Tibet 2000: Lhasa to Kathmandu

Hotel Manaslu, Kathmandu
Hotel Manaslu, Kathmandu

(This is the final episode – find the rest by selecting the Tibet Category.)

We were happy to have made it back to Lhasa, but desperate to arrange the next stage of our journey. Incredibly, even though the advice the company had given us the evening before (to continue to Shigatse) had been so plainly wrong, W’s manager was still trying to insist that it was possible to get overland to the Nepalese border (in fact later that day the whole road was officially closed by the government.) However, they would get us flights if possible and W would meet us at 8 o’clock that evening to let us know the result.

After the manager had gone, W told us that the German party had priority and would get out before us – they were a bigger and more profitable group. However, he himself “knew somebody” at the airport and would try by his own methods to get us flights because he liked and trusted us. I have mentioned before how much we valued W, but it is true that this worked both ways. Several times, W had commented on what “nice” or “strong” people we were, by which I think he meant that we accepted adversity with good humour, no-one complained (well, we all did a little bit) and certainly no-one got angry or pointed the finger of blame at him. We knew he was doing his best for us under difficult circumstances, but a different set of people could have given him a really hard time.

At this point, we parted with our drivers. W gave us guidelines on what to tip them, and we did so at the lower end of the scale. Afterwards we felt a bit guilty because they had driven well through horrendous conditions, but overall we had got quite annoyed with them. The Landcruisers themselves were dodgy – apart from the axle incident, I’ve lost count of the number of times they had to be started by lifting the bonnet: not good in the back of beyond. Also, the two drivers did not seem to like each other very much and were very competitive, always wanting to be in front. Sometimes we didn’t know where the other vehicle was which was particularly worrying for us because W usually travelled with the other group leaving us vulnerable if something went wrong. We couldn’t decide whether our own driver was just trying to be friendly, or whether his interest in C was getting unhealthy – she sat in the front the first day, but after that we thought it safer to put John there. He didn’t mind – the front seat was much better sprung! Finally, we made the mistake of applauding our driver when he negotiated a couple of particularly difficult bits of road and this seemed to go to his head because his driving got very aggressive after that and we suffered the consequences.

That afternoon, we tried phoning various agencies we thought might help with tickets and got a gloomy response from all. It seemed the next two or three flights might be problematic, and John and I started planning what we could do for the next few days if stuck in Lhasa and we also considered if there were any alternative routes out, for example through Hong Kong. However, it all proved unnecessary. When we met W at 8pm, he said his manager was “more powerful” than he was and had secured us a 90% chance of tickets. It all depended on air temperature. Apparently, 20-30 seats were usually kept free, because with the air being so thin at that altitude, there might not be enough lift for a full plane to take off if it was over 10° C. If the temperature was right, we could have some of those seats. We told C not to feel too lucky; we could do without her sort of luck!

At 9.30pm, W summoned us again to say that his own negotiations had now borne fruit and we could definitely have the tickets if we gave his friend at the airport “a good present”. This amounted to $50 apiece – we paid, and kept our fingers crossed about the air temperature. The next morning, we got away.

Arriving in Kathmandu felt like coming home. The people there, as before, were friendly, colourful and, above all, clean. The horrors of the previous three days faded away and didn’t seem so bad after all. This was Saturday – the Fs invited us to a lovely farewell dinner at their hotel, C left on the Sunday and we left on Monday feeling that we had had a good holiday after all.

So what did I learn? That as I expected, I am a tourist not a traveller, but when things go wrong I can still cope. I don’t panic, and I keep calm and cheerful. The value of comradeship was also brought home to me – the experience was so much better for being surrounded by sympathetic people. I also saw at first hand the dirt-poor lives that people in some countries live and know I have so much to be thankful for.

As I said at the beginning of the series, I wrote this account at the time of our trip – in fact, I started as soon as we got back to Kathmandu and continued to write during the flight home on any scrap of paper I could find. I originally ended with some political thoughts, but I want to steer clear of that here. We won’t be going back to Tibet, but I’ll certainly never forget it.

If this has whetted your interest in Tibet, you might like to look at Travelling Rockhopper’s blog. Each month, she chooses a country and posts one photo a day with a little information about it. In April she covered Tibet – here is the first post, so take it from there!


53 thoughts on “Tibet 2000: Lhasa to Kathmandu

  1. Jemima Pett August 11, 2016 / 11:15

    Great finish – and so glad you made it. I saw a lovely thing distinguishing between Crime, Horror and Suspense genres the other day – apart from no dead bodies, I think this fits into the Horror genre really well!!

