Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A hell of a ride!

So i did make my way hitchhiking through Tibet.. the rule is simple enough for me to keep forgetting it: don't believe the hype! go your way and you'll be fine.. patience is the key!

Yet i didn't really know what i was up for, and the past week has been pretty hectic!

I started off walking for a bit out of Sakya.. just as i was starting to think it wasn't that easy, my first driver stopped to take me.. well, "driver".. it's a horse carriage, that took me to the next village! But it was a start, and from there everything went faster and faster..
A truck took me straight to Lhatse, the main intersection from where i had to decide.. should i try the western road to mount Kailash or just head towards Nepal?
What the hell.. let's try Kailash and the Manasarovar lake..
Some kind of -over crowded- lawn tractor with a trailer took me to cross Lhatse and put me on the road to Kailash..
Well, it actually dropped me just a few meters before the police check point.. they only stop the vehicles; so i just walked accross with my big pack and my guitar.. and noone could care less!
Just as it was starting to rain, a truck stopped and took me to Kaga, 50km west of Lhatse.. waited 20 minutes at the gas station and a new truck took me again..
Ha! it's almost too easy, i thought.. at this pace i'll be in Saga tonight!

..couldn't be more wrong!

As we travelled west, the road -in construction- was getting worse and worse.. probably worse than mongolia! (although i didn't travel mongolia in a 20 tons truck!)
Climbing passes over 5000m, crossing rivers and mud fields.. it was all fun at first, and i was quite impressed by the ability of the drivers, but after a while my bottom started to cry for help!
The evening was coming but Saga was nowhere to be seen..
When it got pitch dark it looked like we were going to drive all night.. until we got stopped in front of a bogged truck blocking the road and we couldn't go any further.. we would just sleep in the truck and wait for the road construction engines in the morning.

That's when it started to not be funny anymore!

The night got freezing cold and i wasn't quite equipped to sleep in a truck.. i spent the whole night rubbing my frozen feet.. impossible to sleep.. one of these nights you think the morning is never going to come!
When the morning finally came it was raining.. i was dead tired and started to feel sick.. We waited a few more hours for the truck to free the road and could finally continue our way, but with the non stopping rain, the road was getting even worse than the previous day.. we could barely ever shift to second gear, and we got bogged ourselves at least 3 or 4 times in the day.. spending an hour everytime to get out of there..
Again the evening was coming and no Saga in sight! I started to be scared i'd spend another night in this truck!

Around 9pm as the night was falling, we finally reached the tiny town of "22 tao pa", where my drivers dropped me because they were going the northern road to Ali, whereas i was to continue on the southern road to Saga and Kailash..
Good! i was so relieved i would spend the night in a bed!

All dressed up and with 3 heavy yak wool blankets, i fell right asleep!
The next morning i thought for a while.. i had planned 3 days to reach lake Manasarovar.. it's been 2 rough days and i'm not quite halfway.. on top of that all the traffic goes the northern route to Ali.. not much going to Saga..
I just won't have enough time, and i'm tired.. So i finally decided to rest here for a day, walk around -after all it's just as beautiful here as anywhere else!- spend some time with the family hosting me, play some guitar... and just head back the next day!

The next day i found a bus going straight to Lhatse.. and here in the wild, far from the official ticket sellers, you can take the bus!
So the ride back felt incredibly easier.. we just had to get off the bus and walk every once in a while, to pass the deepest mud holes, and it went fine.. we even stopped in a hostel for the night.. luxury!

In Lhatse, the bus dropped me off just in front of the police check point! and again noone cared.. aside for making it difficult to buy bus tickets, these restrictions are bullshit.. and don't buy the stupid travel permit; noone ever asks for it!

Played some guitar on the side of the road near Lhatse until a truck picked me up, and then a bus and in the evening i was in Shegar.. the gate to the Everest base camp.. I wasn't even sure i would reach Lhatse that morning; i was doing good!

But the travelling machine was launched and i couldn't stop it! In Shegar there was a group of people trying to get to the base camp.. so i joined them, and after a few hours of bargaining we were on our way to the base camp already..

Got to the base camp at around 1:30am, and the guesthouse was full, so we decided to all sleep in the car.. i was quite afraid after the previous experience but this time it went fine and i slept.. and it was actually perfect to wake up at dawn and try to get a view on the Everest!
We even got extremely lucky: all the echoes i had were that the weather was always bad and people would stay there 3 or 4 days to get to see something!.. Well, after 2 hours of walk, we reached the base camp around 10, with a beautiful sun and the Everest below!

I thought i may spend a couple of nights at the base camp, but the place is mainly the highest tourist trap in the world, and i got lucky already.. and it was starting to rain!.. so i went straight back with the others..

Back in Shegar, we were all pretty tired.. yet i thought i could maybe push to Tingri, the next town in direction of Nepal, and spend the night there..
At first i couldn't find a ride to Tingri, but there was a bus to go straight to Zhangmu, at the border with Nepal.. and Zhangmu is supposed to be a beautiful area..
Well, why not after all...

Wrong! When i'm tired i should just learn to give up and rest instead of making stupid decisions!

When the bus came, the driver wanted to charge me 3 times the price, because i was a foreigner and he was risking a fine.. i know it's bullshit now, and it all started to piss me off again.. i made a scandal to finally pay "only" twice the price.. only to find out, when i got in the bus, that it was already over crowded, and my seat, like others who got on with me, was actually a plastic stool on the central corridor of the bus!
So instead of just getting some rest, i was in for another nightmare ride; all night on a bending and sliding plastic stool, on horribly bumpy beat up roads.. the scene was worse than the train ride from Beijing to Lanzhou..
and not only was i skipping Tingri and Nyalam, but the beautiful road accross the Himalayas to the border, i was doing at night, missing all the scenery..

Anyway.. i made it to the border.. spent two days sleeping and chilling here.. it is beautiful indeed, hanging on the side of the mountain, with waterfalls all around.. although too much into the rain season!
Typical border town, Zhangmu is a funny mix of Tibetan, Chinese and Nepalese.. only here can you find tibetan girls in salvar kurta and chinese guys speaking english with an indian accent!

One last night here and i'll head to Nepal tomorrow morning..

One of my taxis..

The Himalaya range as seen from 22 Tao Pa.. somewhere in the middle of.. nowhere!

dunno.. cool light i guess..

stuck in the mud again!

some more toilets.. the real thing.. (although most of the time there were just no toilets at all.. it's "behind the rock")


Zhangmu.. sitting on the mountain..

Nepal as seen (or not) from Zhangmu!

No comments: