without paying the entrance fee. The ride from Tigri to Rongphu takes about 3 hours.
The majorty of tourists only do the trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu and that's a big mistake! To me the remote highland desert of West Tibet was at least as interesting, and getting a chance to do the Kora around Kailash certainly didn't hurt the experience.
Geographically, West Tibet is a highland desert, framed by three mountain ranges. Of these, the Himalaya in between Nepal and Tibet is the biggest and the most famous, however, the Trans-Himalayan Range, running parallel to the Himalaya, isn't bad either. Kailash belongs to this range.
Apart from the snow in the mountains, the region doesn't get very much precipitation, and, as the average altitude of the valleys is way above 4000 meters, chances of succesful agriculture is close to zero.
For that reason, the people of West Tibet is still living their lives as nomads, tending their goats and yak. Every now and then, they pass by a village, sell a few animals which they trade for barley, tea and clothes - and then they carry on. Just like their parents did it before them.
The main drawback is transportation (see that chapter). The Chinese have made it illegal to travel by anything but government approved LandCruisers; for your saftey, of course, however, the biggest threat to my saftey was the constant playing hide-and-seek with the Chinese police.
Very stupid system, so be prepared to spend a lot of time just waiting for an option to get on. Still, it's an absolutely magnificent place, and everyone with a lot of energy and a poor will to obey the silly bureaucracy should give it a try. After all, you won't be sentenced life-time in jail!
I know much of Tibet is covered in high altitude desert, but I still didn’t expect to see such huge sand dunes! These were along the road back from Samye, and the picture doesn’t really do it justice. The greenery in the front of the picture is not grass, they are waist high bushes!
About thirty minutes south from Rongbuk Monastery, the road opens into a wide gravel plain. Everest lies a bit over seven miles away, straight ahead, dead center. Base Camp itself is a completely unprepossessing place: a wide shallow stream on the right side of the road, a handful of large square tents on the left and, beyond them, a large herd of grazing yak. The yak are almost all saddled and tended to by several dozen Tibetans. Only a few other vehicles are there and a handful of other tourists; no expeditions gearing up for an assault.
Ahead of us is what appears to be an abandoned windowless concrete building on the back of which is a crudely painted announcement: “After Everest B[ase] C[amp] all the tourist are not permitted to go up. If any want then contract B C staff. If any tourist group without contract B C then we punish (fine) 200 U S dollar.” Another wall sports a bright red “STOP” followed by a few lines in Chinese. Halfway up the glacial ridge on our left is a long squat stone building housing Chinese authorities. Outside it is a tall flagpole with the bright red Chinese flag.
More welcoming is a blue sign with hand-painted lettering: "Wel-come to Everest Lodge and Restuarant." There is a brief line in Chinese above. Underneath, in smaller lettering, is the caution, “Base Camp Altitude (5200M).” There is even a homey touch—a big old saucepan hanging from the signpost.
The best vantage point for the object of all this travel, by the way, is a small hill no more than a hundred feet high. It offers a slightly more elevated and completely unobstructed view of Everest.
About 20 miles east of Lhasa lies the small and remote monastery of Drak Yerpa. I went there on a pilgrimage with a young monk I'd met in the Barkhor, and we traveled by walking and hitchhiking. Still, it was a great distance away, but one well worth it. Besides my companion, no one I encountered spoke english, and it was nice to be outside of Lhasa and away from modern conveniences for a bit.
In summer the colors of the mountainland are great. Many flowers blooming make the great picture. And if you are lucky, because summer is also the rainy season, you have a blue sky behind a snow capped mountain in the background.
When we travelled to the European alps, as a child, we were always looking for edelweiss, the rare flower. It is endangered and absolutely not done to pick it.
Coming to Tibet we were very surprised to see the once so illusive flower in such large quantities. Everywhere we looked we saw Edelweiss.....
Unfortunately we were just 5 minutes away when the tractor broke down.
The driver couldn't fix it, and he suggested us to stay overnight in his house with his lovely family, and leaving next day.
