The Friendship Highway – Sakya to Nyalam

As we continue along the Friendship Highway, we traverse high passes and are treated to the most spectacular mountain views.

Our journey does not proceed at constant speed. In Tibet, they use a system similar to a long-distance radar for speed control. A driver passing by checkpoint A has to pick up a paper with an allocated time for arrival at checkpoint B further along the road. Before that time has elapsed, he may not pass checkpoint B. This system does of course not keep our driver from going too fast (it’s not terribly fast anyway, don’t worry). And thus, every now and then we have to stop and wait for our due time to pass the next checkpoint.

A stray dog we met while waiting our due time to continue along the Friendship Highway.

A stray dog we met while waiting our due time to continue along the Friendship Highway.

We are not alone where we stop and wait. There is always a queue of waiting cars. We repeatedly meet the same Indian family and it is nice to chat with other tourists. During one such stop we also meet the handsome dog in the picture above.

Somewhere along the road.

Somewhere along the road.

Go exercise and get fit!

Go exercise and get fit!

There are several signs of Chinese-style development along the road. The most prominent are parking lots at places with good views. To stop there, we have to pay an entrance fee to the investor. We noticed in China that the government there is very eager to “improve” their citizens. One action in that direction are friendly signs reminding everyone to behave well, another is a repeated encouragement to dance and exercise more. Small gym-type playgrounds have thus been set up all across China – and Tibet too! Don’t think we manage to do a lot of pull-ups though. Even just walking is exhausting enough at this altitude.

Mountain view with prayer flags.

Mountain view with prayer flags.

The mountain passes are always highlights of our trip along this road, and the closer we get to the border with Nepal, the more spectacular they become.

We sure never peed at such high altitude before!

We sure never peed at such high altitude before!

We always stop to take pictures and to get our hair messed up by the massive wind. The highest pass is 5248 meters above sea level and equipped with a toilet. A very basic one for sure but, hey, how many people can say they’ve peed at more than 5000 meters altitude?

Mountain views don't get any better than this!

Mountain views don’t get any better than this!

And as if that distinction was not enough, we even get treated to views of Mt Everest. And with all I read before, we didn’t expect to get even the smallest glimpse at this time of the year!

Mt. Everest seen from the highway.

Mt. Everest seen from the highway.

Close to Nyalam, the landscape changes drastically. We are starting to loose altitude and the vegetation is much greener, giving us a first taste of what we’ll see in Nepal. Our room for the night is a disaster, a kind of cell with access to a bathroom with only cold, rusty, muddy water and toilets that smell in a way I do not want to describe to you.

A water stream near Nyalam.

A water stream near Nyalam.

After a suboptimal night, we go on our planned hike. Hiking is not part of the standard program of these tours, and we now know why – we are barely able to walk 10 meters without getting out of breath, with our hearts beating and stitches in the sides. Our guide does not have any of these problems but unfortunately she also doesn’t know where the lake we are hiking to is. She is at least as disappointed as we are when we do not find it, after all it is a holy lake. For us, the landscape is amazing enough to make up for it all.

Time of visit: September 2013

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This article was published on perelincolors.com

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