    Your attempt to leave Lhasa reminds me of the difficulty we had leaving La Paz. (You remember my nosebleed trouble, and my companion was going down with something approaching pneumonia). A good working knowledge of cities of South America was essential….

    Yes, it has put me off a trip to Tibet. Maybe twenty years ago… Come to think of it, La Paz was 2001.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Anabel Marsh August 11, 2016 / 11:34

      Fortunately, no dead bodies! I agree, I would not risk this sort of experience now either. Thanks for following the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Marcia Strykowski August 11, 2016 / 11:32

    Thanks for sharing your amazing adventure. I don’t think I’ll be adding Tibet to my bucket list, but I enjoyed visiting from the comfort of my chair!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh August 11, 2016 / 11:34

      Thanks for following to the end! The sort of tale to read and be glad it’s not you.


  3. Suzanne et Pierre August 11, 2016 / 14:25

    Glad to hear you managed to get out safely without too much delays. It was certainly quite an experience. (Suzanne)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh August 11, 2016 / 15:37

      It was! Fun to look back on, but not so much at the time. Thanks for following the story to the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pit August 11, 2016 / 14:35

    That was a fantastic series, Anabel. You were ever so adventurous! I could never do such a trip. So, I’m happy I can read about it here. 😉 Thanks for sharing.
    Have a great day,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh August 11, 2016 / 15:38

      I experienced it so you don’t have to…..
      Glad you enjoyed the tale and thanks, as always, for your support.


  5. darwinontherocks August 11, 2016 / 15:12

    I really enjoyed it, despite all the up and down 🙂 I’m not sure it’s a destination that is tempting me at the moment (and maybe not after reading the series :p)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh August 11, 2016 / 15:39

      I think I have put a few people off Tibet! Though it was a long time ago and things might have changed. Glad you enjoyed the story though, and thanks for following it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • darwinontherocks August 15, 2016 / 08:34

        I’ve heard a lot of stories about people going there, most of them looking a bit like yours but I know one couple who is dying to go back because they really had an amazing time !

        Liked by 2 people

  6. susan@onesmallwalk August 11, 2016 / 16:03

    It’s almost too bad that the more horrendous travels are the more fun stories to tell when you are home safe. Susan


  7. Retirementallychallenged.com August 11, 2016 / 16:19

    I’m pretty sure I won’t be adding Tibet to my list! But, I enjoyed (if that’s the word – I really felt bad for what you went through) reading about your adventures. I’m also glad that you pointed out the importance of keeping ones spirits up in the face of challenges. Not only does it make the experience more manageable but a positive attitude can benefit you in the long run.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh August 11, 2016 / 16:30

      It definitely helped! No, I won’t be advising anyone to go to Tibet, but glad people have been enjoying the story from the comfort of home. Thanks for (armchair) travelling with me!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. BeckyB August 11, 2016 / 16:45

    Wonderful memories even if they were a tad too exciting at times!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh August 11, 2016 / 16:51

      It’s been great reliving it knowing I never have to do it again. Glad you’ve enjoyed it, and thanks for following to the end.

      Liked by 1 person

      • BeckyB August 11, 2016 / 16:53

        It has been a privilege to have been able to join you the past few weeks from the comfort of my armchair!

        Liked by 2 people

  9. ms6282 August 11, 2016 / 17:04

    Yes. That definitely was the holiday from hell. But good to see you have been able to take some positives from it.
    Did you keep in touch with your fellow suffers?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh August 11, 2016 / 17:12

      Thanks for following along! We did keep in touch for a short time – I thought having been through so much together we’d be buddies for life, but we lost touch after a few months. That’s the way it goes I suppose after you get back to normality.


      • ms6282 August 11, 2016 / 17:16

        Yes. We often have good intentions about keeping in touch with people but not so easy as time progresses.
        Thanks for sharing your adventures in Tibet. Your blog is always interesting to read but these posts have been particularly entertaining! 😉


  10. Birgit August 11, 2016 / 17:18

    This definitely classifies as an adventure! I don’t think i would want to travel so high up on those horrible roads. I think your guardian angel was doing overtime. It’s so nice that you still view this in a positive way which is the way to go really

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh August 11, 2016 / 17:31

      Not much point in getting downhearted! Thanks for following along.


  11. Liesbet August 11, 2016 / 17:28

    We do learn from every experience, but some of them I’d rather skip! I love your attitude about the whole experience and am not sure how I would handle it. Physically, I would have managed, but orally, there might have been a bit of complaining, I fear… Thanks for sharing this great adventure. I’m not sure Tibet will be on my list… It would all depend on the political situation and the time of the year. I would avoid monsoon season at all costs, thanks to you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh August 11, 2016 / 18:40

      Glad to be of service! I don’t regret it really – but I wouldn’t do it again. Thanks for reading and enjoying.


