Hitting the Road to Nepal

Trip Start Apr 09, 2006
Trip End Jun 09, 2007

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Flag of China  , Xizang,
Monday, October 16, 2006

I was up early to have breakfast before packing it up and meeting the crew for the 5-day journey to Kathmandu overland. I wished farewell to Ruud the previous morning as he headed out for his own 5-day round-trip to Everest Base Camp and back. I hope we can meet up sometime in the future as I'm already missing his company.

I had only just met my crew which included two couples: Rob and Allison are English (28) and Marek and Romana are Czech (26). Our first destination was the view of Nam-Tso Lake and Nyenchen Tanglha Peak (7,111m). We were fortunate to have great weather for the day and the views from the 5,000m pass were outstanding! This was my first time at this altitude (on land) and I was grateful for the extended time with Ruud acclimatizing - no issues with altitude sickness at all.

After the obligatory shots we headed further West to Gyantse, which LP states is one of the least Chinese-influenced towns in Tibet. We were all pleasantly surprised at the monastery (Delkhor Chode Monastery); it was really good! After touring the monastery and the nearby fort we were back in the Land Rover for the ride to Shigatse.

Shigatse (3,900m) is Tibet's second largest town and is the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama (and I thought the Dali was the ONLY Lama). We found the town to be quite nice and, again, the monastery did not disappoint.

The next day we were prepared for a long drive to Shegar via Lahtse. Our driver showed up about 15 minutes late (and had not obtained a plastic cover for our luggage that was riding on the roof as we had asked). We were only slightly upset because we decided not to leave until 1PM, thus the driver was off from ~6PM the previous day and had all morning off as well. We blew it off, loaded up and split.

Within the first thirty minutes of the drive we could all clearly tell something was wrong with the driver. He could barely stay awake and had rolled down his window and was driving with his head out. He was a hung-over muthafucka and we were all pissed....and slightly afraid for our safety. He pulled over suddenly in a tiny village and left the truck without a word. When we told him we were ready to go and he should come on (our contract clearly stated that we decided when and where to go, not the driver) he became somewhat violent and actually pushed Marek. (Keep in mind that this guy's English skills are quite basic). We were pissed but really had no choice than to continue with him. We were in the middle of NOWHERE and no one had cellular coverage. We opted to continue to the next town but were unable to find a phone there. As a last resort, we continued to our destination for the day and had decided to call the travel agency from there to demand a refund and new car/driver. Of course, we arrived in Shegar after the travel agency was closed...we were stuck yet again.

Finally, with no other real option, we asked the driver to step outside so we could have a talk. He was in the restaurant of the hotel with all the other drivers and guides and we thought it best to talk one-on-one. Luckily, we had "befriended" another guide who could translate for us - um, me. I was elected spokesperson and made our opinions very clear to him. It was like using my consulting skills on a kindergartner. In any case, he got the picture and was on-time and on his best behavior for the rest of our trip.

The best part of the day? We got our first glimpse of Mt. Everest at sunset on our way into town. !!!
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