One Foot in Tibet

Friday was Nepali New Year’s Day. Most people in Kathmandu had the day off including us, so we decided to go on a trip outside of Kathmandu. Last month I wrote a post about our trip to bahra bise, which is along the road to Tibet. While we were hiking, some people had been discussing this place called The Last Resort (I love the name!), which is further towards the border with Tibet. It sounded beautiful, and Tri’s cousin knows some of the people who work there, so he suggested that we all go for an overnight stay.

Tri’s cousin mentioned that we would be sleeping in tents, so Tri and I thought that it would  be a very outdorsy trip. Even though the place does have “resort” in its name, in Nepal, that’s no guarantee that there’s going to be running water or even a hot meal, but The Last Resort really was resort-like.

After driving all morning, we stopped at a long hanging bridge. Holy crap. It was quite a drop to the racing river below.

One of the major attractions of this location is the bungee jumping that they offer. No, I didn’t go bungee jumping, even though everyone was pushing me to, but we did get a video of a beautiful flying leap by one brave soul…

Once we crossed the bridge, we were at The Last Resort.

We rested in grassy common area, had lunch, kicked a ball around with the kids, and then settled into our tents.

They certainly weren’t what I was expecting. These were huge tents with wooden floors and tin roofs built over them to protect from the rain. Here’s Tri settling into our luxury tent…

While exploring, we realized how private and hidden the whole place was. From the other side of the bridge, you can only see the tip of a couple of the tents because of the abundant trees and because of the way it is built onto the hill. The area was green and breezy and nestled between two looming mountains. Quite a relaxing atmosphere.

     

Saturday morning we woke up, hung out for a while, and then decided to drive towards the Tibet border. I was reluctant to leave the resort, but I really wanted to figure out how close I could get to the border. After breakfast, we started on our drive.

It took at least another hour to make it to the small town next to the bridge to China. When the microbus we rented could go not further, we all got out and walked. We weren’t sure If I would be able to get close to the border because I’m American. Nepalis used to be able to cross freely and visit a Chinese market in the town of Khasa by showing their citizenship cards, but these days, they need some kind of permit to go. Someone told us that they knew a guy who wanted to cross, but instead of bringing his citizenship card, he brought his Nepali passport. He showed it to one of the Chinese guards on the bridge, but the guard didn’t recognize it, so he threw it over the side of bridge into the water below. Kind of extreme if you ask me.

Anyway, after we had walked a ways through the sloping town, we finally made it to the famous checkpoint. In turns out that Tri’s cousin knows someone who knows Nepali border patrol guards, so he made sure that it was okay for me to pass by the initial guards before we got to the actual line separating Tibet and Nepal. After we squeezed through a small caged in walkway, past women and men carrying Chinese goods, we walked slowly across the bridge that connects the two countries. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let us take photos while on the bridge, but here’s a picture of China from the Nepali side..

While on the bridge, I walked slowly up to the line separating the two countries, and then stepped my right foot over into Tibet. There’s something about straddling the border between two countries that’s just awesome. Borders separating areas that have been traversed freely for centuries or more can be ridiculous and irritating, and without humans around, country borders are meaningless, but I still get a thrill out of being in two places at once. As soon as I stepped my foot over the line, a Chinese guard starting eyeing me and walking towards us, so I quickly pulled it back.

So I made it to Tibet. Next time I go I want to put both feet on Tibetan soil and maybe walk around a bit 🙂

After filling our bellies in the town below the border, we went on our way back to Kathmandu.

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On the Road to Tibet

Every weekend Tri’s office goes for a hike somewhere in the hills around Kathmandu Valley or occasionally somewhere a few hours away. Sometimes we get the chance to go, and yesterday was one of those days. We went with about 10 other people from his office to a place called bahra bise, which means “twelve times twenty.” It’s apparently 240 km from somewhere, although we weren’t sure where. Bahra bise is along the road that leads from Kathmandu to the Tibet border. It took us about 4 hours to get there from Kathmandu, and apparently it would take another hour or so to reach Tibet. I’d love to go there someday. We were told that if we drove further along the road we were on, towards the mountains above, we’d make it to the border.

The bus came to pick us up at around 8am yesterday morning, and we reached bahra bise at almost noon. Then we started walking from the little town in the valley up a steep set of stone steps. However, before we got to the long path of stairs that we were about to embark on, a few kids started throwing water balloons at us from their roof. It seems the Holi festivities have begun.

The first part of the hike was quite shady, but soon the trees gave away to farmland, and we could see all around the valley. The hills were spotted with houses, some clustered together to make small villages, some spread out, each house on its own. As we walked along, we met villagers hanging out or heading somewhere, and shortly after starting, we met a woman with a feverish baby. She had gone to a hospital a few hours away in the base of the valley and was returning to her village in the hills. At the beginning of our hike, we were walking and talking with her, but I soon realized there was no way we were going to keep up. Even with a baby on her back and several bags to carry, she quickly outpaced us.

The views were incredible as we got higher, but the smells are what I loved the most. Rural areas and farms in Nepal (and I assume other places) have such particular and wonderful odors that are so completely different from the city. There’s wood smoke and a rich grassy smell, the smell of damp leaves and animals. I feel sort of weird to admit this, but my favorite smell comes from cow dung. It’s got this intense, earthy aroma that doesn’t remind me of poop, just of something organic. As we were passing one of the houses early on, I even picked up the sweet scent of local rakshi (alcohol).

Here are a few pictures we took on our way up the hill…

A view of the valley from above

A boy carrying branches

A woman in her home

A man making a straw mat

Tri and I have been on a few hikes around and outside of Kathmandu since we got to Nepal last summer including our two trips to Namo Buddha, our hike in Pokhara, and a trip to Ichangu Narayan. Although this hike wasn’t the longest, it was definitely the most difficult, mostly because of the trail’s steepness. It was almost straight up until we eventually found a flat road that curved around the hill. We took that for a while but soon found another steep trail to follow and went up that way. After about 3 or 4 hours of almost constant up up up, I couldn’t go any further and called it quits. Some of the guys had stopped before us and were resting in a little grassy area out of sight, and some of the seasoned hikers kept going onto the next hill top.

Tri and I decided to rest on a little ledge for a while. We couldn’t hear any voices, just the rustling of leaves. The sun was beginning to lower in the sky but was still shining brilliantly on the valley below us. My legs were aching but I felt more relaxed than I have in a long time, and with the wind blowing gently in my hair, I nearly fell asleep. Here I am on the ledge…

After enjoying those few minutes, we walked just a little bit further around a bend in the hill and sat there for a bit. Then one of the guys who had gone to a further hill met up with us on his way back. We walked downhill a ways, met up with more of the guys and finally started down towards the valley base. It took us another two hours to get down to the town where we relaxed and had dinner. On the ride back, we got stuck behind a stopped truck for a few minutes but other than that, there were no complications. I completely conked out on the way home, and we got back to the house around 10pm.