from Golmud into Tibet
Chengdu a city where I got most informations and tips how and where from to enter Tibet. There's so many question about entering Tibet ,how much does it cost ,is there a bus ,can I get in illegal ,where are the check points, what happens when they catch you ......??? Actually the road over Golmud is open since about 1998 or even longer (but this can change anytime ),from there you can try to get on a local bus and pay a bit less money with the risk to get caught if.....?! Or you get a ticket in the Chinese travel office (CITS)at the Golmud-Lhasa bus station. I heard many different versions about entering the top of the world ,one guy just took a bus to visit Litang (west from Chengdu) ,while he went closer to Lhasa he use to hide himself in the back of a truck for about 32hours ! It is worth it if you don't get sick ,if it is enough warm ,and if you think about having enough food and water . Also make sure that you pay half ,and the rest in Lhasa! Just to make sure you get the full service.
Checkpoint on the way to KTM/ Tibet. If the PSB catch you and you have to go back you loose time and money !The best way to do it is to fly from Chengdu ,costly and you miss a wonderful trip through Tibetan villages ,between Chengdu and Xining .
At 7:00AM the bus left to Songpan. On a really nice road through the mountains Sichuans ,lonely villages surrounded by rice-, and wheat fields .For a long time the road follows a river called Min Yiang who reflects the sun. On a altitude of 2950meter we arrived in Songpan before sunset, after seven hours .
In the villages who wear made out of stonewalls and wooden constructions on top, the peoples are busy collecting corn and oat. Horses carry huge packs of corn plants back to the village. On a four meter high wooden construction they hang wheat until it is dry, which doesn't take long time in the daily heat of 25-28°C, in the night the temp. dropped back to around 7°C.
At 6:00AM I carried on to Zoige (5h) a rough road that lets you feel your brain! From 2900m the bus brought us up to a high plateau on max. 3800m. Always when a car or a bus reaches the pass the driver use to drop little papers with prayers on it(...the road is not that save!) about 200 of them in all different colors, like on a carnival they flew up in the sky .After a few seconds the whole magic was over and soon we dropped again .
We passed little Tibetan villages with lots of Tibetan flags on top of their roofs. Slowly the altitude dropped and over a sandy road we passed landscapes that remembered me of Mongolia. Far away on a hill I could recognize a little group of yaks who were guided by a horseman and his dog .
After I fell a sleep, some noise cut the silence and half of the bus was already empty, we are here. Zšige! A city not that small, on both sides of the road lots of little Tibetan shops selling jewelry turquoise and clothing's .Out of all these shops came a loud voice ‹hello....hello!‹ followed by a huge smile in their faces .The main traffic in this city are rickshaws who are powered by two Chinese legs and a little man his head covered with a big straw hut, then on a altitude of 3450m the sun is quite strong.
After the first try, to get a ticket to Xiahe failed, I got now one for the day after. You can also stop in Langmusi a little village with 80% Tibetan inhabitants where you could try to beat the record of the yak burger-test: to eat a HUGE yak-burger in 20 minutes ,sixteen peoples tried it already ,for the last position you could have 24 hours --> breakfast lunch and dinner !
Zoige - Xiahe Zoige11.10.00
At6:30AM there it was my bus to Xiahe covered with snow, I could not believe it, 15minutes out of town everything was white. And a temperature that was a bit too low for me, if I remember that I was wearing shorts the day before! I could feel and smell to get closer to Tibet, most of the travelers in the bus were Tibetans, and also the clothing's were a bit heavier. Huge sheepcotes, large belts covered with nice silver designs, corals and turquoises .With a max. altitude of 3850m and a view between the valleys surrounded by white mountains, we had our first break after two hours drive the cardan joint was on the floor, three hours late we arrived in Xiahe.
A little city with one of the six biggest monasteries the Labrang Monastery. The other half of the village is Chinese. Lots of shops with souvenirs, handmade silver designs in the backyards, woodcarvings, turquoises, necklaces, leather shops, traditional clothing's..... The village is surrounded by big mountains, a Lake... 14km out of town, horse riding is possible in ganja-grassland (that‰s the name ??)good connections whit local transport .In the Tibetan part of the village, there are lots of little alleys ending in front the monastery. From all sides there is a hello... or OK! Little kids following and making jokes about us.While the women in the main streets sell fruits and vegetables, shoemakers follow their jobs to finish before sunset. Out of a wooden door a monk is leaving his home, with a nod he‰s greeting us, then heës following the alley who will guide him to the daily ceremony with all the other monks.
