Old friends return to Probus Club meeting to share travelling tales

Paul and Derek with some of the Fryern Ladies SUS-161002-104401001
Paul and Derek with some of the Fryern Ladies SUS-161002-104401001

At the Fryern Ladies Probus Club’s latest meeting at The Roundabout Hotel in West Chiltington, it was a great pleasure to welcome back old and valued friends, Paul and Derek – our speaker and ‘technician’ - after a two year break.

We remembered that it was these two supportive gentlemen who spoke, at our very first meeting in February 2014, about Paul’s trip to Antarctica.

Paul Hayward is an avid traveller and photographer so it is always a privilege to share his experiences through his cornucopia of illustrations and travel stories. Derek, on the other hand was keen to point out that his real role was to keep a vigilant eye on Paul in the company of so many beautiful ladies – naturally we did not disagree with his reasoning.

Paul’s talk was titled ‘Tibet Rooftop of the World’ and would start with Tea Horse Road, travelling through Tibet to the legendary Mount Everest and coping with the corresponding high altitudes. Out of a month’s expedition, sixteen days would be spent above 3,000 metres with a maximum altitude of 5,200 metres! When compared to our highest mountain in The British Isles, which is Ben Nevis at 1343 metres, it all looks a bit steep! In fact the local tour guide, of Paul’s 26 strong tourist group, stressed that - they would have to work together as the tour at times can be strenuous.

The ancient Tea Horse Road was named historically from the practice of exchanging Tibetan ponies for Chinese tea and was a network of caravan paths winding through the mountains of southwest China.

This was later referred to as The Southern Silk Road and ran from Sichuan, Yunnan to Guizhou. Paul’s illustrations showed us remarkable geological images such as The Stone Forest at 1,800m (composed of high sandstone and limestone formation), The Baishui Terrace at 2,380m (featuring mountain springs and flowing water with artistic concentrations of settling calcium carbonate) and The Tiger Leaping Gorge at 3,200m which was the tributary of the upper Yangtze – all quite breath taking!

Next came the plane journey to Lhasa – the capital of Tibet at 3,650m and home of the Potala Palace of the Dalai Lama. This remarkable structure was first built in the 7th century but later rebuilt in 1645 taking 50 years. The materials used were stone and timber and is a most impressive structure being 400m in length, width 350m and height 117m (13 storeys).

Obvious of great tourist interest so you have to book well in advance, have a very sound constitution, be prepared to walk up to the entry which is 170m high and do it all in 45mins – not to mention the altitude (3,750m)! Might be best to leave it to another time but we were most impressed by Paul’s stamina.

Naturally the religion is Buddhism and we were told that the population in Tibet is around 3,000,000. The most religious temple of the Buddhist religion is situated in the centre of old Lhasa, seen as the most religious and spiritual place worldwide and built back in the 7th century – a place for annual pilgrimages. Lastly the road to Mount Everest was bare, narrow, rough terrain and with little room for passing or overtaking and subject to being washed away by thawing snow – the illustrations were scary and not for the fainthearted! These conditions continue for a 5 hour journey and slowly rise to Mount Everest at 5,200m. Other than this the main roads, we were told, that border neighbouring Nepal, Bhutan, India and Burma, include speed traps, border controls of police with guns coupled with young army officers with machine guns. Next time take the scenic flight Paul.

Ida Rushworth thanked Paul and Derek for a most interesting talk and we were reminded that the next meeting on March 3 will be our A.G.M. Two retiring committee members, who will not be at the next meeting, Patsy Currie (Treasurer) and Barbara Yarrow (Secretary) were thanked and given bunches of pink roses – we have all appreciated their hard work – thank you both.