  12. anotherday2paradise August 11, 2016 / 21:10

    I really enjoyed your travelogue, Anabel. It was much more preferable to experience vicariously what you went through, rather than being there myself. It might not have been an ideal trip, but you certainly got some stories to dine out on, and of course, to blog about. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh August 11, 2016 / 21:23

      We certainly did! I’ve told everyone I know so it’s good to find a new audience. Thanks for being part of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. claudiabookwright August 11, 2016 / 21:19

    You truly are intrepid travelers! I’m not much of a traveler anyway, and if I’d gone through all this I think I’d be hard put to leave my house. I am glad you’re still travelling! I’m looking forward to your trip here. I promise we have proper restrooms — usually clean and properly stocked with paper products. Safe journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Anabel Marsh August 11, 2016 / 21:27

      We used to be intrepid, these days we like guaranteed civilisation! Hence our many trips to the States with its clean restrooms. Oh, and the great scenery too 😉 See you soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Blue Sky Scotland August 12, 2016 / 00:01

    A great account of an eventful trip. It would certainly give you plenty of stories when you got back. One of my biggest fears abroad is falling ill which has happened a couple of times but nothing serious, luckily enough. I’m always very cautious now eating new foods and washing any fruit or veg thoroughly as that and dodgy water are often the biggest culprits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh August 12, 2016 / 07:38

      Thank you for reading! Yes, that was the main thing that worried me – it would have been very hard to get treatment when the roads were all closed. Fortunately, any time one of us has been ill (John) or injured themselves (me) we’ve been in places with good facilities.


  15. inesephoto August 12, 2016 / 02:31

    Great travel tale, very entertaining and informative. Thank you for sharing!


  16. Ann Coleman August 12, 2016 / 13:53

    Sometimes we learn the most about ourselves when things are difficult. I’m glad the trip was worth it overall, and thanks so much for sharing your trip adventures!


  17. hilarymb August 13, 2016 / 09:08

    Hi Anabel – I definitely wouldn’t have taken that trip … but a fascinating read .. and I certainly could visualise your sort of travel … the photos help and tv news incidents – but your characters/companions brought it to life even more … an adventure – I guess that’s a polite way of putting it … amazing time you had – not for the faint hearted! Cheers Hilary


    • Anabel Marsh August 13, 2016 / 09:28

      Thanks for keeping going through my tale, Hilary! It definitely was an adventure.


  18. Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor August 13, 2016 / 14:52

    How crazy to have to see what the temp is to know if you’ll get on a flight. This has been a great series. It might not have been a wonderful trip, but it’s made for a very interesting series.


    • Anabel Marsh August 13, 2016 / 14:59

      Thanks Ellen! Glad you enjoyed the series. I look back in wonder myself.


  19. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy August 14, 2016 / 22:05

    I like the idea of the tourist versus the traveler. I’ve done some of the latter and thoroughly enjoy it. That said, it’s so nice to be a tourist and just enjoy everything (including the knowledge that wherever you sleep and eat is going to be OK!).


  20. Jessica (Diverting Journeys) August 17, 2016 / 13:41

    Tibet was never somewhere I seriously considered visiting, and after reading about your experience, I’ll definitely never never be going there! But I very much enjoyed reading about your many misadventures. I think there are some places that are best experienced through travel writing, and Tibet for sure seems like one of them. Well done for making it through with good humour though…I sure wouldn’t have been able to!


  21. jazzfeathers August 23, 2016 / 08:21

    A tourist, not a traveller. That an intersting way to put it. I never had to endure such hardship on a holyday, so I wonder what I would be. I have to admite, you haven’t really talked me into going 😉

    But it was an educational read. Thanks so much for sharing.


    • Anabel Marsh August 23, 2016 / 15:14

      I think you have got the worst of it by reading altogether so that the full horror is apparent! I wouldn’t want to experience anything like that again but am glad I have seen Tibet.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. rosemaylily2014 August 23, 2016 / 11:47

    Have very much enjoyed your account of your Tibetan trip Anabel! Great that you finished on a better note and could find some positives out of the experience! I’ve loved reading along with you but from the safety of my study – don’t think it’s for me at all but so interesting to hear about it! 🙂


    • Anabel Marsh August 23, 2016 / 15:17

      Thank you! I’m glad to have provided a vicarious experience so that others don’t have to go…..

      Liked by 1 person

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