Three days in Tibet

View from 17000ft

In October Steve and I travelled through Nepal and Tibet.  We hired a guide and driver to help us get from Lhasa, Tibet to Kathmandu, Nepal (approx. 1000km).  On the way we were sidetracked with an unfortunate unseasonal early blizzard in the Himalayas.  During the time of this story we were scared, bored, hungry and disappointed in missing out on seeing Mount Everest from the Rongbuk Base Camp.  Once we finally got back to Kathmandu Steve and I devoured a pizza and started to recount our story.  I encouraged him to get the story down into words.  Here is an account of our three days in Steve’s words

Lots of hours waiting at 15000ft at the Tingri police checkpoint

Bus trying to squeak by at 17000ft in massive traffic jam

Ok lads and lasses…  I believe I have just experienced the most fucked up three days of my life with Rich Voninski.  It started off innocently with a drive across Tibet on our way to Rongbuk Monastery at the feet of Mt Everest… however, things started getting weird when the Chinese police check station asked us to haul “food” up to the monastery… which turned out to be some mystery dead things with hooves and fur sticking out of rips in the bag that they threw on top of our luggage (no photo attached) .  We got about a third of the way along the road when someone coming down from the monastery told us to turn back because of the worsening blizzard (very untimely for October – we scooted away from the typhoon in Japan on the way here, but got hosed by the remnants of the cyclone that hit India this week). So, greatly unfortunately (read: ruin our Tibet trip), we turned back to the tiny village of Tingri (at the ass end of the universe) and procured unheated rooms (but equipped with TV and internet, sans Facebook or Google because of the Chinese censorship) as the storm worsened around us. Freezing our arses off in the finest inn in Tingri, we braved the evening and awoke to stunning views of Everest and Cho-Oyu from our balcony… but the day turned to shit from there… we set out for Zhangmu on the border, which is less than 250 km away… little did we know we’d spend the next 15 hrs in the van trying to get there, through 7 hrs of waiting at a police check point at 15,000 ft, another three hours in the most F-d up traffic jam at 17,000 ft (!!!), and a no-shit harrowing, night death ride down from the pass complete with icy Himalayan fallen boulder-strewn road, an almost-creamed yak, dog, and 2 horses, another hour-long midnight wait at a police check point (the Chinese are apparently rather paranoid of anyone on the ONLY FUCKING ROAD IN NOWHERE AT THE ASS END OF THE UNIVERSE!), and confusion as to which hotel we were to stay at at the ass-end of the Tibetan universe (we stopped at 3 places before we got the right place). Our hotel turned out to be something out of The Shining… we were literally the only people in the echoing, tomb-like dump, with an icy wind howling through the shitty construction. They chained the doors locked after we turned in and there were no people or lights in the whole place…after freezing the night away in our oddly unfinished room, we had to use a flashlight to make our way to the chained doors in the morning. NO lights or staff. At least we had a “western” toilet, though it couldn’t handle TP (anyone who has travelled in Asia understands the significance and luxury of having a “real” toity!!).

Garbage bin gets interesting

Steve getting photobombed by our crazy Tibetan driver at the border with Nepal before our drive through the village

After starting off in the morning we headed to the Nepal border through one of the most amazing gorges / canyons anywhere in the world (really spectacular), but with our insane Tibetan driver. After another almost-creamed yak, we encountered yet another stupid shit Chinese police road blocked traffic cluster fuck until someone finally figured out that the dozens of trucks stopped in both lanes waiting to go to the border really should be in only one lane. Our nutcase Tibetan driver seems to have been thinking about going home because his coup de grace last minutes with us were absolutely the most butt-puckering, white knuckle and toes ride I’ve ever experienced as he careened at stupid Hollywood-impossible speed through the horrifically steep (built impossibly on the gorge wall) switch-backed single street of Zhangmu full of dogs, huge trucks, motorcycles, chickens, cows, children, yaks, and goats all trying to occupy the roughly 8 feet of road width. His magic blasting horn somehow got us to the bottom without death or mutilation of creatures, people, or vehicle, and to the customs station at the Friendship Bridge to Nepal.

Building the Nepal road ‘on the fly’

But the fun didn’t end there… after trudging our way through customs, we were met by our slightly-less insane Nepalese driver and guide who took us through more astounding Himalayan gorge scenery (and horrific Nepalese poverty) on a yet more butt-puckering, muddy cliff-hugging road complete with dodging chickens, goats, dogs, cows, children, huge trucks, overloaded buses, and heavy road equipment (you know… the kind of F-d up roads where over-loaded bus loads of local folks die as they slide hundreds of feet off cliffs into the raging white water river below).

The Avalanche Area where hundreds died in August 2014

At one point we crossed the slippery, muddy track across an enormous mountain slide that wiped out a village and buried over 200 people this past summer. We finally completed the 120 km (70 miles) drive after 4.5 hrs of snaking, cliff-defying, goat- and bus-dodging. The harrowing tale has a swell ending with our finding a reasonable tasty pizza joint in Kathmandu and a well-needed cold BEveRage. Holy shit.

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