Travel Nepal to Tibet through Friendship Highway

After a stormy night, a gray sky dawns. We start the famous Friendship Highway that links Lhasa and Kathmandu by land. It is one of the most beautiful routes that can be traveled in the world. It crosses one of the most desolate and remote regions of the earth, the Tibetan plateau, and comprising an average altitude that ranges between 4000 and 5000 meters.

They were about 900 km those that separated us from Kathmandu, almost 5 days of crossing through the Himalayas. From the beginning, we were clear that we wanted to reach the base camp of the roof of the world, and without a doubt, it was "the adventure". If there were a highway in the sky, this route could possibly be the closest thing. With these expectations, we left the hotel.

Immediately we see that the guide and 3 drivers await us with a 4 × 4. We start the route by a conventional road where from time to time there are police controls, which curiously measure the time between each control to know the speed you are going. At the beginning, the road is paved. There was a lot of fog in the mountains that we passed through.

Then the route is routed through gorges following the course of a large river, the Yarlung Tsampo, sacred to the Tibetans. It is impressive. There are peaks of 5000 meters on both sides, although at that time we did not know that this was just the beginning and the best was yet to come.

In the middle of the morning, we arrived at a little village, where we ate a little on the road what little there was. There was rice, meat, and noodles and it was not bad. The site was quite authentic, as we started to see Tibetan life outside Lhasa. We continue our journey when one of the most exciting stretches begins, with semi-desert landscapes, very mountainous, authentic dirt tracks, really spectacular.

From time to time, we observe funerary hills, which are places where they scatter the remains of the dead, quartered, as a ritual, and where the scavenger birds wait. In a documentary, I heard that it is part of the cycle of life and that, moreover, the land in Tibet is so hard that it costs a lot to excavate it. We also see many villages, in places so inhospitable. The children always greet you so you can give them something.

After going a long time, we can see in the distance a hill-fortress that we are approaching. We are arriving at Gyantse, a town that in its old part is almost medieval, and it conserves the Tibetan culture very well, thanks to its monastery, the Palkhor, surrounded by a long wall, and that remains quite well in spite of the destruction of numerous temples in the cultural revolution of the 60s.

We began to visit the monastery and the stupa of Kumbun, or the 100,000 images, with nine floors and a total of 108 chapels where thousands of clay sculptures can be found. This original construction is unique in Tibet. A little later it starts pouring rain and we are going to take refuge. The modern part of Gyantse is reduced to a couple of wide cross streets perpendicularly filled with shops.

The hotel is also luxury. The truth is that we are surprised by such luxury as we would have wished something more normal, although everything would come. We walk around until dinner time, where several of us order yak pizza. Back to the hotel we cheer up and remember anecdotes of the trip.

The Return Journey

I could not read. I could not talk. I could not do anything but look out the window. And not only because of the impressive landscape that was formed behind the glass, but also looked with anguish at the sky. That clear, clear sky, devoid of clouds. Blues All right. Very good. I did not want clouds. The clouds cover and this time I needed that at almost nine thousand meters above sea level everything was clear.

It was the second day on the Friendship Highway, the spectacular route that connects Lhasa with Kathmandu crossing the Himalayas and from where you can access the Everest Base Camp. The route could not go better. We had left the Tibetan capital the day before the sun rose to see the mountains change and change as the light did.

We had passed through the Kamba-la pass at 4700 meters high on unsuitable roads, for which, like me, we suffer from vertigo. Fortunately, there was hardly any snow. Tibet, the land of the snows, stayed in pleasant irony. What was there from the top was a beautiful view of the Yamdrok-Tso, the sacred lake of turquoise waters contained between arid mountains that give it the shape of a scorpion. Like an oasis in a desert at 4441 meters high.

We had crossed the creepy glacier at 5560 meters above the Kharo-la pass, to reach Gyantse and Shigatse, two of the most important religious and spiritual centers of Tibet. As we reach Gyantse the fortress at the top of the mountain was already visible in the distance. It is the fortress that defended Palcho Monastery, that has the most important stupa of all Tibet and in whose borders was fought a battle between Tibetans and British, that the Tibetans won, for a change.

Shigatse was not left behind in spectacularity. The second most important city in Tibet is home of the Panchen Lama, the second religious figure after the Dalai Lama. We also had a mandatory stop at the Tashilhunpo monastery. Perhaps you are thinking of two temples, but to measure the proportions of the Tibetan monasteries should be compared with villages. There are multiple buildings, dozens of temples, streets, alleys, houses, stairs, schools, residences. The home of the Tibetan Buddhist monks is made to get lost.

The second day the landscapes did nothing but improve. The mountains and peaks increased as we crossed the 5100 meters of the Gyatso-la Pass and entered the Qomolangma National Park. Qomolangma is the Tibetan name given to Mount Everest. It also has another name, the Nepali, where it is known as Sagarmatha. How can you imagine, this name dates from before an English general gave him to change the name referring to Sir George Everest, a surveyor from India, so the name of Everest has always been ignored (and rightly so) both by Tibetans and Nepalis.

There were only about 50 kilometers to reach the top of Pang-la, the last mountain pass from where you have the most magnificent views of the Himalayas. We were crossing the new road, opened less than a year ago, which climbs to the top. Interestingly you could still see the remains of the old road, but it was scary just to see it. If the new one had already grabbed you tightly in the seat, the old one should be only for adrenaline junkies with a lot of time, because the speeds on that bumpy road, stones, holes and the right width of a car, had to touch the snails.

