The much awaited D day had
arrived. Today we will travel to border town of Kodari which 115 km from
Kathmandu. We will cross the border and climb up to Nyalam Mu town in Tibet. On
the previous day, a session was held to discuss about the schedules, do and
don’ts and precautions to be taken during the trip. We were given a small backpack
and a duffel bag. While we keep only the things needed during the day in
backpack, rest of the items would go into the duffel bag. The bags would come
in a separate truck and delivered at the end of the day.
|Route from Kathmandu to Manasa Sarovar (Approx 900 km)|
Everyone was ready by 4AM. The
group size was 65 people. We will be helped by 13 Sherpas who would be the part
of our group. I was bit apprehensive about big size of the group. While I was
the youngest person at age 34, the oldest person was 83!! A difference of two generations!!
|Scenery after Kathmandu|
At 5AM we left Kathmandu. It had
rained heavily last night and was still drizzling when we left. Few people told that it is an indication of
good omen!! The buses slowly moved through the dark and silent streets of
Kathmandu. Then we were moving on a four lane highway. I thought that Nepal
would have built a great highway till the border to match its Chinese
counterpart. But after Bhaktapur (at the outskirts of Kathmandu), the road
turned into a normal single lane road!!
|Bhote Kosi River|
After Kathmandu, green fields and
hills started to appear. The beauty of Nepal countryside was bestowed on us. Being
in excited mode, everything looked great and nice!! By 7AM, we had travelled
about 70km crossing the small towns of Bhaktapur, Banepa, Dhulikhel and
Panchkhal. At Sangachok, we were stopped at a roadside restaurant where we
consumed our packed breakfast. It was a beautiful place where Bhote Kosi River
flowed. This River would be our companion for rest of the day.
|River next to the hotel|
There are several check posts all
along the way to border. A Sherpa gets down the vehicle and registers the
vehicle at the station. Then a Police comes inside the bus and looks at us. We
say “Kailash” and he is convinced!! No hassles.
Until now the road condition was
quite good and I expected that the remaining 40km to Kodari would be covered in
no time. But Sherpas told me that we would soon be entering landslide area!! The
next 40 km was really bad. The journey was slow as there were landslides all
along the road. Luckily, none of them were fresh to block our way.
|An old landslide|
After about 2 hours of travel on
that bad road, we were seeing a town on top of the hills. It was ZhangMu town
on Tibet side. We are nearing the border I thought. And in few minutes we
reached the border town of Kodari. The town was filled with vehicles and people
carrying luggage. Lorries from Nepal would cross over to China, pick up the
goods and return back. Here the Bhote Kosi River was the border where one side
belonged to Nepal and the other to Tibet (China).
Our lunch was arranged at a
hotel. It was too early to have lunch at 10:30AM but then we were told that the
next food will only be at night. While we were having food, our passports were
taken by guide for Nepal immigration. By the time we finished our lunch
passports were back with departure sign. While Nepal was cool but things will
not be so simple on the Chinese side.
|Tibet side as seen from Nepal|
We walked further and reached
friendship bridge across Bhote Kosi River. This was the border between Nepal
and China. Exactly in the middle of the bridge were Chinese authorities. We had
to stand in the line in the same order as the names are listed in our group Visa.
The Chinese person checks each and every passport and makes sure everything
matches before letting us in. This was a preliminary check before the
immigration point!! We cross the bridge and enter into the immigration area.
The contrast between Nepal and Chinese side is easily seen. While it was all
dull and old buildings on Nepal side, Chinese side had full modern looks.
|Bhote Kosi River|
People from another group who had
arrived earlier were standing in the immigration queue. So, we had to wait for
long time. Out of two counters one was reserved for locals and immigration
people were not in hurry to let us in. Each and every person was scrutinized.
The wait was painful especially for an impatient person like me. While we were
waiting, our luggage (Bags, water cans, food items etc.) were carried by
Tibetans. We were awestruck by the amount of weight they can carry. They had to
carry luggage all the way from Kodari bus stand, cross the immigration and to
the place where vehicles are parked on the Chinese side. It is definitely more
than a kilometer. Amazing people!
|A small waterfall on the way|
It took more than two hours for
us to complete the immigration. We were now officially in Tibet. It was raining
and we had to walk for another few hundred meters to reach the busses.
Until last year, roads in Tibet
were in bad condition and only vehicles like Toyota Land cruisers would go. But
now the Chinese have built a highway all the way till Manasa Sarovar. So,
travelers now have an option of choosing bus instead of Jeeps. Each has its own
pros and cons. Even though I had an opportunity to travel on both vehicles, I
cannot say which is better. It is not the bus or Jeep that makes the trip a
success but the weather, Sherpas, Travel agent, Chinese guide and drivers. The
trip will be a hell even if one turns nasty.
Few points about bus:
- Buses have AC (At least the ones
we got) and have nice push back seats with good leg space. It is important as
we will be travelling on road for most of the time.
- Windows cannot be opened and
hence photography from a moving bus is not possible. The last seat had open
windows and I took that seat!! Thanks to smooth roads, I never felt any issue
with last seat.
- Bus goes slow when compared to
- It takes a long time for the
entire group to get in and get out of the bus.
Now the land cruisers:
- No AC and is bit cramped
especially for the person who had to sit in the middle.
- Possible to have quick stops but
depends on the driver.
- Moves faster.
I did not face much issue with
vehicles even though I was taking a lot of photos. Due to severe research (!!)
I did, I knew the important places on the route and had clearly told the guide
and drivers to stop at such places. Never faces an issue there thanks to good
drivers and guides.
|Heavy rains as we climb up to Tibet plateau|
Back to the story. The clock was
turned 2.5 hours ahead. Entire China follows Beijing time and hence there was a
time difference of 2.5 hours between China and India. It was 5PM (From now all timings I mentions
will be Beijing Time Zone) when we started from the border. A series of hair
pin bends brought us to the town of Zhang Mu which we had seen in the morning
from Nepal side. Zhang Mu is a busy border town. The roads are narrow and
filled with vehicles. It took quite some time to cross this town.
Immediately after the town was a
check post. The guide gives the Visa list and other document to Police. One of
them comes inside the bus and does a head count. And he randomly asks a guy to
show his passport. Everything looks fine and gets down.
The road went up and up. Compared
to Nepal side, the road from Zhang Mu is more dangerous as it passes though a
steep and narrow gorge. But it is equally amazing to see how Chinese have built
roads in this landslide area. It was raining heavily and visibility was less. We
could clearly hear the sound of waterfalls everywhere but could not see them
due to mist.
|A waterfall near Nyalam Mu|
There was one more check post. The
person here looked into each and every passport. Chinese leaves no stone
unturned to ensure security.
|Hills seen from Nyalam Mu|
Finally, at 7:30PM we reach
Nyalam Mu town in Tibet. Rains start the moment we arrived. We had reached an
altitude of about 12,000 ft. Organizers come and tell about the precautions to
take. We will be having a rest day for acclimatization at Nyalam Mu. Anyone who
falls ill would be sent back.
|Our hotel at Nyalam Mu|
The luxury of single and twin
bedded rooms of Kathmandu was all gone. Everyone had to share the rooms. And no
attached toilets. There was no facility to take bath. I would be sharing room
with an elderly couple from Bengaluru and two guys from Calcutta. This
arrangement would remain for rest of the journey. But the rooms were nice and
clean. I was happy that the hotel had Indian toilets.
We settle down into our rooms and
Sherpa’s served tea after sometime followed by hot soup. And dinner in the