Drew arrives at Mt. KailashTibetan pilgrims come by truckPrayer flags at the Navel of the Universe
Adding a prayer flag to the pileA pilgrim boy with yakSelling in Lhasa


I went again in May to Tibet, to Lhasa , Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, and the current tourist restrictions are as follows. The Chinese still insist that you enter on a group tour, whether you are coming from Chengdu, or Golmud in China or entering from Nepal. Travel from Nepal is about $650 for a 7 day tour, and that is fly in bus out or vice versa. The air ticket itself from Kathmandu is $298 which is a bit steep for a 50 min flight but the Chinese as we all know call all the shots and there is no getting away from it. I think the flight from Chengdu is about the same.

There is one slight change and that is as long as you have a Chinese visa (don't mention Tibet on your application, put Shanghai or Kunming), you can stay in the Lhasa area for a month without having to stay with your group. However that is only for Lhasa, Shigatse and Gyantse outside of these places you are stopped at checkposts and sent back unless you are with a group and have a permit. So it is possible to go in on a bus tour from Kathmandu, and then stay for a while in Lhasa, and leave by plane for Chengdu, I met a few people who were doing that, but it is still expensive. Even the pretty awful bus to Golmud, tourists have to pay about $150, whereas Chinese pay about $6!

My trip which was a 24 day trip to Lhasa and Mt. Kailash was fantastic. It was $970 for the tour but I had to fly to Lhasa because I got an ear infection from scuba diving in Bali, so I couldnt get there in time to go by land. I went with Roger, a terrific Swiss guy who organised the permits and the Toyota Land cruisers that we travelled in. The $970 does not include food or hotel, but most of the hotels outside of Lhasa are $6 a night, and what food there is is very cheap. I rented a sleeping bag, tent and other camping gear from a lovely Sherpa guy called Tsering who has a shop on Freak St, Kathmandu.

There were ten of us in the two jeeps, and we sort of rotated to the truck sometimes but it was great because the scenery is really out of this world. We spent four days in Lhasa and then took six days to reach Kailash going through the other two cities Shigatse and Gyantse, and staying in some very basic lodges. We camped by the river which was fun because we were surrounded by Tibetans all staring into our tents, checking out our gear and generally having a great time.

Kailash was quite hard, it would have been much easier had I got someone to carry my 35lb pack, but after the long first day which took us 9 hours things got better. I was knackered though, so tired I could barely move my mouth to eat, and at 16,300' we rested for a day to help us acclimatize. It is just amazing to be camped right on the North face of Kailash, and you can see why it is so venerated because it is magic! There were also a few Tibetans doing the Kora (circuit), but since it was May 1st, there were no other foreigners except us. We were lucky, it snowed very little, and the only problem going over the Dolma-La pass (18,900') was to first cross the frozen Brahmaputra river, so slippy but Tibetan pilgrims saw our difficulties and came back across with some dirt to throw on the ice and then took the three of us by the hand, and led us across to the other side. Then its pretty much a 4 hour vertical hike to the top where there are the most marvelous views and just a tremendous feeling of exhilaration, Mt. Kailash! at last! We were all crying and hugging each other and fastening prayer flags to the shrine at the top. After a couple of hours where we waited for the others, (only two of our group didnt make it). Two women in our group wisely got porters to carry their packs at about $8 a day, then we had a 4 hour walk down to a small lodge where we could get what else but more Chinese noodles. You can always get a beer though, even at the two Gompas we stayed at when we went around Manasarovar.

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