We journeyed by road from Lhasa to Kathmandu,
taking in some of the wonderful sights of
Tibet – stunning lakes, ancient monasteries
and the mighty Mount Everest. It’s
worth spending a few days in Lhasa to acclimatise
to the altitude and thinner air. Accommodation
was very basic although they claim it to
be 3 star, mmh…!
It is strictly enforced that non-Chinese
nationals are required to obtain a special
permit to visit Tibet and hire a tour guide
every day they stay in Tibet. Individual
permits are almost impossible to obtain for
average tourists. Some agencies in Kathmandu
are able to obtain a permit for 4 persons
of the same nationality so we were lucky
to have a permit for 2 people.
Lhasa (3650m)- Gyantse (3950m) 261 km
We began our overland journey from Lhasa
towards the Rongbuk valley, following Friendship
Highway, crossing the Khamba La (4794m) from
which there are stunning views across the
turquoise waters of the holy Yamdrok-tso
Lake to the snowy summit of Nazin Kang Sa
(7252m). The freshwater lake is 4480m above
sea level, around 500sq miles in size and
We continued westward over another
high pass. the Karo La (5045m), and viewed
the spectacular sight of a huge glacier tumbling
down to within a few hundred meters of the
road. After a few hours, we arrived in Gyantse
passing the beautiful valleys and colourful
Tibetan villages. Gyantse is an agricultural
town famous for its wool.carpets and the
Kumbum, the largest stupa in Tibet, housing
10000 images in hundreds of chapels at the
Palkhor Chose Monastery.
Overnight at Gyantse Hotel.
Gyantse (3950m) - Shigatse (3900m) - 90 km
Before leaving Gyantse, visited the Gyantse
Dzong and Gyantse Kumbum, which is a large
gold-domed stupa. The Dzong is a fort dating
from the 14th century from which there are
amazing views of both Gyantse itself and
the surrounding Nyang Chu Valley.
We drove to Shigatse and explored a local market before
continuing on to the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery,
one of the largest functioning monasteries
in Tibet. Overnight at Utse Hotel.
Shigatse (3900m) - Shegar (New Tingri) (4050m)
- 244 km
We continued along the Friendship Highway,
through spectacular landscape of Tibet, crossing
the highest pass on our journey, the
Gyamtso La (5220m). Then we continued towards
the plains passing lonely monasteries and
the camps of nomadic herders, en route to
Shegar. Overnight at Everest Hotel.
Shegar (4050m) – Rongbuk (5000m) -
68 km – Tingri (4390m) 65km
We turned off the Friendship Highway and
headed south over the Pang La (5150m) towards
the main Himalayan range with magnificent
views stretching from Makalu to Shishapangma.
Below the pass, as we turned the corner into
the Rongbuk Valley, we saw an amazing view
of Mount Everest. (We were supposed to stay
at Everest View Hotel but the agent didn’t
book it so we have to drive an additional
65km to the Snowland Guest House at Tingri)
Mount Everest, Rongbuk (5000m)
We drove 65km back to Rongbuk. After looking
around Rongbuk Monastery we set off on the
8km walk to Everest Base Camp (2 to 3 hour
walk). Drove back to Tingri and overnight at Snowland Guest House.
Tingri (4390m) - Zhangmu (2300m) - 181 km
We left Tingri and crossed two high passes,
the Lalung La (5124m) and the Shung La (5200m).
On route we saw magnificent scenery of the
surrounding peaks including Shishapangma,
Cho Oyu, Menlungtse and Gauri Shankar. Then
we rejoined the main route over the arid
Tibetan Plateau to the town of Nielamuzhen
where we had to wait until we had the OK
to drive down the deep valley of the Bhote
Koshi which was nearly unpassable in places.
We were given the clearance to drive down
the valley (traffic coming up had been halted)
but it was probably the scariest route of
all our travels. Heavy rain had washed away
much of the mountain pass so there was little
room for one vehicle to drive and in places
the waterfalls were running across the road.
Surprisingly, we met a guy who was cycling
around the world on his pennyfarthing bike!
Finally, we arrived at the lush, green town
of Zhangmu on the Nepalese border. Overnight
at Zhangmu Hotel.
Zhangmu (2300m) - Kodari - Kathmandu (1350m)
- 123 km
Leaving Zhangmu, we had a short drive to
the Chinese - Nepalese border where there
were very long queues of vehicles. We were
relieved to say good-bye to our extremely
bad Tibetan guide. He wasn’t even qualified
to take us to the Nepalese border but we
were fortunate to get the assistance of a
tour guide who was taking a group through.
We walked across the Friendship Bridge over
the Bhote Koshi River to the Nepalese Immigration
Control in Kodari and waited in a café
unto our Nepalese guide came along.
We then drove 5 hours in very bad weather
and road conditions to Kathmandu. At one
point there was water flowing over the road
and all passengers had to get out of the
vehicles and walk across with their luggage,
incase the vehicle went over the cliff!
Overnight at Hotel de l’Annapurna.
For the first time ever in our extensive
travel (see www.novatravels.net) we had a dud tour company, (see the full story about Nepal trailblazers), who said that it is OK to provide a unqualified
student instead of an English Speaking Guide
as they had specified and to not pre-book
hotels. (We understand that it is law to
be accompanied in Tibet by a qualified tour
guide at all times)