03.06.2013 - 23.06.2013 6 °C
After recovering from our trek, we started the drive back to Lhasa, stopping overnight at Lake Manasarovar, one of the few high altitude freshwater lakes sitting at an altitude of some 4,560 metres. Although pilgrims come to the lake to dip into the icy waters to cleanse themselves, we forwent this pleasure and stopped off at the hot springs instead. The hot springs “resort” consisted of a small cement building divided into six rooms, each with a wooden tub straight off the set of some western movie. A keeper came around and placed a big plastic liner in each tub and pulled out the cork plugging a pipe sticking out of the wall. The mineral water filled the tub and what bliss it was to soak in the hot water as we had not had a shower or bath for well over a week.
We stayed at a guesthouse on the shores of Lake Manasarovar, the most enjoyable being the time we spent in the tea house, drinking butter tea, eating fried potatoes with eggs and generally watching people. Goat droppings were used as fuel for the metal stove set in the middle of the tea room which was used for cooking and for heating. It was still raining and we discovered that the guesthouse buildings had some pretty impressive leaks, one of the best being right over the corner of Martin’s bed.
We most certainly did not expect snow the next day. The air was perfectly still, and the lake, surrounding hills and peaks into the horizon were all different shades of white and steel grey. After a breakfast of a hard boiled egg, tea and flat bread, Pius and I hiked along the shore of the lake and along one of the ridges. It was superb. The snow was pristine and the clouds gave the lake and surrounding hills a character and texture that a clear sky would not have given. By the afternoon, the sun broke through the clouds and we were treated to a glorious 360 degree view of the surrounding, snow capped mountains and the azure waters of the lake. A visit to the small monastery behind the lodge we were staying in allowed us to discover yet another medley of mani stones skulls and antlers. Unfortunately, despite the clearing sky, we could only see the bottom section of Mt Kailash.
Our return trip to Lhasa followed the road to Paryang, crossing wide plains and following shallow rivers to Saga, where we stayed overnight. The next day was spent driving to Shigatse via Raka, Sangsang and Ngamring, arriving in Lhasa the next afternoon. One bonus was being invited into the home of a family living in a small village and being shown the weaving skills of the women.
I very much enjoyed visiting Tibet despite feeling a bit conflicted about its political situation and the long car travel needed to get to Mt Kailaish. My 11 days in Tibet only provided a polaroid snapshot of the country and its people. But I came away remembering stunning scenery, the challenge of coping with high altitudes, the friendliness and laughter of the people we met on the road, and being invited as guests in their houses was a delight. Despite the distance, travelling by road was an ease and although living conditions were a wee bit basic, this just added texture and fabric to the trip. Dawah, our Tibetan guide, and our Tibetan drivers were a bundle of information, help and all round good fun.