Friday, 14 October 2011

Reaching for the heights!

Last week I was unable to post because, yes you guessed it, we were in Tibet and the Chinese firewall was still a hindrance. We took a record number of photos in Tibet (925 on an 8 day trip), so as you can imagine, picking just one is a bit tricky. Nevertheless, I have done so.

Chris and I hadn't planned to visit Everest base camp as we'd heard it was a pretty touristy place to go, both on the Nepalese and Tibetan sides, and that there are some much more impressive and beautiful mountain ranges to explore. However, our itinerary simply took us that way so we didn't have much choice. We were both pleased that it did. There is something very surreal about looking at a mountain peak that is only about 3000-4000m higher than you are, that actually looks pretty small up close, and thinking, 'wow, that is the highest point on the planet'. It was surprisingly thought provoking, and the walk up there, at 5200m quite literally took our breath away!

There are many more photos of our trip over the Roof of the World which I will upload soon (having trouble with the connection speeds here) but for now here is a cheesy one of Chris and I at EBC, in front of the 8848m peak that is Mount Everest.

Gotta love those matching hats!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

In the footsteps of Chinggis Khaan

Our train pulled into Ulaanbaatar just as dawn was breaking over the city. Expectations were low based on the various accounts we had heard about the place, and all we wanted to do was organise a tour as quickly as possible and get out to the infamous Mongolian Steppes. We were in luck. As we stepped off the train we were met by a rep from the hostel we had been planning to go to, as well as a Dutch couple also in search of companions with whom to adventure. The hostel organised tours and had one leaving the next day - perfect! What a welcome change to be greeted with a smile, some helpful good news and to hear some laughter after our stint with the grim faced Russians!

As Chris and I ran around the city seeking essentials for the trip (woolly hats mainly - you will have seen how cool we look in matching ones in the photos) we were struck by how much we liked Ulaanbaatar. Yes, it is polluted and smelly; yes, it is chaotic and crumbling; yes, there are pickpockets on every corner, but it is alive! The contrast to Russia is tangible; people smile, they laugh, they say hello to you and communicate with their eyes if they can't speak your language. The chaos of the city could well be unappealing to some, but for me, it simply spells out growth and opportunity. Everywhere you look something enterprising is happening and I honestly find it very exciting. Ulaanbaatar is also incredibly cosmopolitan; it has good restaurants, enticing cafes, glamorous department stores - it is a city on the up and the evidence is all around. We both had a good feeling about the place and were excited for the eight days ahead.