Pretty much the journey consisted of driving past lots and lots of amazing scenery. The roads varied from freshly surfaced tarmac (rare) through to potholed rock-riddled tracks (pretty much all day) and sometimes we just drove down the side of mountains or up streams dodging yak, sheep, shepherds, yak, more yak and the occasional guinea pig.
Each time we stopped, whether it was to visit a significant monument or in a village to stay the night the locals might attack you for provisions.
At points it was like being on the news in a war-torn village with kids just begging for food and money. The poverty was completely unfixable.
The Italians I shared the landcruiser with caused a near-riot in one place as they bought two packets of crackers from a shop and shared them out. You’d have thought we were giving away houses from the way kids and teenagers literally attacked each other for a bite.
Talking of the Italians, they fell out with our driver on the first night which made things awkward.
He wouldn’t drop us off at another guesthouse after already taking us around 3 that were full in the first town we got to.. this began a blazing argument in one hotel reception which never really died down. They had no idea how to travel and clearly thought they were on a package holiday.
On the final day it all errupted again and culminated in our driver stopping the car in the MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING DESERT and throwing all our gear out onto the road then attempting to drive off without us. It was almost comedy, but it was an hour from sunset and we were hundreds of miles from anything.
The world cup winners were going mental and the driver was as angry as you can imagine any Tibetan becoming. Tibetans are normally the most placid people you can possibly encounter.
I eventually talked the man round (after sending the Italians away for a walk and making sure that at least MY gear was back in the ancient Landcruiser!) this was no mean feat being as he couldn’t speak a single word of English.
This made us late for the border to Nepal.. (it closes at 6PM), happily the Chinese guards let us through but it got genuinely hairy for a while.
The ride from the border to Kathamndu took us over the friendship bridge.. we ended up sharing a battered Land Rover Defender into town with a local Nepalese girl who was carrying this huge plant-pot that had some kind of giant triffid thing in it.. she also got carsick meaning her and her plant got a seat each in the front whilst the four of us squeezed in the back.
It was not comfy.
Dropping down from 4000M to 1800M over the back of the Himalayas, was fairly onerous and the roads were unlike anything I had ever seen. At some points we were literally on three wheels in feet-deep clay hanging over the edges of steep ravines.
Buses, lorries, other defenders just shoving us towards potential doom on every corner.
There were frequent stops too at the maoist rebel checkpoints. These were just oil barrels filled with concrete creating crude chicanes in the road which make you stop for inspection.
There might only be a piece of string between you and the road ahead but you don’t drive through that when the man at the end of the string and his six-year old son are both holding AK47s.
Despite appearances though, even those guys were all very friendly and appeared to have a good craic with the driver each time before we all moved along.
Before all that madness however, there was my personal highlight of the trip. Everest Base Camp. That truly was amazing.
We left our stuff in a guesthouse 8KM away, since that is as near as cars can get to the mountain. We took a walk up to base1, in fact I took a “shortcut” and ended up getting some class pictures of a wild guinea-pig, some kind of otter and an antelope of some description. David fucking Attenborough.
I also ended up in the wrong place, about 200M up on a cliff over Base1, this gave me great views but meant I had to backtrack about 2 miles to get down to it which was proper hard-work. The cup of tea I had in a tent when I got there simply tasted delicious.
I would like to say; you have no idea how much hard work it is to do ANYTHING at 5200M. How anyone goes another 3KM to the top is beyond me.
The air is so thin you just can’t comprehend it.
The next day my head was banging and I felt totally sick. Luckily we would be reducing our altitude (the only cure for AMS) that day but it still meant 8 hours on the plateau before that would happen. Once I was back to Kathmandu, a mere 1400M I was sound.
That’s about it really. The best bit was leaving China which I thought was awful, seeing Mt Everest (even if it was cloudy) and getting my photo taken on the plateau like I’d seen on “The Silk Routes” about 18 months ago. The inspiration for the trip. That really felt like an achievement.
Kathmandu is a really relaxed place, even the hawkers on the street can hardly be arsed trying to sell you drugs/whores/pirate dvds/woolen sweaters and trekking trips.
Breakfast out here is just about the best thing in the world. every single day “one indian breakfast please!” consisting of a spicy omlette, onion bajis, masala tea and some curried potato. I’m enjoying writing my diary and hanging about.
Delicious. I might stay.