Tibet 2000: the road to Gyantse

Lhasa - Gyantse road
Lhasa – Gyantse road

(This is Part Three of a seven-part tale. If you want to catch up, Part One is the Introduction and Part Two is about Lhasa.)

Soon, the day for our overland trip arrived. The day before, we had each been asked to pay an extra $87 to hire two Toyota Landcruisers because, according to W our guide, the roads were “very bad, very bad” and the bus wouldn’t make it. Well, we weren’t surprised about the bus and we’d seen some pretty smart-looking Landcruisers about town, so this seemed ok. And if the roads were bad – well, we hadn’t expected a holiday camp either. However, the Landcruisers were old, beaten-up and rattled more than the bus. Still, things weren’t too bad for the first 90 minutes, until we left the main road and swung off up a mountain pass on a winding, un-metalled track. We all began to wonder what we had let ourselves in for. This was supposed to be a 10-12 hour drive and already we felt we’d never survive. The scenery was spectacular, but we felt too awful to appreciate it.

After four hours, we reached a “restaurant” (hut in the middle of nowhere) where we had lunch. This was our big chance to try yak butter tea, the local speciality. John, who is notorious for trying anything revolting, quite liked it – it reminded him of Stilton soup. I smelled it and heaved, asking for jasmine instead. I’m sure this came in the same bowl, which hadn’t been rinsed out, but at least it was drinkable. After lunch, the ladies tentatively asked about the facilities. W advised us that there was a toilet, but that we’d be better going behind a wall outside. Hmm….

A word about Tibetan toilets. The hotels we stayed in had normal Western sanitation, but outside a toilet (usually announced by its smell) consisted of a communal room with two planks over a noxious pit. No running water, no privacy. When sightseeing, we had all managed to avoid this because we always went back to the hotel at lunchtime. (Except for John of course, who with his usual disgusting curiosity went into each one just to look, even if he didn’t need to go.) On the road, it was different. The men, as usual, had no bother. The women developed a system of standing guard for each other (no bushes or big rocks available), and certainly our modesty decreased as the week wore on. The first time was a bit of a disaster – C got through alright, but what we hadn’t reckoned with was that, although we were well hidden from our own Landcruisers, we were on a hair-pin bend and there was a convoy of Germans on the way up. I heard their vehicles in mid-flow but had been holding on so long I couldn’t get done in time. We kept meeting those Germans all week. I hope they didn’t recognise me.

Enough about toilets, and back on the road. The first day turned out to be only nine hours. Perhaps, we thought, W was the type to exaggerate how bad things would be so that we felt good when they were better. We arrived at the Gyantse Hotel for one night – it looked like a toilet block from the outside, but was quite smart and comfortable inside. Our brochure described the next day as a pleasant two-hour drive to Shigatse with a visit to a monastery in the afternoon – and if W was saying the roads were now “very, very bad”, well, we knew he exaggerated didn’t we?

Come back on Monday to find out what happened next….


56 thoughts on “Tibet 2000: the road to Gyantse

  1. Miss Andi July 28, 2016 / 11:08

    Wow, quite a journey, you’ve painted an interesting picture! I’d love to get to Tibet one day.


    • Anabel Marsh July 28, 2016 / 11:12

      Thanks – but I think if you keep reading I might put you off!


      • Miss Andi July 28, 2016 / 11:31

        In all fairness, the toilet situation wasn’t very encouraging either 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. ms6282 July 28, 2016 / 14:58

    You certainly have an adventurous other half! I like to try different things and sample the local food and way of ife when I’m abroad, but those toilets definitely sound like a step too far!


  3. Liesbet July 28, 2016 / 15:00

    This is a very exciting adventure, Anabel. I’m on board! Some of the Chinese toilets I used when I was there appear to be very similar to your Tibetan ones, depending on how remote the area was.


    • Anabel Marsh July 28, 2016 / 16:28

      Glad you find it interesting! Yes, I’ve experienced them in other parts of China too.


  4. Blue Sky Scotland July 28, 2016 / 16:58

    Brings back memories. Toilets are always an eye opener abroad. French and Italian toilets used to favour the squat hole in the floor method while Aussie toilets I visited there either had no doors at all or ended at three feet high, usually with some guy chatting happily away to you while leaning on your cubicle rim asking you eyeball to eyeball where you were from and if you were enjoying your trip. A girl I knew in Asia came out of one there covered in dozens of blood drips as some mad local thought it was a good idea to hang freshly killed chickens, without heads, up in them off the ceiling. Cool and very dark inside so worked like a fridge in really hot weather. Not so good for anyone below them though..Looking forward to the next part.


    • Anabel Marsh July 28, 2016 / 17:26

      Oh no! I’ve experienced the French squatties, but I’ve never had the chicken blood. That beats any of my toilet tales.


