As we exited the bustling town of Tsetang, our route swiftly left the newly built highway and instead took the old road through the mountains heading to the Samye monastery.
There was a quick stop at an amazing viewpoint which showed a stunning vista of the valley below. Turn around and there were thousands of prayer flags blowing in the mountain breeze.
Arriving at the Samye monastery with a police escort, some cars were parked in the front forecourt while some made it into the inner sanctum. Those at the front had to battle through the enthusiastic beggars that sit on the monastery steps.
Once through the gate, the buildings were a sight to behold. This was the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, built between 762-779, although the original buildings have been damaged by civil war (11th century), fires (mid 17th century and 1826), earthquakes (1816) and cultural revolution (1960s), the Tibetans have always endeavoured to rebuild and enhance the complex after each round of destruction.
This monastery symbolises the centre of the universe and is an excellent place to understand the heart of Tibetan Buddhist religion.
Some crews ventured inside and marvelled at the vibrant coloured murals, magnificent bronze statues, and serenity of the place. Afterwards, word spread of a good hat shop up the main street to help protect people from the sun and soon the owner was doing a roaring trade.
While Treacy was inside the monastery, Lloyd Reddington was under the bonnet of the Nash Roadster. Apparently, this morning the old girl had developed a rattle – and he wasn’t talking about his navigator.
There was no shortage of help as Rudi Friedrichs and both sweep crews rushed to help. It had been a few days since they got their hands dirty so maybe they were suffering withdrawals.
The Nash’s rocker arms had snapped, which were duly replaced, but the push rods had become detached and one of the locating ball bearings was missing. After searching for the right size and on the verge of tracking down a local scrapyard, one of the policeman on the scene reappeared with one he had found which fit perfect and soon the Reddingtons were on their way.
Our plan was to then visit the Samaye Chimpu Hermitage caves but the local police decided to close the access road and so we couldn’t make the pilgrimage to the set of buildings which make up the Chimpu Utse Nunnery.
Instead, we jumped on the new highway to Lhasa although car 10 took the old road but stopped when the Camel Range Rover went past them the other way.
Our arrival in Lhasa has meant we have had to say goodbye to Green from Navo Tours and our Tibetan drivers who have been with us for the past week. We hope they’ve picked up a few English words and are grateful for the Tibetan language lessons they have given us.
We also say goodbye here to Chris Evans and Mark Seymour and Martin Tacon and Lesley-Ann Murray who have decided to depart the ‘fun bus’ as both have matters calling them home. Safe journey friends, you will be missed.
Tonight we are at the Shangri-La Hotel in Lhasa where we remain for the next three nights. After being presented with white scarves on arrival, crews enjoyed a fantastic barbecue on the roof terrace in the shadows of Potala Palace along with some traditional Tibetan singers.
There are sightseeing excursions planned for tomorrow and Sunday afternoon but for now it’s all about enjoying some much deserved rest and recuperation before the next challenge begins.