Tibet

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May 22 - June 13, 1997

I checked the tour agents in Kathmandu for trips to Tibet, but they wanted outrageous prices. Plus they said I need a Tibet visa - that my China visa wasn't good enough - which I knew was bullshit.

So I got together with some others through the message boards in the guesthouses and restaurants: Kris and Rene from Holland, Yves from Australia, Mark from Switzerland, and Dino, a Brit/Indian.

On the morning we were to leave, Dino didn't arrive. The rest of us hired a taxi to the Tibet border. We crossed the border, into Zhangmu, Tibet, with no problems. Once there, we tried to get a travel permit from CITS, the Chinese government tourist agency, but they were charging $65 US, when others who had just been there said they had been charged $30. Finally, after two days of fighting, we gave in. We had negotiated with a land cruiser driver, but CITS wouldn't let us use him. We had to use one of their drivers, at their prices. And we couldn't leave until the next morning. Yves didn't want to pay, so he hitchhiked.

Back at the hotel, the owner, who didn't speak English, told us through sign language that we'd have to leave, or he'd be arrested. We ended up finding a much nicer hotel.

Tibet was amazing. The mountains are beautiful. It's very dry. Much like New Mexico, but colder. We drove to Tingri the first day, and saw Everest from a distance.

The driver wanted to leave at 7:00 the next morning. We didn't want to. At 6:30 he started banging at our door. Then he pretended to drive off. This went on for a long time. Finally, I got up to see the sunrise over Everest, but it was cloudy, and I couldn't see it. We finally got away at 9:00, after insisting on breakfast. The driver was very surly. We had to force him to stop so we could take pictures. And he honked the horn impatiently as Kristine went to the bathroom.

We got to Shigatse, and spent a couple of days there checking out the monastery. Yves arrived on the second day. He'd had no trouble hitching.

Mark headed back to the Everest base camp, and the rest of us took a bus, that some other travelers had arranged, to Lhasa.

We spent a few days in Lhasa, checking out the monasteries, and the Potala Palace; former home of the Dalai Lama.

Then Yves and I decided to go trekking at Nam-tso Lake. We rented a tent and stove, and took the bus up to Damxung. From there we were hoping to hitch. We walked all day but not a single vehicle passed us. We set up our tent, just as a snow storm hit. Then a jeep came by, so we quickly struck the tent, and got a lift to Nam-sto Qu.

As we topped the pass at 5200 metres, we could see the valley and lake spread out below us. Very beautiful, turquoise water.

The lake is so big that the town looks like it's right beside it. But it took us two hours to walk there.

The guest house owner, who didn't speak English, said we should rent horses from him for 100Y a day to go the monastery. We thought that was a good idea, but the next day he wouldn't rent them to us. He said we should walk.

We walked for half a day, and then a blizzard blew in, so we set up camp. The next day we walked to the monastery. The valley is perfectly flat. Just like walking in Saskatchewan, except it's surrounded by mountains. But because it's at 4700 metres, it's tough trekking. It's hard to breathe. Even lying in bed, there were times when I would stop breathing.

We arrived at the monastery, which was built into the side of a mountain. Then three people arrived on horses, which they had rented in the village for 50Y a day. They were two Chinese girls, Lily and Che Hong, and a Swiss/Italian guy who spoke Chinese, Angelo.

We spend a day there and then hiked back. We hooked up with the Chinese girls and Angelo. It was good, because Lily and Che Hong could get the Chinese prices, but we couldn't show our faces while they were negotiating.

They got us a truck to Damxung for 50Y. Then, when the driver saw we were white, he upped the price to 100Y. So they got us a different truck for 40Y. We rode in the back of the truck, sitting on bags of dried yak shit.

In Damxung they got us a lift on a convoy back to Lhasa, but there weren't enough seats inside, so Yves and I had to sit in the back of the truck, which was hauling panes of glass, which were all cracked. It got quite cold, so every time the truck stopped, I went into my backpack to get another layer.

As we were checking into the hotel in Lhasa, who should we run into, but Mark and Dino. The reason Dino hadn't shown up when we headed to Tibet was, the night before he'd been hit by a rickshaw, and he had a concussion. Mark, Dino, and a few other people were getting together to rent a truck to go to Lake Nam-sto.

Then Yves and I decided that it would be fun to go to Hong Kong for the handover, and it would be nice to have someone with us who could speak Chinese, so we got Angelo to come along.

We spent a few more days in Lhasa. Saw Dino when they got back from Nam-sto. The guy had tried to rent them horses for 100Y an hour.

From Lhasa we caught a flight to Chengdu, in Sichuan province, on Friday the 13th.


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Last updated: October 26, 2011