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Tibet

Mid-December 2005 - I went on a 900km land journey from Kathmandu to Lhasa (and back again) over 11 days, along what is famously known as the Friendship Highway. We were a group of 11 persons from the UK, Germany, Sweden, France, Ireland, Singapore, plus the Tibetian staff of 2 drivers and a guide, in 2 4x4 Land Cruisers.

The route starts from Kathmandu, border towns of Kodari/Zhangmu, Nyalam (1st overnight stop), Lhatse (overnight), Zhigatse (overnight), Gyantse (overnight) and finally to Lhasa.

Tibet - the good & bad - good because the overland journey to Lhasa from Kathmandu was outstanding. What I didn't quite anticipate in this journey was the utterly bitter cold/dry weather conditions which affected me after a few days on the road, the lack of reasonable facilities - days went without a visit to the crapper for many of us. The worst was that I got hit with mountain sickness (AMS) and I ignored it until we reached Lhasa. Fortunately, I got the mild form and I kept my appetite, no headaches/nausea so I was still able to enjoy a bit of Tibet - I just began to cough blood in Lhasa and had to seek emergency medical treatment - then advised to return to lower altitudes asap.

At least now I know why they call Tibet the Roof of the World or Tibetian Plateau - after crossing the border towns, we were hovering at altitutes of 4000-5200m for the 1st 4 days and the arriving in Lhasa which is 3600m (but no consolation of relief). Unfortunately, I was so weakened that I could not even walk up the Potala Palace (which is another 300m tall). Even walking 5 minutes or 100 m horizontally was exhausting - oxygen levels at these altitudes are between 50-60% - you can figure the consequences. AMS hits anyone, irrespective of fitness at sea-level - another of our team members is a triathlete - also got hit. The irony is that I've done 4000m altitudes before, but never got hit with AMS in the past - so, yes it was a sort of a bummer after all.

Nevertheless, I'll still return to Tibet by flying in next time (Chengdu or Kathmandu). This was my third time to Nepal - and I want to go back again - Kathmandu is really a very charming place, people are really friendly, very inexpensive to stay - you should seriously consider it. http://www.pbase.com/gbc/newnepal.

This is my journal.... many more images to be added over the next few days