The Labrang monastery Xiahe 12.10.00
11:00AM every morning the ceremony starts in front of the monastery. In snow covered the 50 " yellow hut monks‹ use to pray, sitting on the steps in a big cloud of smoke coming out of a huge pot where they burned herbs from the mountains. In front of the main gate they take of their boots, made out of wool and leather, and stored them on a place where they found them after everything was over. After the second ceremony in the monastery the monks went in a neighbor house to get breakfast. In big pots they brought the food inside .Later on they left the monastery in all directions and follow their things they have to do during the rest of the day .
7:00AM somehow we were leaving but not really. At first the driver had to change the oil filter, during that he had the glory idea to have a useful spare tire on board, so one guy left with that heavy bus wheel. One and a half hour later the bus took off...finally!
After a while on a concrete road, the driver turned left on a hardcore off road trail. Mud big road-constructions, bridges were built ,huge walls to stabilize the soil. A long trip but a nice and interesting one. The morning was foggy and cold. Through the fog we could see the high mountaintops in front of a deep blue sky. The rocks had all different colors from dark to light brown, deep red, light gray almost black lined in different contrasts over the whole massif. On some parts of the landscape there were huge red towers like in a canyon, in between Tibetan houses.
A city with an other big monastery, a lot of Tibetan people (golok) wearing dreads on their head, golok peoples are quite big, strong man .Also women have bigger heads then other Tibetans, the lips are larger also the nose is quite bigger than others. Again really nice jewelery big earrings amber-, and red coral necklaces.
At four o clock in the afternoon the bus left and we carried on through the same landscape like the day before. Six hours later we arrived in Xining where we spend one night to leave early next morning to visit the ≥Ta-er-si‹ monastery 25 kilometers south of Xining. The third of the six biggest monasteries, built in the year 1577, where visitors can see the main attraction in one of many temples. Roses, monks, Buddha's everything made out of yak butter. Since 1300 years the monks use practice this kind of art, to sculpt the different colored butter to different forms. Around the monastery is (like everywhere else) the kora, a small trail around the monastery complex. Clockwise the Tibetans walk around the monastery, whistling their prayers and spending hours doing rounds before leaving .
After I traveled since three weeks with my three friends from Xiahe over Tongren to Xining ,I had to say bye ,then they left south to visit the golok peoples, I left to Golmud, the only open legal overland-connection into Tibet from the Chinese side.
By train leaving the same day to Xining (16hours) on the 19.10.00
Golmud -Lhasa (Tibet) 35,5h by bus
In Golmud I met robin a French guy who tried to leave the same day to Lhasa. Instead of checking in the hotel ,I left again to the bus station to get a good price for this next big move. The illegal price was around 750yuan(100US)..not bad thought but finally the driver closed the doors and left somehow. Hmm... the next station was the CITS the Chinese international travel service where we finally bought our tickets for the double of the illegal price. The price includes a three day trip Golmud-Lhasa and back visiting the Potala-palace, the Sera-, and Drepung-monastery in and around Lhasa.
(For a local bus ticket U pay about 360yuan) the Potala is to reach after 10 minutes walk or 2 minutes by taxi and the other two monasteries 15 minutes by taxi .So the whole thing with this 3-daytour is a joke. Instead to agree with that we changed the whole story in Lhasa in the CITS office and went to Ganden a really nice monastery on 4500meters. The Potala palace we organized ourselves. For the bus who costs us 360yuan way back that nobody of us needed, we got the money back after a big carnival with the boss in his office (before we set his office in fire!).
At five the ≥sleeper bus‹ (I never slept so bad) left Golmud ,again through a beauty of a landscape, slowly we ascend to 4000m,what everybody could feel ! A bit dizzy and really sleepy, I enjoyed the trip (a important one) .At 5200m the bus stopped..!? Breakdown! for me too. Problems to breath, headache, and no power at all. I thought I‰m dieing. Some oxygen we became from our Dutch friends also in the bus, helped a bit to cool down our heads...but not for long. All that because we had no drinks with us, which was quite stupid.
21.10.00on the bus
After a long sandy night and lots of vibrations, the sky became brighter. Still on 4600m the mountains were illuminated by the orange light of the morning sun. But to enjoy that, I was just too dead. The whole day we spend still between 4600 and 5000m.