  5. Jemima Pett July 28, 2016 / 19:15

    I think together we’ve found a new AtoZ theme – toilets we have known 😀

    Tip of the day: On Indian trains, the eastern ones are usually cleaner than the western ones.

    Looking forward to your next episode >:)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ann Coleman July 28, 2016 / 21:46

    I’m sorry to admit that I got quite the chuckle out of the outdoor toilet situation! But hey, we all do what we have to do, and I bet they didn’t recognize you!


    • Anabel Marsh July 28, 2016 / 22:02

      I wouldn’t be too sure! But eventually we were all past caring.


  7. Marcia Strykowski July 29, 2016 / 00:46

    The pictures are so beautiful and exotic. I’ll stick to them and block out all the toilet stuff, lol!


  8. Becky B July 29, 2016 / 08:48

    Even in Hong Kong it was always better if you had a rucksack rather than any other type of the bag when you went to the toilet . . .rucksacks are better for balance!!


    • Anabel Marsh July 29, 2016 / 08:53

      Very true! You never want anything that you might have to put down on the floor. I’m not sure how I’d cope now that my knees are 16 years older.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Becky B July 29, 2016 / 08:57

        ah yes . . the downside of western style facilities is that we don’t squat so we struggle to as we get older!!


        • Anabel Marsh July 29, 2016 / 08:59

          Yet I have seen really ancient ladies manage. They must keep their knees in training.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Val Hunter July 29, 2016 / 10:12

    Try using a a squat job in an Italian ski resort wearing ski boots and a one-piece ski suit!


  10. philosophermouseofthehedge July 29, 2016 / 14:19

    Always love pictures of roadways rambling along a mountain side.
    Primitve camping/travel is always complicated when there are no trees!
    What an adventure


  11. susan@onesmallwalk July 29, 2016 / 15:59

    “the ladies asked about the facilities’ Nothing lady-like about those facilities! 🙂


  12. Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor July 29, 2016 / 19:31

    That’s the worst when you really need to use the toilet only to find the toilet situation is really appalling. I’m hoping your trip gets better in the next installment.


  13. restlessjo July 30, 2016 / 21:18

    We do take our Western facilities for granted, Anabel. Not that they’re always so great! I needed to use the Megabus loo on my return trip and so wish I hadn’t. 😦


  14. rosemaylily2014 July 31, 2016 / 08:42

    Oh my goodness Anabel – I was part aghast and part laughing as I read this! Lack of toilet facilities would be a personal horror for me – we even commented on the difference between the Swiss (unbelievably immaculate) and the Italian ones (not so great especially away from the hotels) so I think I’d struggle to cope in Tibet. Fascinating account of your trip though and am looking forward to the next instalment! 🙂


  15. Peta Kaplan August 1, 2016 / 06:47

    Really enjoying the installments of your adventures in Tibet. Wow. I hate those scary winding unrailed narrow streets. Very scary. Look forward to the next…



  16. Jessica (Diverting Journeys) August 2, 2016 / 18:37

    Those toilets sound like a nightmare! Even worse than the awful beach toilets in Thailand, which were disgusting, but at least had separate stalls!


  17. Vanya Mahal Ranthambore August 4, 2016 / 08:53

    Goodness, a significant trip, you’ve painted an intriguing picture! I’d adoration to get to Tibet one day….Always love pictures of roadways meandering along a mountain side..What an experience..


    • Anabel Marsh August 4, 2016 / 09:35

      Thank you – glad you enjoyed the tale. It was certainly a significant trip!


  18. Birgit August 4, 2016 / 19:13

    You could be in Antarctica in mid winter and you will still find German tourists. I have no idea how I could do those toilets between not being able to bend and stay in position plus my frequent nightmares about toilets…i would be in awful shape


  19. anotherday2paradise August 5, 2016 / 19:05

    Sorry for giggling, Anabel. That was quite some journey. I hate having to go in the bushes, or worse still in the open. YOUr John is a glutton for punishment by the sound of things. 😆


    • Anabel Marsh August 5, 2016 / 19:21

      He absolutely is! Giggling is fine – I hoped to cause amusement as well as horror.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Spanglish Jill August 9, 2016 / 11:53

    Love the photos! A curious thought popped into my head that I must share…I wonder, if Western countries had squat toilets, maybe that would be incentive to better manage one’s weight. When I lived in China I weighed much less and it was a cinch to squat, but now that I’m plump I imagine it’d be a physical task much more difficult to achieve ;p


    • Anabel Marsh August 9, 2016 / 13:02

      I think you must have to keep in training for it! I was amazed to see really old ladies coming out – their knees must have been better than mine.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Spanglish Jill August 9, 2016 / 13:22

        Yes, I suppose it’s a matter of practice.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. jazzfeathers August 23, 2016 / 07:49

    Goodness, this holyday starts to sound like a nightmere. I’m very curious to hear if, in the end it was worth it.
    Or better, I bet it was, it was an experience for sure, but, you know what I mean 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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