AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Tibet Tour: Day 2

This was going to be a long day and all of it was going to be on the bus! The day before we’d stopped in Zhangmu on the Tibet-Nepal border, instead of travelling for another couple of hours up the road to Nyalam. This meant two things, firstly we had an extra two hours of driving on what was already an all day drive. Secondly, is the rapid altitude gain. The most important rule of altitude is that once above 2,800m you must not sleep more than 300-500m higher than the night before. Ascending rapidly can cause altitude sickness, mild altitude sickness can take the form of a headache, nausea, sickness and in moderate/severe cases your lungs filling with liquid, bad altitude sickness can lead to HAPE which is fatal if untreated immediately. Nyalam is situated at 3,700m above sea level and although that would have been a dangerous altitude gain on the first day (900m) it wouldn’t be as dangerous as going from Zhanhmu (2,300m) to Lhatse (4,100m) in a single day. We would be gaining 1,300m above the threshold in a day, an extremely dangerous plan! And we had people on the tour who hadn’t trekked and hadn’t acclimatised to any altitude. (As a side note we will be complaining to the tour organiser about this reckless disregard to altitude).

We left Zhangmu at 9am. For two hours the bus drove along a road literally hanging off the side of vertical cliffs. The valley was long and deep and we were constantly climbing for all of the 2 hours. At one point we saw a huge mass of prayer flags and asked to get out and take a look. The flags were over a side valley and the road was on a bridge to cross this valley. I looked over the edge of the bridge and couldn’t believe how high we were, it must have been 300m+. My legs went weak with the height!

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After a couple of hours driving the scenery had changed from the green of the valley to a yellowish, dry landscape with only a little plant life. Just a dry, stoney, desert like landscape. We had reached Nyalam and already gained a lot of altitude!

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Just after Nyalam the traffic was stopped. The road had disintegrated in a landslide and a bulldozer was blocking the road while another vehicle pulled loose stones from the hillside before unblocking the road of boulders. The landslide must have been very recent. We were stopped there for about 90 minutes, putting us even further behind schedule.

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From here we drove for hours through the desert landscape. It was surreal, like nothing we’d ever seen before.

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The bus stopped by a lot of prayer flags. We were told this was a pass and we were at 5,000m above sea level. Bloody hell, almost 3,000m gain in altitude today! People were starting to feel the effects of altitude.

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We stopped at 4pm for our lunch. The restaurant was tourist orientated, meaning no real Tibetan dishes and the Chinese dishes weren’t great. It was also quite expensive compared to usual restaurants in China. Although the price could be partly explained by the fact we were in the middle of nowhere.

After our ‘lunch’ we set off into the amazing scenery once again. This time the bus climbed a bit and seemed to be struggling and then we reached another arch covered in prayer flags. This was another pass, this time 5,200m above sea level. The highest point on the tour. In 9 hours we’d climbed 3,000m! People were starting to feel bad! Even us, who’d been to 5,400m a few weeks previously and had slept at 4,500m were slightly worried. I reckoned our acclimatisation line was around 4,000m. We’d probably be fine, but still a risk. Annemarie felt a headache starting to kick in, I was fine.

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We reached Lhatse at 9pm. We didn’t feel hungry, only peckish. So we went to the shop across the road, bought a few cakes and two bottles of orange juice, sat in our room and ate them then went to bed. The room was basic. Three of us sharing the room which contained nothing other than 4 beds and 2 tables. Although it did have power sockets, very handy! The door had no lock and didn’t close properly so we had to pin it shut with the other lady’s suitcase. That night neither of us slept! The altitude was affecting us. Not seriously, but we had a very dry throat plus a blocked nose, annoying!

Posted from Rikaze, Xizang (Tibet), China.

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