Giant on the move
Nick, the torch and Mt Everest – Day 1
At last, 11 of us did get onto a plane to Lhasa last Friday. It was soon clear that while the Tibetan authorities were prepared to let us in, this was by no means going to be a free-ranging reporting assignment.
The hotel ‘near Lhasa airport’ that we had been promised turned out to be 300 kilometres away in Shigatse (3,900m).
The compensation was the drive up a stunning river valley. Tibetan prayer flags fluttered in a stiff breeze above the squat houses and children skinny-dipped in the aquamarine water beneath azure skies.
On one of the toilet stops, a friend of mine in the Chinese media party told me he had been acclimatizing in Lhasa for four days. It turned out that all the Chinese media had had at least one day more to get accustomed to the high altitude.
We arrived at Shigatse late in the evening, were fed and told to be ready for departure at 9am the next morning.
Seen through the windscreen of an official Chinese government bus, a paramilitary soldier stands guard under a road sign located near Lhasa Airport April 25, 2008 indicating the road to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and the town of Rikaze. A heavy troop presence was evident on Friday lining the road between the capital Lhasa and Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet, after foreign reporters were allowed into the region to witness the Olympic torch ascend Mt Everest. REUTERS/David Gray (CHINA)