On paper today was quite a long ride at 93km, however we were aware that it was to be flat all the way with good tarmac so to make it a bit more of a challenge we decided to leave after lunch, thus putting the squeeze on the daylight hours. This left us with the morning to investigate Gyanste and we decided to head up to the fort in the center of town. Having been accosted at the base of the steps, by what appeared to be a random woman asking for cash, we tried the back route via the road, only to find that she wasn't telling fibs and we did in fact need a ticket, just like the one she had offered us, to get in. Cynical on our part perhaps but the sort of attitude which has helped countless frugal backpackers avoid unknowingly injecting donations into the local economy. Walking to the top of the fort it was obvious that either we had aged fifty years or we hadn't quite adjusted to the altitude at this point, but after some puffing and panting we were treated to a nice display of torture techniques in China; truly inspiring stuff. The fort itself was small, not quite as cramped as our tent but it would be hard pressed to host even a modest party. Once inside we found an opening in the ceiling which led to the roof and Andy "Cat" Cross soon shimmed up it to take a look while Steve and I wondered round the outside and up the handily located stairs.
Once we had seen enough of the views we decided to see what the local 'Anti-British Imperialism' museum. This turned out to have a slightly biased view of events of the 'British attempt to take over the world' in 1908 (lets face facts, we tried much earlier than this and by this point in history had pretty much forgotten about those dreams of ruling the world - at least that's what we like you to think). Oddly the curator popped out from his office and gave us a small medal for attending the exhibits.
With a lunch of bananas inside us (fresh fruit for a change!!) we set off and bumped into Amy and Dan on our way out of town. Who helpfully pointed out that we were heading out on a track that ends in a monastery and a dead end. Claiming to obviously know this already we turned around in a flurry of 'make it look good otherwise we look a bit silly for being lost' maneuvers and waved goodbye once again. With noses pointing in the right direction we proceeded to follow them along what I remember as the most boring road in history. If variety is indeed the spice of life then this road sums up a plain cracker. A straight 93km of tarmac, through a wide valley with unchanging terrain awaited us. Even the tarmac showed little variation, not even some charismatic pot holes to point out. Being mostly flanked by farm land there were a lot of kids running around, all of which waved and shouted at us and I must confess to a certain 'hello' fatigue. The first thousand kids got a hearty 'HELLO' and a wave, by the time I reached ten thousand it was barely a mumble and a slight lift of a finger. At twenty thousand I tried to move solid objects in their direction with the power of my mind alone.
Lunchtime provided some variation, at last. While sitting in a town by the side of the road having a bite to eat five soldiers marched towards us. March is probably a generous term for the out of time, sloppy zombie stumble these lads were managing but it was at least locomotion. Rather than taking the obvious opportunity to hassle jonny foreigner they started banging on the door of a closed down shop. Satisfied that no one was in they marched/stumbled/strolled away. This episode would have been more intimidating had they not all been about sixteen and looked no more than eight stone. Steve "Play ground bully" Wyatt commented that we could easily have beaten them all up, even without using the dogs sticks. The problem as far as I can tell is that they come with friends, and in the case of the Chinese army lots and lots of friends. Needless to say that we didn't act on that idea.
With excitement and dullness over we rolled into Shigatse and
checked into a hotel. We were given a room on the top floor of the
hotel which boasted a unrivalled view of the town, and while this
was the case what it didn't boast was a toilet and shower en-suite,
or even on the same floor - a fact which Steve ran foul of the next
morning. With bags quickly unpacked we eagerly read the guide book
which stated that this town had, in its very humble opinion, more
nightclubs than monasteries. Time for a night out on the tiles it
would seem. I would like to go back to Shigatse some day, ideally
with the author of our guide book, and do a count of both items. In
an even more ideal world I would have wagered with the author that
he was wrong about the whole nightclub issue and what he meant to
say was that there are more nightclubs than monasteries. In Nivarna
this trip would involve some sort of physical penalty for each
monastery we found which lacked an opposing nightclub. Harsh
perhaps but imagine three happy go lucky party go-ers heading out
into the night brimming with the anticipation of a funky club, only
to find after an extensive search (which included a number of dark
dog ridden streets) a single bar. Hang on there I hear you say, a
bar?, surely all is not lost then. As good as dam it. A bar without
any customers, where the bar staff were knitting - this is not what
i had in mind when we said we wanted to weave some shapes for the
dance floor. A solitary drink and we left and headed home defeated,
which lead me to offer my opinion on the technical accuracies of
'More nightclubs than monasteries my arse' - Colin
On the bright side we didn't have hangovers the next day but we only had sitting in a visa office planned so it would have given us something else to moan about.