Asia | China | Tibet – Into the high plateau
I am cruelly awakened from my sweet dreams by both my alarm and my watch and it takes a little while to understand what’s happening… I mean, it’s dark, it sounds like it’s raining so what am I waking up for in the middle of the night?
It slowly dawns on me then, that I need to finish packing and get to the bus by 05.30 am because I’m going to Tibet! … and of all days, it is raining today! Am certainly not looking forward to spending today in a bus, if I’m already soaked before I get there…
But I’m lucky, the meeting point is not too far and I make it in time, without getting entirely soaked.
Pretty soon, the awakening town situations give way to Kathmandu’s outskirts and then we’re in the Himalayan foothills. Too bad the rain keeps falling and the clouds obscure the otherwise tremendous views. There’s nothing left to do but to try and catch up with some sleep (why of all nights did I go to sleep so late last night?) or try to beat the bumping of the bus and finish reading The Climb, a fascinating Everest story.
At the Nepali border we have to get out and walk the last bit to the Friendship bridge. Here the Chinese bureaucracy starts kicking in: we’re all on a list and need to queue up in the exact order of the list, before being subjected to an intense stare of the immigration officer…and this is not even the actual Chinese immigration yet!
We all get through without problems though, even the mountaineer that needs urgently to get back to Everest Base Camp and had some bureacratic trouble in earlier passages… it’s into a local truck then to get up the mountain to Zhangmu, the actual immigration point for Tibet.
If we thought that the bus ride up here was bumpy, it is nothing compared to this truck ride on the zigzagging dirt track up. And that’s being lucky and in the front seat – the rest of the group were bouncing up and down in the back!
After a long wait at immigration – there was a stamp missing on our group immigration sheet – and a quick lunch in Zhangmu, we get into the little minibus that will take us to Lhasa in the coming 3 days.
The clouds are thinning out a bit and giving us some glimpses of the lush green forest that covers the hills and some breathtaking views of the river that swirls through the rocky canyon beneath.
We have another few hours to go before we arrive at Nyalam, the first town on the Tibetian plateau from the main Kathmandu road. At 3750m it is bitterly cold, but the Tibetan blankets and quilts in our beautifully painted dormitory (small but cosy with the 5 of us) take care of that and prevent any regrets of not having taken a sleeping bag.
The next morning, we have our first high pass to cross: Nyalam Lalung-La at 5050m. The prayer flags around the sacrificicial yak horns are flapping feverishly in the wind and we have some stunning views of the snow capped mountains in the distance…
We go on quickly to Tingri, hoping to get a glimpse of Mount Everest before the clouds move in…
But no, no such luck, the clouds are obscuring all of Everest and I can only hope that I’ll get the chance to go to Base Camp on my return trip and see the world’s highest peak.