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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 third of his diary instalments, he arrives at Mount Everest national park.

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On the road to Everest

The first part of our high speed - even more highly managed - tour of Tibet is nearing its end.

Everest is at last in sight, and we should reach it sometime on Monday.

The smiles on the faces of the Beijing Olympic Committee representatives say it all.

Despite the best efforts of us international journalists to find someone to express a slightly pro-Tibetan thought, we have not found anybody.

Having been blocked from going to the capital Lhasa, we have been forced into a strict routine of brisk starts in the morning followed by a long day of driving, with pauses for "attractions" en route.

Too much fruit

The first stop was at a hot springs near the small town of Lhatse.

We ate our hotel-packed lunches and then attempted to dip our feet into extremely hot green water.

TORCH DIARY

I then had my pulse read by a Tibetan doctor.

He first diagnosed me as being "sweaty in bed" which, with a large and amused watching crowd, I vehemently denied.

The doctor's credentials under threat, he launched into a long explanation of his family's 700-year history practising Tibetan medicine.

Pressed for a further diagnosis, and after consulting both wrists, he said he was sure that I was experiencing digestion problems and that I should cut back on fruit.

Unwilling to risk further offence I nodded sagely and said my goodbyes before heading back to my colleagues waiting in the bus.

Next stop was the small monastery of Tsan lodged in the side of a mountain 4,500 metres above sea level.

BBC cameraman showing camera to Tibetan man
Tibetan farmer Pu Bu is fascinated by the digital camera

With monks having played a key role in March's riots, we had been asking to speak to some for days.

A 23-year-old monk called Nima invited us into to his brightly coloured room.

He showed us his prayer book and pictures on the wall of the 10th Panchen Lama and his Chinese-appointed successor the 11th.

The role of Panchen Lama is widely regarded as that of Tibet's number two spiritual leader behind the Dalai Lama.

Bad karma

Having been warmly welcomed by Nima, starved of access to anyone with any relevance to Tibet's recent history, we proceeded to rather rudely set upon him.

What did he make of the riots in Lhasa? Did he support the Dalai Lama?

With Chinese officials translating from Tibetan to Chinese to English he had little choice but to denounce the rioters as not true Lamas, and call the Dalai Lama a "splittist".

Feeling rather mean, we left Nima, only to be faced by a monk offering a platter of extremely stringy dried yak meat.

Perhaps it was instant karma.

After sleeping in Lhatse we were driven to the home of a 63-year-old illiterate farmer called Pu Bu.

Rather improbably he and his family are now the owners of a huge two-storey house.

Chinese policeman
Chinese riot police guard the entrance to Mount Everest national park

This was, our minders said, our chance to meet the "common people".

Surrounded by cameras Pu Bu told us how he considered himself Chinese not Tibetan, and that during his lifetime China had brought great progress to Tibet.

Like all the houses along the main road Pu Bu had put a new Chinese flag on the roof of his house.

Like everyone else he had done it voluntarily, he told us, because he was so excited about the Olympics coming to Beijing.

Mountain view

For almost all the people we have spoken to on this trip, the Olympics is more a symbol than sporting games.

But few of the people could name a single event.

Pu Bu certainly could not.

Having passed a group of Chinese riot police on the edge of Mount Everest / Mount Qomalangma national park, we caught our first glimpse of the world's highest mountain.

A three-hour drive and we should be at Base Camp tomorrow.

We have at last been given our first solid piece of information about the event we are supposed to be exclusively covering.

The second Olympic torch is now at Base Camp ready for the climb.

For whatever reason there is apparently still no chance of us being able to witness the start of its epic ascent.



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