(Eastern Rong Chu, Rong Chu, Phung Chu Rivers)
August 23, 1996. Today at night we shall fly to Kathmandu so as then, getting to Tibet, to have rafted down the highest world's peak Mt.Everest on the Rong Chu and Phung Chu Rivers. The rafting is planned to begin in region of the base camp of climbers at height about 5,150 m. Probably, it will be possible for me also to cross in a small catamaran one of high-mountain lakes on Eastern Rongbuk Glacier at height 5,600 m about.
A small digression. This expedition should become historical and concerning principle. The fact is, that from Everest two rivers flow down only. The first - the Lobuche Khola (hereinafter falls into the Imja Khola, and that, in turn, into the Dudh Kosi, and so on) - in Nepal, another - the Rong Chu (falls into the Phung Chu) - in Tibet. In Nepal down Everest from Khumbu Glacier I have rafted in 1991. And though this descent was the first single rafting from the highest top of the world, but on the Lobuche Khola, Imja Khola and Dudh Kosi already before me a few expeditions have passed. But the second water route down from Everest, on the Rong Chu and Phung Chu, remained not passed by anybody. Yet in 1991 I have made a few attempts to receive the permission for the rafting on this way. But then the Tibetian authorities have not given me such permission. And only after that as in 1994 Vladimir Shataev has transferred to me the address of the Minister of Sport of Tibet Mr.Losang Dawa and I personally to him have sent the request to permit me and my team to raft down Everest in Tibet (by listing all my rafting merits), from the Tibetian Minister of Sport the positive answer has come. However he has written me, that I should work with the Tibetian firm TIST (Tibet International Sports Travel). But for realization of our rafting TIST has required from each of us to pay 4,000-7,000 dollars (the concrete sum depend on size of group). And it has been required two years for me to find such money.
Among other things, after the first-passing of the Rong Chu and Phung Chu I could become the first person, had rafted down Everest up to plain on both water routes. The fact is, that if the first complete (down to height of 100 m above a sea level) route (on the Lobuche Khola, Imja Khola, Dudh Kosi, Sun Kosi and Sapt Kosi) was passed by me in the spring 1991, the second part (the Arun and Sapt Kosi in Nepal) of the second complete (down to height of 100 m) of the water route down Everest (on the Rong Chu, Phung Chu, Arun and Sapt Kosi) was passed by me in 1990. And there remained impassed by me the Rong Chu and Phung Chu in Tibet only, on which we are going now.
But let us return to August 23, 1996.
We were to be four together - I, Boris Ivanov from Omsk and two Andrey (Ponomarev and Guirnikov) from Novosibirsk.
Nine a.m. I stay at the flat of my father in Zelenograd (41 km from Moscow). The telephone bell rings. From Novosibirsk the sister of Guirnikov calls up and informs, that yesterday Andrey has got to automobile accident. Now he is in hospital at the strong concussion of the brain. Naturally, he cannot go to Tibet.
This information has at once spoiled my plans. First, Guirnikov was to take with self a videocamera (to go to raft in Tibet down Everest without videocamera - it is probably a crime). However we so hardly have collected 18,000 dollars, necessary for three-person trip (it was required to give to Chinese firm TIST 5,000 for each and one thousand per each – for airtickets Moscow - Kathmandu - Moscow). So we had not the superfluous money. But as after the rafting in Tibet (it was necessary for us to come back from it to Russia through Kathmandu all the same) I planned the small expedition in Nepal, for it I have saved 700 dollars. I had to allocate 600 dollars from this sum for the purchasing of the videocamera "Samsung" and to leave self on "hunger rations" in Nepal.
I rather quickly (with information help of a familiar of my father) have purchased videocamera in Moscow. But for searches the reserve battery I had to run through the capital of Russia during the half of day and had found necessary one at trading centre VDNKh only. Thus, we have still gone to Tibet with videocamera.
The financial problem has become the second one, owing to the absence of Guirnikov. And though the necessary sum of money for the Chinese firm was available at us, but there was left the very little money for staying in Kathmandu and the trip up to Nepalese-Chinese (Tibetian) frontier in Kodari. Here Andrey Ponomarev has helped our group.
