The road less travelled – Saga

Despatch 23.05.10 - Not for nothing is Tibet often called the desert in the sky. After a hard day on the road it feels like every crevice is coated with dust and my head is throbbing gently with the altitude. I’m now at 4400m, six hundred metres higher than when we started, having crossed several passes over 5000m, arriving at the garrison town of Saga on the banks of the Yarlung Tsangpo — the Brahmaputra. South of here are the Himalayas. To the north is a separate range of mountains, the Trans-Himalaya. It’s into these we’ll be heading tomorrow.

The day started easily enough, up the new hard-topped road towards Lhasa, crossing the Lalung La at 5200m with stupendous views of Shisha Pangma. The hillsides were utterly barren but richly brown and I couldn’t help but marvel at the change from Nepal. Just 30 miles back down the road we’d been luxuriating in the gardens of the Last Resort. Now we’d crossed the highest mountain range on earth and all moisture seemed to have disappeared.

Soon after the Lalung La, we turned left and off the tarmac and towards the azure waters of Lake Paiku. Not quite the road less travelled yet but getting there. This route is popular with Indian pilgrims heading towards Mount Kailash. It cuts a corner to the main Friendship Highway that spans Tibet. The views along this road are just staggering, with Shisha Pangma’s north side even more impressive than its east. Looking around at the wild brown deserts surrounding our tiny vehicle, Julian said: ‘The taxman would struggle to find you here.

Ed Douglas

The Story So Far:      

The road less travelled – Thamel May 18th 2010
The road less travelled – Patan May 19th 2010
The road less travelled – Kodari May20th 2010
The road less travelled – Zangmu May 21st 2010
The road less travelled – Yak Bells May 22nd 2010

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