Surprise! You are now at what the Chinese call Everest Base Camp. Probably the most misleading part of advertising to see Mount Everest, travel agents and guides will not tell you this is not a base camp. A large part of the people going to see Everest are tourist, not mountain climbers. So they really don't know the difference. A base camp is the initial camp and operational camp for support climbers when making an attempt on a large mountain such as Everest.
The only thing here is a few military camps, an undefined stone building and few toilets. You can only arrive by bus from the tent city. when you arrive, you are met by military enlisted personal that describe what you can and cannot do. You cannot walk past the prayer flags from the stone building to the small hill on the right. They also make it clear not to hold up any type of flag for photos.
You can stay as long as you like as long as you catch the last bus back to tent city, which is 8pm. You can also walk back to camp on the road if you like.
I brought along a tripod on the trip to get photos of Everest under the stars. Unfortunately it was extremely windy and with a 30 second exposure, the stars are not a crisp as I would have liked.
Rongbuk is the highest monastery in the world. It has quite a beautiful backdrop featuring Mount Everest. I did not have time to go inside. The cost to enter was 40rmb but you are permitted to wander around outside or do the Kora at no cost. This of course is not the focus of travel to this area. Most people stop by on the way to Mount Everest camp. There is a guest house where traveling can get a meal and sleep. My guide suggested that we travel to the tents and sleep there.
It is no easy task getting to see Mount Everest. It will take three days out of you time in Tibet. You have to travel with a tour guide of course. Permits to visit Mount Everest are now obtained in Shigatse. Once you have the permits, your guide will most likely take you to a small town called Tingri. This is a long drive and you will go over several passes. Tingri is a one road town with limited options. You will spend the night here.
The access road is a few kilometers after the military check point. At this check point, everyone has to exit the vehicle so your paperwork and passport can be checked. After this and onto a dirt road which takes you to Everest. The dirt road takes about 4 hours and it is extremely bumpy and lots of twists and turns. You will pass several small villages along the way. A few are good to stop in for lunch.
As you near the end of the road, you come upon Rongbuk Monastery. The monastery is on the left and the guest house is I the right. Most people do not stay at the guest house. A few minutes more and you are at the end of the road and what can be described as a tent city. Here are the best views of Everest. You can travel up to what is called a base camp but it really doesn't get you much closer. You have to take a bus to go about 5 minutes further. Most tour companies will cover this cost. If not it is 20 rmb.
Tent City is a small nook in the mountain on the way to Everest Base Camp. You may have to show your ticket here, but mainly it is the locals set up to provide everything to the tourists. There is accomodation, restaurants and vendors selling everything from "fossils" to mittens and gloves. This is also where the horse and cart rides leave from.
Tent City is the perfect place to recouperate before heading out on your long trip away from Everest.
Everest base camp is a little bit of a dissapointment considering the stagma behind it. It is 8km from Rongphu and you can get there by walking the whole way, getting a jeep to Tent City or a horse and buggy from Tent City. Once there you see the dominant Chinese flag flying next to the soldier's tent and then lots of colourful tents surrounding a small hill and in the shadow of Everest.
If you have the energy, climb the small hill and sit amongst the player flags contemplating life and the view and perhaps make a phone call home to boast where you are!! The other side of the hill is a permit only zone for climbers and you can be fined by the soliders for going down there.
It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit the base camp and although everything is a bit grubby, it is still a worthwhile experience.
The Tibetan approach to Mt Everest of Qoomolangma (8848m) provides far better vistas of the world's highest peak than those on the Nepal side, although you could probably argue this point for some time! The sprawling massif is impressive from any angle.
It is a long drive from Laste or Sakya (where we came from), around 9 hours. Once you turn off the Friendship Hwy after the town of Shegar it is a 4-5 hour ride up to Rongphu Monastery.
Some 27,000sq km around Everest's Tibetan face have been designated as the Qoomolangma Nature Preserve, aiming to protect the environment and the cultural traditions of the local people.
The sights and surrounding scenery are well worth the effort to get there and it is a wonderful venue to take a break from the endless travelling with walks in the area or simply marvelling at the sights before you.
Rongphu monastery is a small community of monks and nuns (approximately 20) affiliated with the Nyingmapa monastery of Mindroling. The 18th Century assembly hall has been renovated recently and contains an image of Trulzhik Rinpoche, the master responsible for the monastery's development and whose present incarnation lives in Nepal.
The monastery itself is not as big or interesting as others you may see in Tibet, but it certainly wins the views competition with Everest dominating the entire countryside.