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Page last updated at 03:14 GMT, Saturday, 26 April 2008 04:14 UK

Everest Olympic torch diary

As the Olympic torch makes its way around the world before arriving in Beijing for the games in August, the BBC's Jonah Fisher joins it for the high point of its trip - on Mount Everest.

In the second of his diary instalments, he travels through Tibet.

Organisers urged the media back top head to Everest Base Camp
Grumbles over the itinerary were put to one side to admire the scenery

Early Friday morning the 11 foreign journalists left on this trip caught flights to the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

One of the three main news agencies who found themselves blocked had been given a late night reprieve and belatedly joined us.

At the newly-opened and strikingly modern domestic airport terminal in Beijing, passengers heading for Tibet were directed into a special security check area.

There were long queues as everyone was subjected to exhaustive searches and scans.

It is obvious that the Chinese authorities are leaving nothing to chance.

At Lhasa Airport we were met by two large buses and a military truck to carry our equipment.

We also joined up with 19 Chinese journalists.

Our organisers insist we should still head to Base Camp with the greatest of haste... conveniently that would also keep us clear of any urban centres

Much to our annoyance some of them had been allowed to fly out to Tibet four days earlier to acclimatise.

There are still major concerns within the foreign group about how we will cope with the planned three-day ascent from Beijing to Everest Base Camp.

Lhasa was the epicentre of last month's riots, so many of the organisers' decisions on where and what we do seem to be based on stopping us getting to the Tibetan capital.

Ten minutes into our drive from the airport the road forked.

Major concerns

Lhasa was to the right and Tibet's second city, Shigatse, to the left.

It was no great surprise when we turned left.

The road to Shigatse is a good one and follows the path of the Brahmaputra river.

It is a spectacular drive, and grumbles about our itinerary were put to one side as photographers and cameramen shot from the moving vehicle before hungrily filming anyone in sight at toilet breaks.

As we moved upriver, the gorge carrying the bright green water deepened before widening out into a plateau.

There was little sign of the checkpoints or military presence that we had been expecting.

Traditional Tibetan welcome of a white scarf
The visitors received the traditional Tibetan welcome of a white scarf

Mountains framed our view on both sides. The plateau is turning to desert and at times we could see snow-tipped peaks on one side, and dunes and sandstorms on the other.

All of China shares the same timezone, so despite being a very long way to the west the time in Tibet is the same as Beijing.

That means dark mornings and long bright evenings.

We drove about 300km until the clock reached 8pm, with the sun still shining high in the sky.

On the outskirts of Shigatse we stopped and a local official presented us all with the traditional Tibetan welcome of a white scarf.

It was not an entirely straightforward ceremony.

Great haste

As the group was entirely made up of journalists everyone seemed determined to film or photograph the proceedings - rather than step forward and actually take part in them.

After eating our meal at our hotel in Shigatse we were briefed on the latest developments.

There was not much to say.

Our organisers either do not want to say or do not know whether the Olympic torch has arrived at Everest yet (it is a separate flame from the one which has been travelling the world).

They also say they have no idea when the attempt will begin - but insist we should still head to Base Camp with the greatest of haste.

Conveniently that would also keep us clear of any urban centres.

The trip doctor then came to talk to us. Dr Li said that he too was concerned about what being taken so quickly to Everest might do.

His advice was to have a good night's sleep at Shigatse's altitude of 3,900 metres and avoid taking a shower.



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