Dege has presented us with some big decisions.
Dege sits right near the border with the Tibetan Autonomous Region on the northern road to Lhasa. If we take the road, we could actually be in Lhasa within a couple of days.
But there is a catch, Chinese bureaucracy dictates that foreigners are not allowed to travel the northern road past Dege without special permits. Of course, these permits are only available to people who purchase over-priced tours authorized by the Chinese government.
In addition, we need a permit to visit Lhasa, which we don’t have yet.
One possibility we have is to sneak over the border and try to travel illegally to Lhasa without the permits. More and more travelers are doing this successfully. It would save us thousands of kilometers of travel and a great deal of time. Most travelers report that once in Lhasa, the Lhasa permit is never checked, so you can survive without one.
The other option is to travel to Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, where we have heard independent travelers are currently able to get Lhasa permits, and then take the new train to Lhasa. However, rumor has it Xining authorities could stop issuing Lhasa permits to independent travelers at any time, so we don’t know if they will actually be available when we get there.
We went to the authorities here in Dege and asked if they could give us the necessary permits, but they said they were not authorized to do so. Bizarrely, they sat us down and showed us how to travel illegally to Lhasa – and even drew us a map of military checkpoints so that we could sneak around them. How weird is that?
But then reports came out that authorities in Tibet were checking the Lhasa permits for travelers who were traveling to Everest Base Camp and beyond into western Tibet.
After much consideration and debate, we have decided to do everything by the book. I have always dreamt of going to Mount Kailash in western Tibet and I do not want to do anything that would jeopardize fulfilling that dream. I want to make sure all the paperwork is in order. Doing things by the book will cost us a lot of time, even more money, and thousands of kilometers of extra travel. I just hope we actually make it to Kailash!