There was the third negative moment also. After the rafting in Tibet Boris Ivanov and Andrey Ponomarev should depart back to Moscow, but I with Andrey Guirnikov was going to pass in Nepal in the raft "carabuber" through all waterfalls on the Dudh-Kosi in the canyon in Lukla region. But, alas. Since Guirnikov will not be, there will not be the passage of these waterfalls (it is impossible to go alone here in two-seater "carabuber").
We have arrived to Kathmandu at 15 o'clock of the local time. We have gone to the well-familiar for me hotel "Star" and were placed there in two rooms. I have connected over the phone with mister Jigmela, the representative of the firm TIST, with which I during two years conducted correspondence for the rafting down Everest. He was at this time in Kathmandu. In the evening mister Jigmela has arrived to us to the hotel and has taken away our passports for receiving the Chinese visas (which he will "make" to us on Monday). He has taken from us for it 150 dollars. He has told, that on Monday in the evening will return the passports. We have informed him, that we shall leave to Kodari (to the border between Nepal and China) in the morning on Tuesday, on August 27. He has answered, that will inform about this the leaders of TIST in Lhasa, and they will have send their guide to the frontier in Kodari.
On Saturday I visited my friend Ram, at which home stayed in 1990 and 1991. He for the last five years (which I was not in Nepal) had the serious change in the family life only - there was born the son. All three his brothers (Siam, Rishi and Krishna) married, and at all (except Krishna) the children have appeared already.
On Monday in the evening Jigmela has arrived to us and has given back our passports and the paper with the group visa. The truth is, for something (like as for insurance) has required yet 90 dollars. We had to give them to him. He has told, that at the frontier of Nepal and China the guide will wait us.
At once after the leaving of Jigmela I have gone out to the street and made arrangements with one of the taxi drivers, that for 3,000 Rupees (it is about 50 dollars; at the moment of our arrival to Nepal the official rate of dollar relatively Nepalese Rupee was 55, and at the "black" market reached up to 59.5) tomorrow he will take us to Kodari. During all night (as, however, all evening also) it was raining.
At six a.m. next day the taxi driver has arrived, we have got into the van and went to the border with China. Up to the Sun Kosi River the road was quite good, but then (when it went along the Sun Kosi, and then - along the Bhote Kosi) has sharply got spoiled. In several places the landslips (taking place because of the recent downpour) bared the way. Only due to work of the people, clearing the way all along the road, our machine skidded only in one place.
Up to Kodari it was left about 20 km. The road has gone upwards. It seemed, that all problems, connected with its bad condition, have remained behind. But... The jam of cars ahead warned about something unpleasant. And it is valid, the road here was destroyed, was washed off by a water flow. We had to part with the taxi-van and to transfer things across the formed "impassage", on the opposite party of which there were the bus and two trucks, the drivers of which waited clients.
But we went in the bus not for long (about 6 km), as the next "impassage" bared the way. We have done the similar (to the passing of the first rock-choke) procedure here also. But in a few kilometers the history has repeated again. Naturally, in view of the weak market-competition the drivers of buses and lorries, transporting us on these three last sites of the road up to the Chinese border, required high price for the services. And it has turned out so, that for passage the last (up to border) 16 km we were compelled to pay 2,200 Rupees (while for overcoming of the first hundred kilometers - 3,000).
But the troubles were not finished with it. On the border (that is on the bridge over the Bhote Kosi) anybody did not wait us. Therefore we were compelled in a lorry to go to Zangmu (Khasa), where the basic frontier post and custom-house were placed.
On this site the road rises upwards by serpentine. We overcame 7 km to Khasa during about three hours (from them two hours were lost in the place, where the machines, going towards us, skidded).
But in Khasa also anybody did not meet us. We have passed the passport check and customs, then I have gone to the being beside hotel and have rented two rooms.