Of course we didn't refuse. The unexpected invitation was a unique chance to stay with a Tibetan family, a great bonus that can only happen to those going unorganised....
Nam Tso is a beautiful and holy lake on 4718m altitude and is one of those few amazing locations in Tibet that can be reached from Lhasa without a special permit.
It's surrounded by a 7000m+ snowcapped mountainrange and is the area is amazingly tranquil. Nam Tso is regularly visited by both pilgrims and tourists.
The journey is already worth the trip!
Sometimes when you visit temples you can still see things like this on the walls. A tibetan we went with started yelling and screaming at the sign. We didn't know what to do but luckily a fellow Tibetan spoke to him and he stopped yelling. As far as we know he never got nabbed by the police. It just goes to show that ill feeling still exists between the two communities.
One evening as we sat enjoying our dinner camped one night on the plain at Tingri, we were surprised by eight freshly scrubbed children--in and of itself a surprising sight--bearing their schoolbooks at the open flap of our tent. They stood quietly, looking in to our tent. When asked, they said that they wanted to have pens for their schoolwork. The leader, no more than 7 or 8 years old, had the most devastating smile I have ever seen.
Attractive when she wore her serious face, her smile truly lit up her face. It would have been hard to resist a demand for anything when that smile appeared. We could spare only one or two pens and had long since learned that money only brings more beggars. Nor did we have candy or gum or any other the other common gifts we had been giving away.
Keen to offer something, I recalled a tip I had read before leaving home: people will often welcome even pictures of Tibet itself for many of them have never been far from home. So, after checking to make sure that this was true, I ripped out all of the picture pages from one of my guidebooks. I silently thanked the editors for ensuring that my book had exactly as many pages as there were children. They were thrilled. Candy, money, and toys aren't the only thing these children want.
Yumbulagang is variously called a palace, a fortress, and a chapel. According to legend, holy texts fell from the heavens onto its roof, proclaiming the appearance of Buddhism in Tibet. Whatever it may have been originally, there is no question that the Chinese completely destroyed this stunningly located thousand-year-old structure in 1969. Without knowing its history, most visitors would probably be surprised to learn that the structure there now was completely rebuilt in 1982. The faithful replica is maintained by a handful of Geluk monks.
Yumbulagang sits in the Yarlung Valley atop a rocky ledge. Although it is not particularly high (the walk up the ridge takes a lazy half hour), the brightly painted buildings present a striking profile, silhouetted on a rock spur against brown cliffs and rocky overhangs. The higher one climbs within the complex of buildings, the broader the vista. Soon, the entire valley is laid out before you in both directions, terraced fields looking like a patchwork quilt and the lonely road so rarely hosts a vehicle that civilization dwindles into insignificance.
The chapel itself is a series of interconnected small buildings. (Re-)constructed of stone and wood, Yumbulagang boasts bright yellow roofs and more prayer flags than I saw anywhere else in Tibet. After climbing up and down simple log ladders--it seemed more like treehouse than religious building at times--we eventually walked down the long path again.
From Lhasa, take a bus to Tsetang, one of those ugly prefab towns that the Chinese have planted all over Tibet. From there you take a bus to the monastery of Tranduk. Tranduk is not an exceptional monastery, but since the monks rarely see tourists, they all like to make a chat and share some buttertea. From there you can walk to Yumbulakhan, half fort, half monastery perched on a hill with great views over the valley.
Back in Tsetang it's another busride to a ferry over the river, then a bumpy ride on the back of a truck and finally you've reached the Samye Monastery, a beautiful and active holy place.
There's a primitive guesthouse and eatery on the grounds.
While my 2 fellows prefered to do some climbing around Rongphu I decided to continue to the basecamp the next morning (2 hrs.).
Although it was very hard to get out of the sleeping bag, I was happy to go out early. Dazzling clear sky, sun climbing from behind the Everest, deer and yaks crossing my trails, a monastary dog following me, but further completely alone, together with this majestic mountain.
It must be fantastic to go up there, I thought, but ok...next life may be. By the way the basecamp was deserted as well, only memorial signs and rubbish proved that heros had been here before.
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