We reached the top and our soul shriveled. As if wanting to maintain the anonymity of the peaks, a thin row of clouds covered them modestly. Neither above nor below. At the right time. We were denied the vision of the peaks of the world and the worst thing is that I had no intention of improving. Condensed water clusters grew at times.

Upon reaching the base camp the worst omens were fulfilled. Everest was hidden behind a curtain of clouds. And the news was not flattering. There were groups that had spent a couple of days in the base camp and had left without seeing it.

After spending the day there, the sky opened and we could dwarf ourselves seeing the highest point of Everest. But we waited for hours, having already abandoned hope. The base camp is quite peculiar. Well, it would not be right to call it base camp because it does not exist anymore. It was dismantled last year when a group of students placed a Tibetan flag there. The Chinese authorities, who do not have much sense of humor in relation to the Tibet issue, moved the base camp four kilometers farther from the base of Everest, in Rong Chung.

The new base camp, which I will remember with great affection for its endearing smell of burning wood, is a conglomeration of huge stores that call themselves hotels. There the groups arrive to settle in, along with the owner, who acts as a bellboy, innkeeper, cook and whatever else, while entertaining the newcomer with tea, tea, and more yak butter tea. These tea glasses are infinite, like a bottomless hole, because the host, by way of respect, fills the glasses with each drink.

For the rest, there is not much to do there, apart from admiring (or imagining) the enclave that may never arrive. You can go to the original base camp, but from there you can only see the remains of what once was. It seems that it can still be used if one goes on an organized expedition. The price is $ 100 per night, which is not much compared to the $ 500 for the second base station or $ 1,000 for the third base station. It seems that this would include the Sherpas and others, but do not pay much attention to me, I am not sure of the truth of such information.

It is a mistake to think, as I thought, that the magnificence of the Friendship Highway would depend on being able to see Everest or not. Everything is spectacular. Especially the last route, which links Tingri with the Nepali border. It is a roller coaster of both road and emotions. For me, the most impressive part of the trip, where once past the 4950 meters of the Tong-la pass between the 7367 meters of Mount Labchi and the 8012 meters of Shishapangma, begins the descent to Zhangmu, the border.

With it, the changes of landscapes begin and the desert of the heights turning before our eyes is a garden. It was a descent of more than 2500 meters, by a road still to be completed.

Gone were the Himalayas, the heights of the Tibetan plateau, the mysticism, the friendly people with oriental features and toasted skin who always gave me smiles, their costumes, their cowboy hats, their amulets, the pilgrims patiently walking the koras, the Great Potala Palace above Lhasa, the blue waters on the heights.

I went from Zhangmu, in Tibet, to Kodari in Nepal. And believe me, nothing I had read, heard or imagined was worth to cover what was happening there.


Eden said...

Nice friendship thoughts.

Max Coutinho said...

Kalyan! Hello...

Such a wonderful post on friendship! It is true that good friends are precious and we should do anything to keep them.

Of course, many people ignore the meaning of friendship: real friends do not have to be together all the time, they do not hide their thoughts from each other (the truth can easily be told), they do not hold a grudge upon a quarrel (which is only natural) and they are like good brothers (with all the things that come along with it)...

Well done, my friend!


Pradeepa said...

Wow so many friendship quotes.

Felisol said...

I love to start the day with good and warming thoughts.
I chose this one to be mine;"
A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words."

Spiderdama said...

So very much true words. And the silhouettes are wonderful!

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Such great thoughts about friendship.
Thanks so much for the visit to my blog and the kind comment. Much appreciated. Diane

elvira pajarola said...

FABULOUS QUOTES, FABULOUS photo to underline this theme....the last quote is the one I like most!!!!

FABULOUS BLOG....thousands of themes, great!!

ciao ciao and thanks so much for visiting my baby wild boar in Tuscany!!

Reader Wil said...

Brilliant quotations!

Tammie Lee said...

yes, friends are essential treasures.

Al said...

Great silhouettes and wonderful thoughts.

holdingmoments said...

Some excellent quotes there.

My favourite is 'A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.'

Carletta said...

A plethora of friendship quotes that warm your heart. :)
I LOVE that first shot - beautiful.

Dimple said...

These are good friendship quotes!
Here's another one I like:
Pro 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; But the kisses of an enemy are profuse.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

What a neat post... I lost a really good friend recently to cancer --and I miss her so much.. Friends definitely are very special.

Thanks for my birthday wishes.

Charlotta said...

Nice blog. Are they all your photos? I love the silhuette images.
Thanks also for your comment on my blog.

ρομπερτ said...

indeed the only force which keeps one alive. thank you for sharing.

please have a good new week.

daily athens

Jacob said...

A wonderful, uplifting post. And so true. Real friends are often difficult to find but so necessary to a fulfilled life. Love your photos, too.

And thank you very much for stopping by our Paree blog!

stardust said...

I'm so grateful to my friends for their friendship. The photos of jumping silhouette are lovely. I wonder how many times you made them jump? :)

Thank you for your visit and a kind comment on my blog.


Leonora said...

Wonderful photos, great silhouettes!

Ewa said...

so many great wards about friendship!!! and I love the shadow shots:)

rainfield61 said...

That's why you have found me, and I have responded.

~JarieLyn~ said...

I love all of these quotes. I have heard many of these before and they still sound so fresh. I really like your blog.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Lovely thoughts and I love the silhouettes!

Sara said...

Hi Kalyan, you have a wonderful blog, and this photo and post are just beautiful, great work!
Thanks for visiting me @ Chasing Rainbows and your lovely comment.

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