When then I have come back to my companions, guarding our things, it has appeared, that there has shown up the our future guide (as it was subsequently found out, his name is Kalden). He said, that could not meet us on the border, as his jeep stays above at a distance of five kilometers on the way in the Lhasa direction, as the road in that place is destroyed also. As he said, tomorrow we shall pass these 5 km on foot (not without the help of porters) and then shall go in the jeep. The truth is, for the guide it is necessary yet to receive at police for us the official permit for the visiting Everest region (the preliminary permission from the police leaders in Lhasa already was available, but without our passports and the visa it was impossible to receive the official permit). For this purpose it is necessary, that the local policemen should contact with their leaders in Lhasa, and the policemen in Lhasa should confirm the opportunity to give out to us such permit.
If the local and Lhasa's policemen will have communicated between themselves today, tomorrow in the morning we shall set out to our jeep, and then we shall go in this jeep to Nialam (twenty kilometers about will be left up to it).
But, certainly, on August 27 the telephone communication between Khasa and Lhasa was very bad, and our "business" did not begin to move.
In the morning on August 28 our guide has again gone to police. But now also it was not possible to contact with Lhasa. The half of day we were in fighting trim, but then have understood, that today we don't go anywhere both on foot, and in a car. The guide has told, that tomorrow (on Thursday) we shall have all chances to receive the permit. But, alas, the all present day was lost.
On August 29 we have still received the permit for the rafting down Everest and have reached Nialam (3,750 m) (in Khasa the height was 2,300 m). But here also it did not turn out without misadventures. At first we have carried out the small (of the length of ten kilometers about) trekking up to the place, where the road was destroyed. At the time of this on-foot travelling it began to rain, and when we have approached to the automobile "impassage", from the small gorge over the road the flow of dirty water rushed and the stones flied. The crossing of this stream has become a rather risky measure (at any moment any flying rock could bring down you), but we were late for day from the planned schedule, therefore have decided to cross this creek at once. We have crossed it successfully, without traumas. The group of the western tourists has turned back. In a few minutes, when the flow of water in this creek (because of the incessant and amplifying rain) has increased, over the way from the gorge the huge boulders of the size of one-floor house began to fly. It was rather interesting to observe, as the large boulders jump in the gorge as balls and rush over that place, where just now we crossed the creek. However to imagine the meeting with such boulder it was unpleasant.
Just behind this "impassage" the jeep waited us, and we have overcome the left part of the way to Nialam without problems. In Nialam our expedition has been replenished by a truck.
For the next day we have risen on Lalung La Pass (5,050 m) (it was covered by snow) and have reached settlement New Tingri (4,350 m). Before the settlement - the police check-post. Here we were ransacked carefully. The literature, carried by Andrey, interested the Chinese policemen especially. There was checked, whether is contained in it any anti-Chinese propagation (for example, appeals to independence of Tibet).
The hotel in New Tingri is surprising. There are the modern building, quite good rooms, but in them there are not neither hot, nor cold water.
On August 31, again passing the customs check and overcoming then Pang La Pass (5,200 m), from which at once the view on five 8-km-mountains - Makalu, Lhotse, Everest, Cho Oyu and Shisha Pangma opens (however, before us this view has not opened, as it was cloudy), we were lowered to settlement Paru (at height of 4,100 m), being already on the bank of the Rong Chu, on which we should raft. Then (the way laid along the Rong Chu) we have ascended up to monastery Rongbuk (5,030 m) and further - up to Everest Base Camp (5,150 m). Here already the tents of several trekking groups were pitched. And today the team of Czech climbers has here arrived, which in a month about will climb Everest on the usual way (through Eastern Rongbuk Glacier). The greater part of the Czechs spoke better in Russian, than in English, therefore we communicated with them in Russian in basic. The Czechs had the telephone sputnik communication (the equipment cost 20,000 dollars) and the permit for its use and daily conducted the evening reporting to Czech Republic. Andrey with their help has communicated with his wife in Novosibirsk, has learned the situation in his firm and has transferred the appropriate instructions (having paid to the Czechs 6 dollars per each minute of conversation).
