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Seven days in Tibet – episode 1

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Dear traveler friends,

We are starting the New Year with the first TravelBadgers guestpost – an exciting serial about the mystic and far away Tibet. We met Mihai (the travelwriter) in Bucharest, shortly before leaving to Nepal. And also many thanks to Sorana, another member of the Nepal & Tibet traveling group, for her wonderful photos that made available for this story.

 

We enjoyed with Mihai and Sorana emotions of the first days spent in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, also standing together in a rafting on the whirling river, in Chitwan jungle and after that, our vacation route had been different. While we played in Pokhara or felt good through the Qatar dunes, “the Tibetans” … but it is better to let him to tell the story:

 

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2011 Anno Domini in Tibet, is one that I hope to not see again. I trust – probably in vain – that my next trip to this part of the world will introduce me in Dalai Lama’s Tibet, as it was before 1959. Because I am already hungry for a painful and quiet ginger soup, noisy sipped, without the embarrassment of being unmannerly in a village lying in front of the World Goddess Mother’s feet.

The conclusion is served, only remains for me to start the story. You will believe me, or on the contrary, you will like to gather your own impressions. I would do so.

 

TSONGDU

After six days together spent in the fascinating Nepal, nine divine lighting thirsty intrepids temporarily separate us from the rest of the group. One part should continue its journey in Nepal, with slightly extreme sports accents, the second part is preparing for another meeting with Their Graces Buthans. We start a 984 km journey to Lhasa, five days on the Friendship Highway, that links Lhasa from Kathmandu. You say that’s a really true friendship, because the road is perfectly pavedand crosses the Tibetan highland having level difference of up to 4,000 meters. Unearthly.

The road to the Tibet border seems never-ending, especially after just an hour of sleeping last night in Chitwan. We follow the deep valley of Bhote Koshi river, with its white waters, perfectly designed for a rafting not easier than 4 difficulty level, but we have time for that. From a 160 m Swiss pedestrian bridge, some brave men throw to the stormy waters. I say “No thanks” on the fly to the one of the most spectacular point of bungee jumping in the whole world. Mountains are beautiful groomed with many paths between the cereal terraces.

Driving is against time, the Chines don’t work in shifts within the border point. It is essential to get there until 2 pm, when officers pull window shutters. And because our warm beds – go on! – are waiting for us cross the border, not a minute wasted. I feel this rush in my every little bone shaken during the last part of the road that climbs sinuously, forest, but surely, to Tibet. Paintings performed through the car window considerably standthe shocks. A landscape that surpasses the Avatar, with almost vertical versants, washed by many high waterfalls, by steaming milk. Only this amazing film frames make us forget that we whenever could leave the film, because any parapet will stops us. Fortunately, the driver is an image operator that pays attention to the details.

As we approach the border, I anticipate crossing of the border will be equally cinematographic. Once the luggage is outbound, some of us reveal that its have feet. Some small and hasty feet, determined to get into Tibet before us. The carriers that live near border, in the Kodari named Wallachian village, most women whose weight slighty more than our luggage, hang the suitcases on its heads, using some straps and than go. Some of us let them earn a few rupees by following them, others pay the money to recover their luggage.

With or without help, we start to the checking point. The feeling is that we leave a country being in war, from which everyone are in a hurry to escape. On a bridge not too wide, many shake people, with much luggage, cars, trucks, ballots of goods, make this route with obstacles a sequence lived with strange delight. The adventure begins. Because all this fuss and speed carriers, some of us don’t see a line drawn somewhere in the middle of the bridge, advancing too much in the Chinese side. Only then the presence of an armed soldier at the end of the line becomes evident to us. Needless to say, he is not impressed by our looking forward for visiting his country, waving his arms and screaming to our harmless guide. For a moment, the anger from his eyes makes us to think he moves to the facts. But he remains still calm after we regrouped and check our common visa. Few other checks follow, including a superficial searching in our baggages, that we pass smoothly. Only later, many of us find out that we have a revolutionary in our group that hides in her troler two Tibetan flags purchased from Bhakhtapur, thinking, as a joke, to fly to Potala windows. All this after we were informed Lonely Planet guide is not allowed in this country, simply because it mentions the Dalai Lama. “Free Tibet!” Be it!

All of us embarked in three Toyota jeeps, we start the fight for the liberation of Tibet. In the first won redoubt, Zhangmu, we buy yuans from the local exchangers, in the street, at a decent rate and the guide obtains the special entry permit for Tibet Autonomous Region – Alien Travel Permit. It is already the third step, after the individual China visa we had also obtained from home and common group one we had applied in Nepal. Ok, guerrilla, but a legal one. Here we see for the first time where and how the yak meat is cut, the meat we are going to eat in all possible ways: directly on the sidewalk.

We are in Nyalam region, translated by the Road to Hell, and the first Tibetan accommodation is in Tsongdu, place named by Razvan Marc, the Maximo leader, City of Life. The short road between the two cities we go having the 30-40km/h astounding speed, despite our protests, tired after a 12 hours journey. Guide says that it is better for us. Soon we understand why. We have already climbed around 2.500m additional from the 1317 m of the Kathmandu Valley. Here, that at this altitude, I realize, carrying luggage up the stairs to the first floor is for the Olympic test for a person like me. Lack of 35 percent of oxygen saturation is felt at every step. It requires a slow motion and plenty of water, seasoned by me with effervescent tablets hydration for athletes.

Dinner is barked by many Chinese dogs … garlic cloves, said it is a good remedy for altitude sickness. Certainly that smoking and alcohol don’t help. With the dose of acetazolamide in blood – softer version of the toxic Diamox – taken over and stuck more for the sake of the hypochondria, and laid down in our sleeping bags, we try to survive over the night in a hotel without heating, at 3.750m in the middle of October. But it is harder for two of our girls, who discover the origin of the toponym Nyalam, over the repeated ways to the toilet where they are going to return roughly their dinner.

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