Roadtrip – Lhasa to Kathmandu: 4 days and 3 nights

 

It's been a long time since I posted.

Drove out of Lhasa on the 19th of July, saying a sad goodbye to our little base in Lhasa. Lhasa felt like home after 11 days of wandering through back streets, exploring shops, worshiping at local temples, eating at tea houses. It was like leaving a warm space to go to an unkown. As excited as I was about seeing Nepal, I wasn't sure if it would be as welcoming as Tibet. 

The drive would take 4 days and 3 nights. The original plan was to spend 1 night in Shegatse, the next in Shegar, and the last night was to be spent at Everest Base Camp tent city. Note I say "original"….And there's a reason for that….

 

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The views were stunning and I finally got to get a close-up of a yak. Well….mum did. At this stage, I was feeling pretty bad. After a sleepless night of coughing, sneezing, and a sore throat, I was feeling crap and the even the gorgeous scenery wasn't enough to get me out of the flu-funk. 

Yaks went by…I slept….

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Yes, even Tibetan mastiffs which looked like polar bears didn't rouse my interest. Those who know me will understand what a tragedy to me this is. I am usually the one pointing at animals, squealing like a child "its soooooo FLUFFY!" (I mean, look at it….it looks like a freaking polar bear!!!) I slept in the car while we stopped at Namcho lake. This was totally abnormal for me. 

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More beautiful scenery passed by….that lake was huge. 

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Green hills laced with snow – captured by mum-lady. 

 

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Villages on the other side of the lake. Weird optical illusion: if you stare at this long enough…it starts to look like the photo is upside down….that the lake is actually the sky.

 

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As more amazing scenery and animals went by, I lingered somewhere between nausea and sleep. The roads were winding through mountain passes and I just couldn't keep up with the movement. 

 

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We hit about 5000 metres at this point….and mum put up some prayer flags that we'd bought in Lhasa for our loved ones and for the journey….

 

 
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I also missed the impressive glacier at the start of Shigatse (Xigatse) territory.

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As you can see, the views were pretty majestic.

 

 

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As we drove on through the day, the one thing I did notice was how the scenery changed drastically from one valley, pass, descent to the next. 

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From glaciers to pastures by the lake.

 

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To barley and canola fields in the breeze and sunshine.

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And more Tibetan mastiffs at a tourist stop where more people and mum were putting up prayer flags or the white scarves. I'm sad I missed this part of the journey. The awe and excitement that my mum was feeling was completely lost on me…I was too busy trying not to throw up, trying to think positive that I wasn't too sick to travel….

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So after a day of wonderment…going past rocky mountains with glaciers, green rolling hills, sandy outcrops, farming land and lakes….we finally made it to the hotel, where I continued to cough, sneeze and could only stomach plain rice porridge.

So  a doctor was promptly called to assess me.

Now, my mum had heard that doctors in China can be over-enthusiastic about injections and IV tubes….so her first impression of the doctor after she listened to my heart, checked my blood pressure, and diagnosed me with altitude sickness was "mmmmm…I think you just want to charge us for the IV, I don't think my daughter has altitude sickness". 

I wasn't feeling great, but I thought to myself, "I don't feel like throwing up, I don't have a headache, I just have a cough. Give me something for the cough, not altitude sickness!"

By that stage it was 10pm, so I was well and trully knackered. I just wanted to rest. And if that involved an IV to help me not cough through the night, AND it was good for the potential altitude sickness, I would take it. 

IV goes in. IV comes out again. The doc accidentally pulls it out and my hand begins to look like a few bees had stung it. I immediately start thinking "oh great, just what I need, internal bleeding under my skin"….but the doc assures me this is normal when the IV comes out at this altitude, and after some convincing, we try inserting the IV into the other hand. Same thing happens.

And thus, I am converted to the belief that I do, indeed, have altitude sickness. The blood pressure in my veins kept pushing out the IV fluid…..

So if your doc checks you and tells you you have altitude sickness, you might as well go with the expert diagnosis. Even if you don't have a headache or feel like vomitting, just go with the medical expert. 

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You can see the blue-ish bulge on my left hand. Ah, that's what happens when your veins reject IV fluid.

So, now that both hands have subcutaneous bulging…. the doc can only provide me with tablets and an oxygen tank…

 

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Ta-dah….the latest accesory in Shigatse….
It helped me breathe better and sleep well, and the meds did help.

The next day, our wonderful guide & driver took us to the hospital straight away. The doctors there checked my lungs, gave me more meds and gave me the all clear. I still had to walk slowly, and eat simple foods, and stay warm, but no fluid in the lungs. 

Soon, my appetite got better that day, and the fantastic tour agency arranged an extra day at the hotel in Shigatse so I could rest. They moved the accomodation so instead of going to EBC, we would head straight for the border, stay the night, and continue as scheduled across the border, the next day. 

I was so well taken care of, and was so warmly cared for by the agency, guide and driver. They changed plans for me, took me everywhere and stayed by my side when I needed their help with translation or info or food, at all hours. I have the utmost respect and love for the Road to Tibet team. They cared for me like family, helped my mum with comforting words, and gave us such support through the change, and did it so easily, without any charge. 

Yes, I recovered! Finally. I got to enjoy the trip….

 

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With over 92 different chapels, TashiLumpo Monastery is definitely worth the visit. Or so my mum tells me…I didn't actually go in. I was still taking baby steps (literally) as I would run out of breath. 