For the next day I planned (with the help of a yak, about which we had arrangement with leaders of TIST, and the guide) to ascend with a catamaran on Eastern Rongbuk Glacier for the altitude of 5,600 m (where in the glacier the small hollow is) and to float in the catamaran on the small high-mountain lake, about which I have learned from the book "Der Glaserne Horizont" ("Crystal Horizon") by Reinhold Messner. This small lake was seasonal, temporary (it existed from the beginning of summer till the beginning of autumn) and at the end of autumn froze (therefore in spring it was not). The climbers from Krasnoyarsk (Russia) (climbed of Everest in the spring 1996) in conversation with me (having been held before their ascent yet) have confirmed the possibility of existence of such lake at the end of summer. The Czechs have said me the same.
And to float on the lake at the height of 5,600 m before the rafting on the Rong Chu from Everest Base Camp (5,150 m) it was act of principle for me. The fact is, that in the Guinness Book of Records there appeared the record of Mike-Jones team from England, which before the rafting from height of 4,200 m on the Lobuche Khola and Dudh Kosi has crossed in two kayaks the small lake on Khumbu Glacier at height of 5,334 m. And in the Guinness Book of Records it was written, that this team has kayaked on the Dudh Kosi from this height (5,334 m). In spite of the fact that in 1991 I have descended on the Lobuche Khola from the height of 4,600 m (instead of 4,200 m, as the Englishmen), the record of the team of Mike Jones remained not beaten formally, though rafting on a river and floating on a lake are different things. Nevertheless I have conceived to beat the record of the team of Mike Jones, and to make it by their method - at first floating in a catamaran on the lake at the height of 5,600 m and then rafting on the Rong Chu River in a raft from the height of 5,150-5,200 m.
However at first an unpleasant surprise waited me - any yak and any porter have not been given by the firm TIST, and the guide has declared, that he is not a porter and will accompany me light only. That is, it was necessary for me to carry up the catamaran and personal water equipment myself. But to drag the load of weight of 30-35 kg at height of 5,150-5,600 m without the sufficient acclimatization - it is much too heavy employment. Therefore I have accepted the decision to lighten my load as much as possible, not taking neither the catamaran pipes (I have decided to connect the gondols by ropes), nor the save-jacket, nor the water-protect trouser. Up to lake it was necessary to go ten kilometers about. And to come back to the camp we owed in the evening.
So, on September 1 in the morning we have set out. I have photographed some times (by both cameras - with negative and positive films) Everest - the landscape was very beautiful. And at 12 o'clock have arrived at the height of 5,600 m.
What I have seen here (and earlier, at height of 5,400-5,600 m, at ascent) made me glad wildly - at the height of 5,600 meters from retreated in the summer upwards Eastern Rongbuk Glacier the river ran out! Yes, yes, the suitable for rafting river! It was not necessary for me now to raise artificially the high-altitude of rafting on a river by floating on a high-mountain lake (though a few small lakes at height of 5,600 m were really available – I saw them). Now I could begin the real rafting at the height of 5,600 m. And I have made so. The guide photographed me assiduously by both cameras.
I have rafted about kilometer on the river (I have named it by the Eastern Rong Chu River, by analogy to the name of the glacier) until on it there has appeared a number of impassable for my catamaran waterfalls. It was necessary to make a carrying. I inform you at once, forestalling events, that during the rafting in the raft from Base Camp (from the height of 5,200 m almost) on the Rong Chu and Phung Chu Rivers we have not made any carrying - the stability of the raft is much higher, than the stability of my small single catamaran.
After returning to Base Camp I have pleasantly spent the evening in the company of the Czech climbers.
And in the morning of following day the rafting in the raft on the Rong Chu River began. This day the three of us rafted. For the day, passing on the river about 20 km, we were lowered downwards for half-kilometer.
In kilometer after Base Camp there waited us a surprise – the rapid of the sixth severity grade (when we were dropped upwards along the Rong Chu in a jeep, the road in this place moved aside from the river, and we did not see this rapid). To the point, I should note, that I have guessed concerning terms of expedition (the beginning of September), when, on the one hand, already the monsoon begins to abate, and, on the other hand - it is warm yet, and there is the intensive melting of glaciers. As a consequence of it, in the upper waters of the Rong Chu there was the rather large water-flow.
