Another early start for my overland trip to Lhasa. Once again things don't go according to plan. The bus we are booked to travel on cannot get to our hotel to pick us up as the road is too narrow, so we have to walk to it. It's about a 30min walk. We would have to carry our backpack and day pack. My backpack was 12.8kg and day pack 5kg. Ann, the lady I booked through said that was too far for us. Ann then wacked all three backpacks onto a rickshaw and somehow sat on top of them. The two reps that had come to pass on the news about the bus were still there. They had each come on a motorbike. As Ann went off in the rickshaw she shouts to us to get on the back of the bikes. Without thinking we jump on the bikes. The men, who have no idea what we are doing on their bikes, follow the rickshaw into the mad traffic of Kathmandu. Needless to say we made it safely to the bus!
By now I am used to old buses with no air con, not much room, hard seats. This time the seats are soft - the bad thing though is the back of my seat is broken and I spend the trip to the border in the lap of the girl behind. There are 20 of us from all over the world. They put the 20 backpacks on the back seats leaving just enough seats for us.
At the border we leave the bus and have to walk over to the Tibet side with our packs. We are now at an altitude of 1750m which made it hard work carrying our packs. The Chinese confiscated all travel books on Tibet and any other books on travel like The Lonely Planet. We are met by our Chinese guide with the spiel "we are all one people, we are happy, we can take photos but only when he says so".
We are now in 4x4's, five of them altogether. This is a good job as the Friendship Highway we are now travelling on to Lhasa is not completed yet. We spend the next two days driving on the uncompleted part. We were all glad when that bit was over.
The landscape is very barren. At times it was amazing. When you looked one way it was like being in the desert, then look the other way and it was snow-capped mountains. We travelled over the highest pass in the world. I think it was something like 5220m. Pray flags are everywhere - they looked beautiful fluttering against the blue sky.
Our accommodation on route ranged from very bad to good. Our second night was by far the worst. The dining room was slightly cleaner than the kitchen - another night I didn't eat. Our room was for three. The floor was unbelievable - I think it was carpet but it was so dirty you could not tell. Thank goodness we had our sleeping bags which we just put on top of the beds. At last we get to Lhasa and a good hotel, clean with shower and a real loo, and loo paper.
Lhasa is very Chinese. Riot police everywhere. Our guide told us we should not go out the hotel without him. He also said we should eat where he said - all of this we ignored. One of the American lads had managed to keep his Lonely Planet book so when we weren't on organised trips we used his book for somewhere to eat and a walk round the back streets. The first time we came face to face with the riot police we all stood still but they took no notice of us and we all carried on walking. There are cameras on all the buildings and riot police everywhere you look.
The highlight of Lhasa was the Potala Place which was amazing. The other highlight was the monks debating. They sit around in groups. They also get very animated. One of the monks near us ended up with a bloody nose.
My trip ended with a flight back to Kathmandu. Our guide got us to the airport and just left us standing there - we had no idea what to do or where to go. I think he had had enough of us. The flight back was stunning as we flew over the Himalayas with a great view of Everest.