6. A journey into Tibet – Nyalam Mu to Zhongba

July 2012

Previous posts:

A journey into Tibet - Kailash Manasa Sarovar
1. A journey into Tibet - At Kathmandu
2. A journey into Tibet – Mountain flight
3. A journey into Tibet - Manakamana
4. A journey into Tibet - Kathmandu to Nyalam Mu
5. A journey into Tibet - Rest day at Nyalam Mu

Today we will be travelling from Nyalam Mu to Zhongba via Saga which a major town in the area. The total distance would be about 340 km.

After breakfast, we started from Nyalam Mu. The weather was cloudy but there were signs of clearing up. The road after Nyalam Mu passes through the mountains with river flowing to our right side. The land was mostly barren with few green patches near the water beds.

After about an hour the climb to Lung La started. With altitude above 15,000 ft this would be highest pass in our journey that we cross on bus. Thanks to good road, the climb to Lung La was never felt. From top of Lung La, vast plains of Tibet can be seen. The good part was that the weather started to turn bright.

After Lung La, road passed though plains.

I was seeing a massif of snow covered mountains on the left side. It was the range of Shishapangma. Shishapangam at the height of 8,013 m (26,289 ft) is the fourteenth highest mountain in the world. It is the only peak above 8000 meter that is completely in China. It was the last eight thousand meter peak to be climbed due to the restrictions for foreigners to visit Tibet.

A huge glacier at the base of the mountain.

We passed though a check post where the guide has to show some documents to Police. No passport verification for done here.

I was seeing a blue lake on the far right. It was Paiku Tso, also called as Hanuman Sarovar by Indians. It do not know the why it is called Hanuman Sarovar but I assume it has something to do with Hanuman taking bath in this lake. The lake is about 27 km long and 6 km wide. But its water is brackish.

There is a stretch of road where asphalting is not completed. Though this part of the road passes through mountain area, it is still drivable on buses.

The drive on mud road would have lasted for about 1.5 – 2 hours. We were seeing a river flowing. It was Bramhaputra River (Also called as Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet). The ferociousness and vastness of the river was not seen here as it was still in its infancy. Here we cross the river to reach the town of Saga.

Few years ago, there was no bridge across the river. The vehicles and passengers had to be ferried across, process that used to take a very long time. Now the bridge has made life easier.

At 1:30PM, we were in the town of Saga. Until last year Saga was the second halting point on the way to Manasa Sarovar. Saga is a major military town having range of good hotels with private restrooms. But due to good road people proceed further for halting thus reducing the importance and hype of Saga. Many people stay here during return journey.

We had our lunch at Saga. The lunch served was prepared and packed in the morning. It was simple but tasty. One cannot be finicky about food at these remote places. It is very important to have regular food to keep ourselves fit at high altitude. And drink lots of water even if the weather is cold as high altitude cause dehydration.

It started raining the moment we finished our lunch making us run for cover. The rain lasted for few minutes and the sky was clear again. The guides and drivers who had gone out for lunch (They do not take Indian food!!) were not to be seen. For some reason, Sherpas asked us to walk for a km where the bus would pick us up. By then clouds had vanished exposing us to scorching sun. For few people the walk for too much to handle. No other explanation can be given for the difference of 30 minutes between the first and the last person who reached the bus.

Prayer flags on top of the pass
It was again the barren landscape of Tibet again. We crossed a pass that was 4920 meters above sea level. Plain lands started again.

New Zhongba town
At 6PM we reached New Zhongba town.  Stay was at Namla Monastery hotel. The rooms were good (In fact I got a King size bed!!). The rooms had televisions but no power!!  The generator was not working. The sad part was that the hotel had common Tibetan toilets. Tibetan toilets are unbearable and beyond any imagination!! Seeing my worried face one of the Sherpa told “This is the better one sir. From tomorrow, it will be even worse… this is a new one. So it stinks less!!” . Not sure whether it was a good or bad news. 

I should here say about the role of Sherpas in this trip. They are the most critical members of the team who can make or break the trip. The activities done by them are:
·         Pick up duffel bags from all rooms and put it in the truck. And in the evening, give it back to the respective people.
·         Prepare food – Morning tea, hot water to wash face, Breakfast, lunch, evening tea, soup, dinner and hot water for drinking. And everything is served inside room (sort of room service!)
·         Unload and load all items (Utensils, water drums, gas stoves, groceries, vegetables) from truck.
·         Carry oxygen cylinders during trek.
·         Help people during trek.
·         Washing utensils.
·         Arranging ponies and porters for trek.

A mountain seen from Hotel
Basically they are the ones who run the show. Majority of them are simple people who always keep smiling. They just sleep for couple of hours. Their service is simply unmatchable.

View from my hotel room
The truck carrying food items reached late due to breakdown. So the dinner was served at 11:30 in the night. 

We would be seeing Manasa Sarovar on the next day!!

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