Unfortunately, as I did not expect the severe rapid in kilometer from Base Camp, and we only began the rafting in the raft (and it was necessary yet to get used to the seats), I have not taken with self in the raft any camera, therefore (though for the first time from all my seventeen foreign expeditions my group consists of three persons - usually I went either singly, or together with one companion only (the two of us), but anyhow by one crew) to photo the effective frames of passage of this rapid it was not represented the possibility. The rapid was almost kilometer long.
It is necessary to note yet, that though at the height of 5,100 m there is more oxygen, than at the height of 5,600 m, but anyhow it is not enough for usual intensive work by a paddle. Therefore we passed the rapid serially by small pieces. At the end of such water pieces the forces did not remain almost, and it was necessary to long recover breath.
Further for 17 km about (up to the bridge over the Rong Chu and one kilometer after it) there goes the continuous rapid of the fifth (in several places - the fourth) severity grade. The average slope of the river here is 25 m/km. And the average speed - about 10 km/hour.
We have spent the night on the right bank of the river one kilometer before the bridge over the Rong Chu. The next day (and hereinafter) Andrey, as about it we with him have agreed before trip yet, acted in the team already in a role of the bank videooperator.
In a kilometer after the bridge the river is simplified a bit, its slope is lowered a little, however down to the large automobile bridge over the Rong Chu (the road from the right bank passes on the left, it takes place in about fifteen kilometres from the first bridge - at numbering I do not take into account the small foot-bridge in the small canyon, met by us on the first day of the rafting) the river represents itself the continuous rapid of the fourth severity grade. On this site the average slope of the river is 19 m/km, and the average speed of current remains the same about, as well as earlier - 10 km/hour.
After the automobile bridge the river is simplified and flows quietly on the hollow in the region of settlement Paru (4,100 m), passes under the second large automobile bridge (here the road passes from the left bank on the right) and approaches to a rather deep gorge.
It is necessary to notice, that the beginning from here site of the route has become for us key. The fact is, that we had two maps of Tibet. On one of them the road along the Rong Chu went on its left bank down to the place of falling of the Rong Chu into the Phung Chu (near settlement Lochuri). On the second map just after the second automobile bridge the road departed from the river and over Daya La Pass left by a short way to Kharta, and the road along the Rong Chu was not further. Which of maps is correct - there did not know neither we, nor our guide, nor Mr. Jigmela (as anybody earlier did not raft on the Rong Chu, and necessity for firm TIST to accompany with anybody in a jeep on the road along the Rong Chu was not).
But if the road already has passed from the left bank on the right, it means that the first map is incorrect. So, is the second map correct? And hereinafter is it necessary to us to raft on the Rong Chu in an autonomous regime with all things without bank support (what complicates passage of a route sharply) and without video- and photoshooting? The question was for us extremely important. And though we did not know the answer to it down to achievement the Phung Chu River, but I say at once – we were lucky. The road went hereinafter on the right bank of the Rong Chu practically up to its mouth, and then - along the Phung Chu on its right bank. Certainly, it frequently moved aside from the river, and we together with Boris rafted through practically all severe sites of the river autonomously (and, alas, here anybody did not photograph us). However after any distance the gorge extended a little, the road was lowered to the river, and our escort met us on the bank.
So, after the flat site in the region of Paru the river has come in a gorge, and yet in kilometer about lower we have appeared in a canyon. And here, after the right turn, I have seen before self the rather serious rapid, moreover its first step represented itself whether a powerful waterdrop, whether a waterfall. What is its height, it was impossible to define from water. It was necessary to moor to any bank and to reconnoitre this waterfall. But banks in the canyon were vertical perfectly, and to moor it was absolute nowhere. Anything did not remain, how to jump from this waterfall, of whatever height it was. It is always disturbing event - to jump from any waterfall or waterdrop, not knowing its height. You drop in it and wait: suddenly it will be necessary to fly five, ten, or twenty meters.
