It was my biggest travel dream to go on a roadtrip from Lhasa to Kathmandu. Chris and me travelled 10 days across Tibet. Was it really a dream trip?
How Tibet feels like
The wind is blowing heavily and it’s bitterly cold. As doors are kept open, it’s also cold in the sleeping bag during the night. What is more, the window of our room is broken. I’m suffering because I can’t stand cold and wind. Nevertheless I feel blessed. I’m staying overnight far up in the mountains, near the Tibetan Everest Base Camp. A white yak stands in front of the “Everest Guesthouse”. Tents offer an alternative sleeping place next to the nearby buddhist nun monastery. The social cohesion with the other travellers couldn’t be better, as we share intense experiences, the good and the bad. In the evening we were watching and photographing the magnificent sunset in front of Mount Everest together. Tripods were set up and people discussed travel photography. After this we had fun celebrating the birthday of a fellow traveller. Frankly the birthday cake was horrible. In general Tibet´s food doesn’t taste well except of the food you can have in the city of Lhasa. I have eaten only few bites for days, since we’ve started this roadtrip, as I am not feeling well. All the better tastes the salty and warming butter tea. It helps you with the low temperatures and the high altitude. The air can become thin on 5,000 metres.
Why I wanted to travel to Tibet
For me it was a big dream, to cross the moon-like Himalaya landscape from Tibet to Nepal. Tibet became my dream destination, after I had read the autobiographical novel about the famous traveller Alexandra DavidNéel. Adventurous Alexandra mingled with Tibetan monchs, lived alone as an eremite in the Himalaya and met the Dalai Lama. My plans became more concrete, when I was drinking authentic butter tea in a Tibetan café in a hipster neighborhood of Beijing in 2013. There I found a „Lonely Planet Tibet“ guidebook, which you shouldn’t bring to Tibet. It might be taken away from you at the border. I thought: If I can handle Beijing, I can also go to Tibet. From then on I dreamed of going from Lhasa, the movie set of “Seven years in Tibet” to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. I wanted to take the exciting and impressive overland route across the Himalayas and be close to the Mount Everest. My wanderlust has never been more intense.
Special weather in Tibet
First I saw Tibet from the plane to Lhasa. I also had the first magnificent views on Mount Everest as the weather was very good. The weather maybe could nowhere be better for photography than in Tibet. The sky is clear and deep blue. So are the lakes. The sun of the high altitude region makes everything looks picture perfect. My photo equipment was very basic at that time, but I love the pictures. On the photos, however, the weather looks more pleasant as it actually is. The light was often blinding and the cold winds were just a nightmare to me
Is Tibet comfortable?
I had known before that the hygienic conditions would be awful. This was no surprise as I had travelled three weeks through China by train already. Nevertheless I had no imagination about how bad it could really be. Therefore I warn you: If you want to travel through Tibet, you will have to stand these circumstances for a while.
In contrast, hotel rooms in the big cities were the more comfortable. There had bath tubes for example, which was unexpected but highly appreciated regarding the cold and windy climate. We rarely have lots of comfort when travelling to Asia. The hotel lobbies were huge and golden. This was not the Tibet I had imagined containing the romance of mountain huts. I also didn’t find the huts I had dreamt of in rural areas, but the exotic decoration and big butter tea pots met my requirements.
Many roads in Tibet are in good conditions. I saw other roads in the Himalaya.
The Tibetan people
People are walking in circles along a street. Their faces are tanned from the sun. They are holding prayer wheels and are murmuring. In front of a colorful temple they are prostrating themselves and worshipping. Many women wear thick black braided plaits and multicolored clothes. Some wear silver jewellery on their clothes and look like in a fairytale…
You don’t have to travel far in Tibet to see this. A walk at the holy circular Barkhor Road in Lhasa is enough. People from the whole Tibet do the pilgrimage to Lhasa. Among them you will also find nomads. If you like shooting portraits of people with interesting looks o if you are a street photographer, you will have a ball in Lhasa. You will always spot something interesting here.
Tibet was the most exhausting trip, although it was organized (You are not allowed to travel to Tibet individually) and we had prepared for the high altitude by a six days trekking in Nepal. Was it the journey of my life? Yes and no. With regard to intensity – positive as well as negative – Tibet was a superlative. I had experienced much more pleasant journeys though, packed with more and feeling more at ease. Nevertheless: Thinking of Tibet, I see the interesting people, the moon-like landscape, the herds of yaks, the crystal-clear and deep blue lakes… Nobody can take these impressive pictures from me. They were worth the quite tiring journey.
If you want to see more photos of Tibet, you can find them in my Flickr-album.
This post is also available in de_DE.