Our plane is descending towards Gonggar Airport in Lhasa, Tibet. Looking over my father’s lap and out the window, I see more mountains than this New Englander could ever expect to see back home. The clouds circle around the mountain peaks like the fog from dry ice, and presently a larger one passes under our plane, momentarily obstructing the view.
“Pickle! Where’s the snow?” my wife Olena asks, “I was promised snowy mountains on this trip!”
She’s right, actually. When the clouds clear again, as far as I can see there are only dusty, brown mountains, like so many peaks of chocolate mousse in a bowl below us. “Don’t worry,” I assure her, “These are just hills. The real mountains come later!”
The plane’s PA announces that we’ll be landing in 20 minutes, giving me some time to reflect on how this whole journey started. How is it that we are on a plane to Lhasa, Tibet, with the plan of visiting Mount Everest Base Camp in just a few days?
Prologue – How Did We Get Here?
It started back in May, when we were still living in Huaqiao, Jiangsu. Before we moved to Shanghai. As she is often wont to do, Olena was searching for deals to random locations using Skyscanner.com. The idea had previously come up to visit Tibet, but it was kind of a pipe dream because of the price tag and the complicated visa process. A normal Chinese visa is far from enough to be allowed to visit Tibet. We thought we could possibly save up the money, but it would cost as much as three smaller trips to closer places in China or nearby.
I brought up the idea in passing on the phone with my dad, David. To my surprise, he said on the spot he would love to go with us and that he would pay for the whole thing! I was stunned, and didn’t know how to properly express my gratitude. To be sure he was serious, I explained to him just how much it would be, but if you’ve ever met David
Roosa, you know that “Generosity” would be a much better middle name than Ebertson.” So, we began to plan the trip.
Instead of boring you with twelve paragraphs about the visa provess, I’ll just run through what was necessary:
1. Contact TibetTravel.org and tell them the dates we want to go
2. Pay a deposit for the trip
3. Book flights, including my Dad’s to Shanghai
4. Write an invitation letter for my dad so he could get a Chinese visa
5. Use TravelVisaPro to apply for my dad’s China visa
6. Send copies of all our passports and visas to TibetTravelVisa
7. Finally get Tibet Travel Permits in the mail
This last step happened two days before our flight left. That’s right, we got our permits just two days before leaving for Tibet. The Travel Gods were apparently with us. My Dad flew to Shanghai, stayed at a hotel near us for a few days to get over the jetlag, and we hopped on a plane at 6:45 AM from Pudong Airport.
Now I can hear the captain announcing that we are landing, and all electronics should be switched off. Here we go!
See you in Lhasa!