This time we were lucky - the height of this waterfall-waterdrop was about three meters, so we have overcome it successfully. However it was necessary to work further also, as after this waterdrop there were the most powerful "holes" and rollers (of up to 2.5 m depth and height). And though the level of water in the river was high, in it the separate large stones came across, on which water leaned. The rapid was obviously of the sixth-grade severity. And after it there was the long rapid of the fifth severity grade. The basic obstacles have remained the same - the powerful 2-2.5meter "holes" and rollers. After a few kilometers the river was simplified. Behind the settlement on the right bank there was the place, very convenient for spending the night.
Further, after a rather quiet site, the river has again come in a canyon. At its beginning the automobile bridge over the Rong Chu is thrown. But, to move in a car along the Rong Chu and Phung Chu, it is not necessary to pass this bridge. The basic road still goes on the right bank.
In the canyon there are again the severe and dangerous rapids. And just after it the Rong Chu falls into the Phung Chu. The water-flow of the Phung Chu is three-four times as much as in the Rong Chu. The Phung Chu in September is the most powerful river with the large water-flow (there water three about times as much as it was in April 1990 near Nepalese-Chinese border on Nepalese territory, where the river already is called as Arun). Just after the mouth of the Rong Chu on the Phung Chu there is the rapid of the sixth severity grade with the most powerful "holes" and rollers of up to three meters height. The river has become very dangerous.
Then there is the long rapid of the fifth severity grade, and the river gradually calms down. Then, passing under the bridge and turning at first to the right, and then to the left, the Phung Chu enters the next canyon with the next rapid of the sixth grade. In it there are the same three-meter rollers and 2.5-meter "holes". Besides, in the channel there are the large boulders at powerful heaving onto them.
Hereinafter the river now calms down, now again demonstrates the power by the next severe and dangerous rapid.
After settlement Kharta, near the Chinese-Nepalese frontier, we have finished the rafting.
That's all, it has happened that about what I dreamed the last five years - we made the first descent the Rong Chu and Phung Chu Rivers, one of two water routes down Everest. And in a sum of two expeditions (this and of April 1990) I have passed the whole mountain part (except prohibited China-Nepal border site only) of the complete water route down Everest on the Rong Chu, Phung Chu, Arun and Sapt Kosi Rivers, having begun from Eastern Rongbuk Glacier at the height of 5,600 m and having finished in Chatara (100 m above a sea level). And in view of Nepalese expedition in 1991 on the Lobuche Khola, Imja Khola, Dudh Kosi, Sun Kosi and Sapt Kosi, I have become the first person, who had descended down Everest on the both water routes.
The next day the second part of our travelling - the returning to Kathmandu through Lhasa and, in parallel with this, the visiting different monasteries and other sights of Tibet (the excursion part) - began.
At first through Pang La Pass we have come back to New Tingri (but did not stay the night there), and then, having overcome Lhakpa La Pass (5,220 m), were lowered to settlement Lhatse (4,050 m). For the following day we have reached town Shigatse (3,900 m) and have visited in it the known monastery Tashilhunpo.
At the monastery temple there stands the gilt statue of Buddha of height of the several-floor house. We have associated with the monks, they have shown us the throne hall of panchen-lama Tenth (Lobsang Chhoki-getsen). Tashilhunpo was earlier the residence of panchen-lama, one of two (the second - dalhai-lama) supreme Buddhist hierarchs (leaders). “Pan” - from the Sanskrit "pandata" ("teacher"), “chen” - in Tibetian "great". Panchen-lama is considered the personification of buddha Amitaba.
At the second attempt only Andrey, twisting the monastery prayer drums, has prayed successfully - at the first attempt he twisted drums in other direction, and the written down on them in Tibetian prayers (the basic of which is "Om mani padme hum..." - "Oh, the jewel in the flower of lotus,...") did not reach Buddha, but the old monk has corrected our comrade: "It is necessary to twist in the return direction", that Andrey then has made.
Then I have examined the Palace New Banken.
For the next day we stayed the night at a distance of 24 km from Lhasa on the orographic left bank of the Lhasa River, seven hundreds meters lower on vertical than the women monastery (being at the height of more than 4 km). Before it, at the crossing over the Lhasa River in the jeep, we have stuck in the river and with the help of the lorry during rather long time we were dragged out on the bank.
