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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

11 October 2010

Daddy Mountains

I’m really worried. I’ve got a splitting headache, I’m dizzy, my heartbeat is racing and I can’t sleep at all. These are most of the symptoms for altitude sickness (lucky me, at least I’m not nauseous). I’m not worried about my health, because these are the mild symptoms and the “cure” if they get worse is just to descend – I’m just worried because if they don’t go away then our overland trip to Lhasa will be ruined as we’ll have to turn back.

I wrote this at 3AM last night, in our first hotel in Tibet at 3,750m. It was a garishly decorated place with the best complimentary dressing gowns EVER, but on the down-side only had squat toilets and two wash basins for all guests to share. Anyway, the next morning I felt better, apart from a little headache hangover, and so we proceeded.


The Himalayas are definitely the daddy mountains. Let me think where else I’ve been. Pyrenees? Pff! Scottish highlands? Tch. Canadian Rockies? Hah. Norwegian fjords? Nah. All beautiful mountains but they feel like tiddlers in the memory as we drive through this enormous landscape. It’s tricky to get a good photo because the scale of the geography is so vast, and the road naturally doesn’t swing up right by the peaks. The altitude alone is quite boggling. We slept last night at almost 4kms up. Straight up. Next time you see a plane fly overhead, imagine how much higher than that we are. The highest pass we drove over was the Gyatso-La at 5,220m although we were looking at snowcapped mountains that top 7,000m. Naturally being the highest pass on the main tourist route there were some local chancers keen to extract money from silly foreigners…

The conversation went something like this: “Gif me monies?” “No.” “Waa… want monies!” “No”

The journey we’re taking, from Kathmandu to Lhasa, is far and away the easiest way to get a taste of Tibet. There’s an absolute tangle of permits to sort out, not just the visa into Tibet but to go from one region to another and to visit certain towns – we’d have had to dedicate far more than a week to this if we’d tried to do it independently. So, we took a tour. But of course that means we have an itinerary and a pace set by that, and so far our main activity has been driving. Albeit, over the roof of the world! Still, I’m looking forward to slowing down and seeing something of the people and places up here.

I’m writing this in our next hotel room, at 3,900m in Shigatse. The latest update is that I have a headache again while Maureen (who was fine last night) has nausea, headache and shortness of breath. Sleep is unlikely to happen much tonight. They say that it takes a couple of days to acclimatise properly, and we are past the highest point, so fingers crossed…


5 Responses to “Daddy Mountains”

  1. Dave says:

    Good to see you training for your ascent of Scafell Pike, you’re in an amazing place there, would love to experience it, hopefully you can cut through the lousiness of altitude sickness to get the most out of it.

  2. Dave says:

    PS those dressing gowns are HILARIOUS!!!! You did well to keep a straight face, simply must wear those as much as you can, if you want tourist scammers to leave you alone I’d say donning a shiny pink gown and a thousand yard stare is an infallible recipe for success!

    • shortclaws says:

      Dammit, we should have thought to filch them from the hotel! Although in fact the Tibetan people aren’t particularly full of hassle and scam. The goat-bearing ladies at Karo-La pass were the most persistent, and being pursued by five women carrying minature goats and offering “take picture, take picture” is more hilarious than annoying.

  3. Jane says:

    I got altitude sickness at the Salt Lake City Olympic games! I cannot imagine how much worse off I’d be in the Himalayas!

    • shortclaws says:

      No idea how high Salt Lake City is, but I suspect Tibet is higher! Beyond all the fascinating monasteries, people and places I really just could never get over the fact that we were going to bed at night about 4kms “above the ground” (living in Richmond at a few metres above sea level as we do).

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