Our Roughest Roads

Madagascar south of Maroantsetra – 2003

Recently, we were asked about the worst roads we had ever been on. Hmmm, there’s a post in that question, I suddenly thought to myself. Thomas and I sat down to reflect on the thousands of roads we had traveled – the breakdowns, the potholes, the drop-offs, the landslides, the dust, the terrifying drivers – and came up with a list of some of the most challenging stretches we had experienced. As with all such questions, the year we traveled these roads is also relevant because things change. Here’s a list of our roughest roads Continue…

10 Highest Mountains

We’ve managed to get our first view of phenomenal Kangchendzonga, the third highest mountain in the world. Although we are still 74 km (46 miles) from the mountain, it looks massive towering over the valleys of Sikkim.

Seeing Kangchendzonga is also a milestone for Thomas and me. This means we have seen 8 of the top ten highest mountains in the world. The remaining two mountains, K2 and Nanga Parbat, are both located in northwest Pakistan, and we obviously won’t be heading there right now.

To celebrate the eight, we have put together our own pictorial list of the world’s ten highest mountains, respectfully leaving blank spaces for K2 and Nanga Parbat. We’ll get to Pakistan some day!

Friends Arrested in Sichuan!

In October last year, I was raving about our stay in Dargye Gompa, a beautiful and serene monastery in Sichuan, China. We spent several days there with three monks and a wonderful, small group of travelers, French Thomas, Fredy the Nomad, and Rachel.

French Thomas just left a comment on our blog that monks from Dargye Gompa have been arrested while protesting for their freedom, and he left a link with photos from an online source.

This is terrible news, and we hope the Chinese government will end this nonsense and release our friends.

Crossing to Nepal

Our Car in Tibet

I’ve always said the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing is the most abrupt, most dramatic border transition I’ve ever experienced. It turns out, there is another…

Driving along the desert roads of the Tibetan plateau, the road peaked just before Nyalam to reveal a spectacular Himalayan panorama and a road heading down, down , down. After what seemed like an unending series of switchbacks, the open moonscape we were moving through gave way to tight canyons that slid their way through the snow-capped mountains. Stone villages and terraced fields clung to the steep cliffs, herds of yaks and goats wandered along the road.

Pema, our driver, carefully navigated the hairpin turns and steep drop-offs as suicidal Chinese drivers Continue…

Trash Eating Cow

Trash Eating Cow

As in many third world countries, trash management in China, and even more so in Tibet, is a huge problem particularly outside the tourist areas where there don’t seem to be any centralized places for disposing of trash. The more organized municipalities have random piles of trash distributed throughout the town while less organized places are evenly littered with garbage – it is just like living on a dump.

The most shocking examples of trash mismanagement, we encountered in Tibet. Continue…

The Long Road Back

Black-Necked Cranes, Tibet

Two days of driving to the Nepalese border and most of it was backtracking via the same route by which we had come. Our 17-day trip was almost over and I knew, we would hit the same spine-crumbling potholes again.

Tibetan Landscape

I didn’t expect a lot of excitement going back. Going through familiar terrain, though, provides a chance to relax and let your mind wander. I believe all of us were thinking about Continue…

Lake Manasarovar

Gurla Mandhata

After Nam Tso Lake, which supposedly is the highest fresh water lake in the world, the holy Lake Manasarovar is the highest salt water lake at an altitude of 4550 m (15,000 feet) and a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site. We spent a couple of nights there on our way back from the Guge Kingdom staying at a small guest house situated between the lake shores and the Chiu Monastery atop a small hill. Continue…

The Guge Kingdom

Guge Kingdom Landscape

Guge was an ancient kingdom that once existed in the far west of Tibet about a day’s jeep travel north of Mt. Kailash. Set in a spectacular desert canyonlands, Guge was once a series of prospering irrigated valleys ruled from the monastic fortress complex at Tsaparang and large monastery at Tholing. Continue…

Bumping our Way to Guge

Desert Mountains on the Way to the Guge Kingdom

Leaving Kailash, we headed west on the road to Ali before turning off on to some of the worst roads on our journey so far (that’s quite a statement). The jeep tracks snaked their way up into a surreal multi-colored desert mountain range like nothing I’ve ever seen elsewhere.

We spent hours inching our way through sandy riverbeds and rocky slopes. At one point Continue…

Altitude Sickness Follow-Up

The first time I got sick was in the middle of the night at Nam Tso Lake. We had driven directly from Lhasa at 3700 m (12,200 feet) to Nam Tso Lake at 4800 m (15,800 feet) for an overnight stay. This was way too much of a climb – a big no no when it comes to do’s and don’t’s of avoiding altitude sickness (although, I was the only one affected in our group of six.) The first few hours after arriving, I was completely fine and hiking around. But by 1:30 in the morning Continue…