Next on our tour of Tibet we were to take a bus to Lake Namtso – one of the most beautiful lakes in Tibet. On our way we got to take a few stops in the Tibetan countryside. For most of the journey we could see a railway under construction. This is one thing that China is bringing to Tibet – modernisation. China is slowly building infrastructure here but the hills are still mostly populated by nomads.
On a few of the stops I was astounded at the beauty of the place. It reminded me of Cumbria where I grew up, only the air tasted fresher and the atmosphere was calmer. Of course at every stop there were people waiting to sell us useless overpriced trinkets. At one stop there was a merchant selling a geode. It was split into two halves so that you could see the inside. Lucky for her one member of our tour collected things like this.
After bargaining the price down as much as he could, he tried to explain how he only wanted half of the rock. The merchant insisted that he buy the full rock, but he only wanted half. There was a lot of back and forth until eventually he was able to get her to sell him half the geode. As she wandered back with the other half she looked down at it as if to say “what the hell am I going to do with half a rock?”.
After spending most of the day driving through countryside we eventually came to some checkpoints close to the lake. After stopping and showing our ID several time we eventually came to Namtso.
When we got to Namtso we were first shown to our rooms. Cold rooms with small metal beds – what more could you ask for from the middle of nowhere in Tibet?
We went for a short walk down the lake before sunset. I have never seen any lake so calm and so quiet before. There were some tourists making noise of course, but the lake itself was still and clear. Apart from the part we were staying (which was clearly the tourist part), the rest of the lake was surrounded by mountains and plains beneath a clear blue sky.
After our walk we headed back to the tourist area to find some food. Then we started dropping like flies.
Down with the Sickness
It turns out Namtso is even higher than Tibet, and that meant that we had to go through altitude sickness again. My first day in Tibet I didn’t really feel anything. Rushing up and down stairs made me a little dizzy and light-headed, but after that I was fine. Here in Namtso people started to feel really sick.
We got oxygen and started to pass it around. As people started feeling better they went off to watch the sunset.
Yi, however, was feeling so ill that she wanted to go back. Unfortunately that wasn’t really an option – she would be able to go herself as she’s a Chinese citizen, but the rest of us were tourists and wouldn’t be able to leave until the next day. She decided not to go alone and we found her some altitude sickness tablets. After taking them she started feeling better.
Myself, I felt nothing. Once everyone started to recover I remarked on how strange it was that I was the only one unaffected. That was when it started to hit me. It felt like the worst hangover I had ever had times 1000. Even after taking some tablets I still found it near impossible to move. I ended up missing the sunset because I didn’t have the strength to move.
After dark I followed the others to the only place we could find that was still serving food and tried to eat something. I then dragged myself to my bed and collapsed.
The next day we got up early for some breakfast. Unfortunately due to me suffering from altitude sickness I wasn’t up early enough for the sunrise. We went for another walk along the lake. This time people were out with yaks. Some of our tour paid for a ride on the yak. Unfortunately it was only after they got on the yak that they tried to charge more for them to make the yak move.
I needed to use the toilet so I went off alone to find one. Anyone who’s been to an Asian country knows about squat toilets – the kind with no seats that you have to squat down in order to use them. This is what I was expecting to see here in Namtso. But then I saw that they had “Western Toilets” as well as “Chinese Toilets”. I was slightly disappointed when I found that the “Western Toilets” were still squat toilets. Curious I went over to the the “Chinese Toilets” to see what the difference was.
It was plumbing. You could flush the western toilets, as you would normally expect. The Chinese toilets had a brush and a bucket next to a hole in the floor so you could clean them after you were done. They were as pleasant as you would expect.
I rejoined the others for one last cup of tea before we hopped back on the bus for the journey home. I had missed both the sunset and the sunrise due to the altitude sickness, which I was a little gutted by. If anyone else was to do this I would recommend spending a couple of days here, if only to spend one day in bed getting used to the lack of oxygen.