Drive through the Tibetan Plateau – Part 3


Drive through the Tibetan Plateau – Part 3

Nyalam -> Saga -> Paryang19th June 2005: Nyalam to Saga

It was breakfast time and it was clearly evident that many amongst us suffered from loss of appetite including me. A tea in the morning was all that we needed but that was not going to help any cause. Our guide kept telling us that we have to eat regardless of what we felt like. There won’t be any intake of energy if we abstain from having anything. But he also added that intake of liquids must be more than solids.
It was 8 am when we left Nyalam. The next high altitude town of Saga was 250 kms away. Saga, elevation 14760 feet situtated on the banks of the mighty and hideous Yarlung Tsangpo or The Brahmaputra.

The route took us through some extremely remote and weirdest places on earth. The little remnants of greenery which we could find in Nyalam was all missing as we drove up in the cold desert of the Tibetan plateau.

En route to Saga


I guess the children or for that matter even elderly Chinese/Tibetan people living in these places must be taught ABCD in a manner by which they can relate each and every alphabet with their hostile environment 🙂
A for Arid
B for Barren and Bleak
C for Cold
D for Dry and Desolate and so on…..( cudn’t find a word from E :))No better way to describe the landscape.

An hour into the drive and we were soon gaining altitude like never before to conquer Laluna pass at an altitude of 5050 m/ 16564 feet. Basant (guide) pointed out Shisha Pangma, the 14th highest 8000m peak. All our Land cruisers lined up at Laluna pass for a brief halt. Photo session followed as the Chinese drivers had their regular dose of cigarettes.

Laluna pass

We continued with our drive, journeying through the jagged and eternal roads. Roads?? In fact there weren’t any beyond Laluna pass. The Chinese drivers made their own path and it was as if they were competing in a car rally…a high altitude car rally 🙂


We had lunch close to Paigu Tso(lake). The bluish waters of the lake looked pretty beautiful and welcoming. It was the first water body that we saw in our trip.


Lunch Near Paigu Tso

Paigu Tso


We then came across another lake, the name of which I don’t remember. But it was stunning and more beautiful than Paigu tso because it had reflections of the peaks which stood behind it.


Few more furlongs covered and our cruiser got handicapped. A punctured tyre and the mechanic cum drivers gave our cruiser a new limb within 15 mins. Hats off to them.

Punctured tyre
At around 3 pm , we reached the outskirts of Saga town. We had to cross a bridge over the Brahmaputra but the officials there, weren’t allowing us to enter the town. Reportedly, the town was suffering from an outbreak. Some people there had killed rats or something similar and had had them for lunch/dinner and died thereafter or were in critical condition. The Chinese didn’t want the epidemic to spread in other areas of Tibet and hence they had cordoned off Saga town.
I was having severe headache at the same time. I had a crocin and dozed off. 2 hrs later we were still at the same place. I said to myself, “What the heck, we haven’t moved.” I started getting apprehensive about the whole trip. What if we r told to return back?? Finally and thankfully, we were allowed to enter the town but only after consuming the antidote tablets given by them. It was then decided that we would stay some 20-30 kms beyond Saga.
Refuelled the cruisers at a petrol station in Saga. Cost for 1 litre=4 Yuans/24 rs.We camped at some unknown place where sheep and yaks were grazing merrily at some distance. That was our first night in tents. 2 people per tent.

Saga Campsite

After dinner, one uncle came up to me and said that he was feeling uneasy. I just told him that it might be the altitude which was affecting him, in fact affecting all of us and that we all should be fine in a couple of days.(I was wrong. Read ahead)20th June 2005: Saga to Paryang

It was a beautiful morning. Sun had already risen above the vast unending horizon. It was time to move on to the town of Paryang. Paryang at 14890 feet is the last town before Mansarovar. The terrain was as usual craggy but scattered with sand dunes. At some places the dunes were quite humongous.

En route to Paryang
Charging the batteries was a real problem. The last time I got it fully charged was at Nyalam and there was hardly any charge left now. We had carried 2 batteries and had kept one fully charged battery (the one which would stay longer) for the 3 day trek around Mount Kailash. So I gave the sand dunes a skip and decided to shoot them on our return journey.Reached Paryang sometime in the afternoon. We stayed in a guest house which had a long dormitory and 3-4 rooms. Ladies occupied the rooms and poor men were given the dormitory 🙂
The uncle who felt uneasy a day earlier was really feeling uncomfortable by now. We also had a doctor in our group undertaking this journey. He checked uncle’s BP and advised him to take rest and also gave him some medicines if I remember correctly.

We passed the day off chit chatting and played cards in the evening. We all retired after an early dinner. As I closed my eyes I saw our main guide reading a novel with his headlamps on.

I went into the land of dreams pretty quickly and had a sound sleep until I was shaken violently by my dad. He whispered, “Get up and look what has happened”.

I could hear a lot of hue and cry around much before I opened my eyes. I knew that something had gone terribly wrong (I guess, by now even people reading this must have comprehended the whole thing)

I couldn’t believe my eyes. The worst thing that could ever happen in a trip- DEATH.
Uncle died minutes before I woke up. Shocckkked and taken aback by the whole incident I asked my dad what had happened. He said that uncle all of a sudden started coughing vigorously and when the guide asked him whether he was ok, he said he was fine. Later he again started coughing, this time even more vigorously. The guide came running down to comfort him and the doctor too checked him instantly and decided to give him an injection. But it was little too late. Guide even tried giving him mouth to mouth. All efforts were futile.


Uncle’s wife stood by him and cried uncontrollably. The other ladies in the group consoled her while we watched with our eyes wide open without a blink. I talked about my heart skipping a beat, but now Uncle’s heart had skipped the beats forever. The time was 11:45 pm when uncle expired. Paryang was somewhere in a remote corner of Tibet and the time at which this incident took place, left all of us in a horrifyingly dreadful state of mind.

The doctor then prepared a death certificate on the spot and the guides decided to pack the body in a sleeping bag and take it back to Kathmandu and then to Mumbai. One of the 6 land cruisers was ready for a long run back to the Sino-Nepal border.

I once again thought about the trip as a whole. Was it going to continue? Will we reach Manasarovar? All sorts of weird things started creeping into my mind.
At the same time, I knew that I shouldn’t be thinking about all these things because it was a death situation that we were dealing with. But such things do torment u and it’s the tendency of the human mind to think in those terms.

Before leaving, our main guide asked his Nepali counterparts to take over the situation in Paryang and head straight to Manasarovar the next day. He said that he would join us in Manasarovar within 2 days after completing the formalities at the Sino-Nepal border. It meant that he would travel all the way back to the border and return back the same day to Manasarovar thus completing 2000 kms in a matter of 2 days. I was dumbstruck by the whole scene.

Our main guide, a Tibetan guide and uncle’s wife then left for the border.
Needless to say, we had a sleepless night.As a well wisher, this is the reason why I have not mentioned the name of the company and the name of our guide. People would opt to travel with other agents after reading this incident. It wasn’t his mistake but ultimately it is the company which suffers.

Click here to go to Part 4
[ Published under the author’s permission ]
[ Original publication at www.kailashmanasarovaryatra.blogspot.com on September 12, 2007–the readers are requested to express their comments on the original Blog as mentioned above ]
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