But before this we for a few hours went along the Brahmaputra River (Yarlung Tsangpo). As a whole the river here is not very severe, however the pair of the powerful, of sixth grade, rapids in canyons has been met.
In the morning of next day we set out on the trail and in three hours have reached the female monastery. About two hundred monks-women live here. Their life is rather severe. The stone cells, the caves for meditation. Meditating women alternately now don't eat for all day, now don't drink, now are silent for a few days. The internal decorations of monastery temple and the wall's murals, carried out by the bright paints, made the large impression on me.
And in one day we already roved through the capital of Tibet Lhasa ("Town of gods", 3,650 m). As a whole it is the modern Chinese town. There is a lot of the modern beautiful buildings from glass and concrete. However there are met the ancient structures also. And the mainest of them - Potala, the former residence of dalhai-lamas (from here the dalhai-lamas, beginning from Fifth and finishing Fourteenth, ruled Tibet and headed Buddhists of the whole world). The word-combination "dalhai-lama" is formed by the Tibetian word "lama" ("teacher") and the Mongolian "dalhai" ("ocean of wisdom"). Originally the dalhai-lamas were the leaders of school Galugpa ("yellow-cap-men"). From the middle of the seventeenth century the dalhai-lamads were the spiritual and fashionable rulers of Tibet (it was so till October 1950, when the People's Army of China has come into Tibet) and simultaneously the spiritual leaders of Buddhists-Lamaists of the whole world. As it is known, the present dalhai-lama Fourteenth (Lobsang Tentszinjamtso) as a mark of the protest against the actions of the Chinese power, having suppressed in 1959 the revolt for Tibet independence, has got over to Indian town Dharamsal.
"Potala" is the Sanskrit word, it means "harbour", "port". However, there is also the second variant of the origin of this name: the Tibetian word "Potala" means the mythical mountain, home of bodhisatwa Avalokiteshwara (in Tibetian - Chenrezi). Dalhai-lama is a incarnation of him.
Potala, sprawling on Marpori ("Red Mountain"), has length of 365 meters, width of 335 and height of 109 m. In it there are more than thousand rooms.
Each dalhai-lama had the personal throne hall and apartment. Earlier in the unholy white part of the building the supreme state officers lived and discharged service, in the seven-floor red part monks lived.
They prayed before the statues of Buddha and Bodhisatwa. Tibetians trusted, that the dalhai-lama is Bodhisatwa, enlightener, kind and wise, which has come back to the world to save the suffering humanity. He is the progenitor and patron of all Tibetians. When dalhai-lama dies, Bodhisatwa move into a new-born infant. The state oracle and lamas should find him among many new-born children on certain signs.
Certainly, we visited Potala. This visit made on us the ineffaceable impression.
Except Potala, we have visited in Lhasa the temple (it, simultaneously, is monastery also) Jokhang. This temple was based in 647 by the Tibetian (tubo) king Strontsan Gampo. In the central hall of the first floor there stands the statue of twelve-year Sakiamuni (princess Wan Chang). Around - the numerous gold, silver, copper and clay statues. However, they are met at the temple everywhere, not only on the first floor. We liked this temple very much also.
And in a day yet we already flied from Lhasa (or rather, from airport Gonggar, being at the height of 3,572 m not far from Lhasa) to Kathmandu.
The huge impression was made on us by the view of Everest. The cloud was at height of about 8,500 m. And the only thing, that juted out from clouds - it was the pyramid of Everest. For a few minutes I shot by videocamera the highest top of our planet, till it has disappeared behind the wing of the aircraft (to the point, we flied in "Boeing-757" of the Chinese company "South-West Airlines").
