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The Death Zone – Chapter 11.3

As Tommy was finishing his lunch, Brig and James were taking in the picturesque Tibetan Plateau. James turned out to be an excellent guide, and the views were stunning, though Brig seemed only interested in reaching Everest and was eager to keep going. James insisted that since he was in the area, Brig should try to enjoy the experience.

Snow covered the landscape, and despite the day’s clear weather, their jeep shared the road with few other vehicles. They were traveling southwest on the Friendship Highway which followed the course of the Lhasa River. They stopped for lunch atop the Gampala Pass which towered over the emerald waters of Yamdrok Lake. It was here that Brig got his first glimpse of a Himalayan mountain peak. James explained that this was Mount Nyenchen Tanghla, and its summit was over 7000 meters above sea level, making it the tallest mountain in the Transhimalayan mountain range. The Himalayas and Everest stood just beyond, further South and West of where they stood. Back on the road, the pair continued their journey through the Yarlung Valley.

“Jesus Christ! Could you go any slower?” Brig relentlessly criticized James’ conservative driving technique.

“The roads are bloody icy! Better we get there late than not at all. Yea?”

“You drive like Miss Daisy!”

“Did you see that movie, eh?” James took his eyes off the road long enough to shoot Brig an incredulous look.

“What movie?”

“Driving Miss Daisy. The film you’re going on about.”

“Hell no! I think it was a silent film? Miss Daisy sounds old. Old people drive slow. You drive slow. Hence, James is Miss Daisy. Get it?”

“The movie is called ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’ So the movie must be about somebody who drove Miss Daisy. If anybody’s Miss Daisy, it’s you.”

“Whatever, man. You drive slow.”

“Safety first,” James chirped.

They made a few more stops for gas and were making excellent time considering the road conditions.

In the late afternoon, Brig and James entered Shigatse, Tibet’s second largest city. James informed Brig that they would be stopping here for the night. Brig rejected the idea as if he were a paying customer, trying to convince James to continue.

“C’mon driver,” Brig urged. “Let’s keep rollin’!”

“Brig. I’m knackered. I’ve been doing all the driving.”

“I’ll drive.”

“Not even, bro’. This jeep is my livelihood.”

“Come on. Let’s keep going. We’ll stop at the next city.” Brig pleaded.

“There is no next city. The next place we might find a hotel is at least a three-hour drive, and that’s when the roads are dry, and it’s hardly even a village.”

“A village? That sounds exciting. I’ve never stayed in a village before,” Brig said with false enthusiasm.

“What’s your hurry?” James asked, “Everest isn’t going anywhere.”

“I don’t know. I just want to get there.”

“We’ll get there. If not tomorrow, then Sunday.”

“No. We’ll get there tomorrow,” Brig demanded.

“No. We’ll get there when we get there,” James volleyed back. “I don’t think you understand how dangerous it is to be out here, driving at this time of the year, and especially at night. The temperature falls 30 degrees after the sun goes down so good luck if your car breaks down or you slip off the road.” Brig’s expression told James that he understood, but he wasn’t happy about it. “Let’s have a nice meal, check into a hotel, wake up early, and be on our way. Sound good?”

Brig grudgingly agreed.

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