After a salty soup and a few liters to drink I felt better. Surrounded by white mountains, we carried on over the small road resembling a snake reflecting the sun while gliding through the fields and valleys in front of our bus. In a small restaurant we made a rest to eat dinner at 23:00. Tibetan (Muslim) meals, soups, noodles, and vegetables.
Back in the darkness of the night we followed the road. After a short ride we left the ≥good‹ road, and we continued on a SANDY.... something. That was real sand I could see it, smell it and taste it! Through the floor the sand came into the bus and covered everything. Problems to breath, but this time because of a blocked nose.
The moon was shining like a big smile in the sky, when we entered Lhasa at 4:30AM.
one of the trips included in the Golmud-Lhasa ticket we changed against a daytrip to Ganden ,a monastery on 4500m ,it started snowing for the first time since i entered in Lhasa .It started with a bit of action ,we tried to snick into the monastery area but the guy followed us for the first few minutes ,he tried again to get some money from us but we just didn't want to support the Chinese, he left... :)
A view down to the lowland where we came up ,it looked like a carpet with Mountains on it .
A close-up of the Potala palast in Lhasa
While each butter lamp represents a "life", the Tibetans try to keep each one alive ,and light up each flame that goes off immediately!
Lhasa a big city with lot's of chinese buildings ,there's even a huge building surroundet by mirror glass who reflects the potala, actually a sad picture .
in the souvenir market in Lhasa I made this portrait of a nice lady who asked me after I took the second shot "ahh you like me"? I started to laugh "yes" I responded...
After I spent two weeks in Lhasa and visited different monasteries around Lhasa ,I got sick for two days and decided to go soon as possible to Nepal .So after a few days I was lucky to share a 4WD jeep with four other peoples .So we went on a tour through Tibet for the next six days over ,Shigaze ,Gyanze ,Shegar ,Tingri Everest base camp and over a other 5200m pass downwards to the Nepali border in Kodari .
old lady in the backyard of a monastery building cleaning the floor /Lhasa
old man on the kora trail in Lhasa
Chinese doctors in Lhasa demonstrating how the human body works ,with a plastic box and cable connection to a Tibetan mans arm and ears .Little bulbs lighted up while the doctor pushed some buttons ,some lights didn‰t work well so he had to smash his hand on it to make it work again .
for me it was quite funny but all the Tibetans around were really serious about these Chinese-doctors.
on a hill close to yam tso lake ,beautiful view over the road we came from in a fairytale landscape
a bit further from yam tso-lake a huge massif in front from us ,made out of different colored layers of stone
Xixapangma a beautyful mountain on the road ,the whole floor was like on the moon sand and stone
On a stop in Sakya we met lots of little kids surrounding us while we arranged our next room for the night .These kids are always facing strong wind and cold air ,a running nose and dirt stuck on it ,is the result.
a friend of the girl above ,who else just check the nose /Sakya
In the evening before sunset we arrived in ... close to the village I saw some snow on a hill I told my friends that I'll go up there and will come back later .So I left with my camera to get this area on my films .After one hour of hard walk the sun was already on the horizon and my snowy hill was still miles away so I turned 180Á to heat back home but at least the following morning brought some nice moments in the sunrise light
Early morning in .....before we left this lonely village out of nowhere
After we bought our entry tickets for the Everest national park we left Tingri (where I met all the cyclists), and hit the road to Everest base-camp on 5300m .A steep part going up to 5200 meters with a good view over most of the 8000 meter giants.A last pass and down we went in direction border .It was a funny feeling to see bamboo and bushes ,to hear crickets whistle . I haven't heard that sound for ages ,and I think I also haven't seen a forest for weeks. It was like entering a world I've been before but it took a while to realize it !
On the Chinese border in Zangmu peoples usually take a cab to go down to the Nepalese border Kodari. I still had about 8kg more because of the books I carried for Mat, a English guy I met all the time since Xiahe in china. He went to the 2nd camp from Everest with a American we met also in Xiahe .But still I walked these 8km with around 35 or more kg in my bag (max weight ).It took a while but I made it. Funny again!...the second time my first culture shock .Since I crossed the bridge that separates Tibet from Nepal ,from one second to the other, all faces were Indian looking, the Chinese were gone after three months. No one was left.