After high-mountain Tibet in Kathmandu (1,300 m above a sea level) you feel self as on plain. But it was no time to idle – it was necessary (as Saturday was) to send urgently Boris to Moscow. We with Andrey made it successfully. And for the next day Andrey has departed also. So from our Tibetian team I have remained alone. But I had not to be bored in Kathmandu alone. At first I have got to know the Russian team of climbers from Peterburg, going on Mt.Dhaulagiri (Anatoliy Plotnikov, Nikolay Shustrov and others). With them everything was all right, and at me they have left to Pokhara. And then (in a day) I have got to know the Ukrainian climbers (Victor Pastuh, Gennagiy Vasilenko, Andrei Shpak and others), which owed in honour of the fifth anniversary of the "independence" of Ukraine to subdue the 8-km-mountains Shisha Pangma and Cho Oyu. However the guys had the large financial problems. They already for three weeks were in Kathmandu, but the money for the expedition still was not. The mood of the fellows was obviously rotten. Already it has become clear, that it is necessary to refuse Cho Oyu, and one Shisha Pangma remains only. The second Ukrainian team (in its body there was the most known Ukrainian climber Sergei Bershov from Kharkov) at this time already laid the way to the top of Annapurna. But the Shisha-Pangma's team still sat in Kathmandu. It was conspicuous the difference in behaviour and feeding of the participants of the both (Peterburg's and Ukrainian) teams. If the first ones cheerfully spent evenings at restaurant, the second ones drank tea with bubliks (bread rings) in their hotel room. I have spent with the Ukrainian team two evenings before my departure to Lukla. In the last evening Vitya Pastuh has offered me together with him and Gena Vasilenko to be photographed "for memory" by his photocamera. We have been photographed. I have sincerely wished to the fellows the success on Shisha Pangma.
In two weeks after my returning from Nepal to Moscow I have learned, that Victor Pastuh and Gennadiy Vasilenko were lost on the slopes of Shisha Pangma. They have disappeared in the evening, but they were searched for in the morning only. There, where the fellows have left in the evening, the several avalanches have passed by. Their bodies were not found. This news has staggered me - you see, I have said good-bye to Vitya and Gena less than one month ago.
At once there was recollected also the another sad history, which has happened in 1991-92. In Kathmandu in August 1991 I have got to know the Polish climber Wanda Rutkevitch, the most world-known climber-woman. As both of us planned in the summer 1992 to get to Pakistan on Baltoro Glacier (Wanda - for the next climbing in Karakoram, I - for the rafting on the Braldu River) and I had the large financial uncertainty, Wanda has offered me to carry out the delivery of my load to Baltoro Glacier together with her expedition. However for the first half of the following year I succeeded in the finding of the necessary money and have rafted on the Braldu in July 1992, and Wanda should arrive to Pakistan after my rafting already. But the guys from the team of Vladimir Balyberdin, met in Skardu, have informed me, that she was just now lost on Mt.Kanchenjunga. I was staggered. In a year Vladimir Balyberdin was lost also. In general, this theme is infinitely sad. I shall not discuss it then. Let's return to Nepal.
Having taken off from Kathmandu to Lukla, I spent two weeks yet in Solu Khumbu District. At first in the single catamaran I have rafted on the upper waters of the Dudh Kosi (runned down Mt.Cho Oyu) almost up to the mouth of its left tributary Imja Khola (up to the impassable canyon before its mouth; the passed route was of the sixth severity grade for my boat). And then on the same Dudh Kosi (but already in its middle part) I have passed the first kilometer of the canyon below Surke (I have gone round this ten-kilometer canyon in 1991). The difficulty was not only in the rafting through the sixth-grade-severity obstacles (with carrying round waterfalls), but also (in view of absence of a trail on the left bank immediately near the river) in the returning to Surke (the basic trail from Surke to Jubing move aside far from the Dudh Kosi). Then, passing over Zair Pass (of the height of 4,580 m) east of Lukla, I have got on the Hinku Khola and have rafted on this river a little.
In Lukla and Kathmandu I have got to know the ex-Soviet (including Russian) pilots of the Soviet helicopters Mi-8 of the local aircompanies. The fellows seem to receive the considerable money in Nepal, but miss for the native land.
And, at last, by flight of Aeroflot I have come back from Kathmandu to Moscow. Thus my fifth Himalayan expedition has come to its close. By this expedition I have finished the seven-year series of raftings (fourteen expeditions) down the highest world's peaks. I made that, about what I dreamed for many years.