And the day after, we were on our way to Dram, the border town with Nepal….

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More amazing scenery and animals…

 

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One thing about this yak – some animals are "protected"…this yak has orange cloths tied to it's fur. It's basically a special yak. It's either been born on a special day, or has had something special occur around it's birth, location etc. The farmer will never kill this yak or sell it. We saw a number of these special yaks, cows, goats and sheep. 


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This old gent was walking along the road and saw me taking pics of the scenery. I gestured with my camera and pointed at him and asked whether I could take a photo. He nodded, so here's a pic of this wandering man. 🙂 

 

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I'm better in this pic. Probably the adrenalin of being near Mount Everest, which is interestingly, called Qomolangma Mountain in Tibet. And you can buy Qomolangma bottled water in China. 

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The scenery changed many times, but here there's a river and creeks flowing through this valley. Sparse, rocky, but full of interesting flows and ruins.
 
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These markers show how far away from Shanghai you are. There are quite a few adventurous Chinese who drive from Shanghai to Nepal….now THAT would be a road-trip!
 
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Some ruins we drove past. We drove past a few, but this is the only pic that came out in focus. 🙂
 
 
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This lovely priest helped my put up prayer flags the "right"way. The side with the prayers must be facing outwards, towards the wind and sun, not against the other flags. At first, I was putting them with the back of the prayers facing outwards, so he helped me change it. I have to apologise, I don't know which pass this is, I think it was Nochingtonla Pass. The priest was from Dom monastery/ temple, which was "down the road" (although I suspect that could translate to "anywhere within 100 km radius from here"). 
He doesn't look too happy in the photo, but he was truly lovely and helpful before and after the pic was taken (yes, we did ask if we could take a photo with him). 
 
The next set of pics are about the flora on this drive…..Again, I'm no expert and have no idea of the names etc. But gives an idea of the variety of scenery that the drive takes you through….
 
 
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Thistle?
 
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These blue flowers were almost fluorescent from a distance. I have no idea what they are, but they are beautiful. My favourite. 
 
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After about 12 hours of driving, we finally descended into the humid hills at dusk, heading to the town of Dram. 
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As mum would say "it was crazy beautiful"…
 
We slept well, and awoke the next day, to see this from our hotel window…..
 
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Dram is a one-street road. You pretty much drive down, down down this 1 windy narrow street and there are building on either side. Like any border town, it's basic, but filled with shops and restaurants. 
 
We got to the border where everyone waits for the customs office to open. The tourists line up and the Nepali truck drivers are lined up along the road for a few kilometres….waiting.
 
One thing about my travels, I find that everyone loves animals. It's universal. 
 
While we were waiting for the office to open, a Chinese tourist was hand-feeding some stray dogs. He was feeding them sausages. 
 
 
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He was talking to them gently, and the dogs were very polite. No fighting amongst themselves, no growling or pawing or jumping up…they stood there patiently as he pulled the meat into chunks to distribute it evenly between the dogs. 
 
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Here you can see the good-guy tourist throwing it up in the air. It's a blurry shot but you can see him being quite gentle with the underarm throw and the dogs patiently looking on. They weren't under-nourished, they were quite healthy. I suspect the Chinese border officers have kind hearts when it comes to dogs, too. 🙂
 
 
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Here you can see the same dog asking a fellow tourist for some affection. The Nepali family was standing next to me and when the young girl offered the dog some bread, the father offered it some biscuits, the dog refused the food, but kept nudging her hand for more pats on the head. We all "aaawwwed", and the Nepali dad rightly said "oh, he doesn't want food, he just wants affection". 🙂 Yes, all humans feel connected to animals. 
 
DSCN4442This is the "Friendship Bridge" that connects Nepal and Tibet. After going through customs, we walked across this bridge to the Nepal side. Rolling our luggage along, it was a sad goodbye to our driver and guide.
 
We were excited about the start of our Nepal journey, but we were definitely sad to have to leave our Tibetan giude and driver, who had become so close with us through the 9 days (and altitude sickness episode). 
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The right side of this river is Nepal.
 
 
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And this is the customs office on the Nepali side. You pay your USD$25 and you get your 15 day visa.
And we were in Nepal! 

While waiting for the Nepali visa, I wandered to the little Hindu temple by the waterfall. 

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It's a tiny temple, sitting right next to the waterfall. We had walked past it ont he way to the custom office. I was watching the priest (the dude you can see in the white shirt, pants and baseball cap, sitting in the temple on the floor) bless the worshippers in the temple. I was standing a few metres away from the temple, as I wanted to show my respect for the place and the rites. As I was watching the priest, he turned and saw me watching. I didn't want to look like a freak, so I smiled when he saw me, and I kind of bowed or lowered my head in a sign of respect.

The priest smiled back and then put some of the yellow pigment on his finger and gestured – asking me if I would like a "tika" on my forehead. And I nodded, walked up to fence and he placed a tika on my forehead. I Thanked him, brought my hands, palm together, near my face and bowed a little again. 

It was a really nice welcome to Nepal. 🙂 

After the rough drive, the feelings of "what if I can't make it?", to the "omg look at this scenery" moments, to the sadness of leaving Tibet and the nervousness of entering Nepal… the priest's gesture felt like a warm extension of Tibetan culture. 

That the journey was not ending, and in many ways, continuing despite the border crossing. 
 

It's a moment I'll always remember.

A welcome without words.

 

 

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