It was way to early of a morning - only three hours of sleep. I checked out of the hotel and headed for the meeting place. I got there right on time but there was no one else there. There was a group of people on the other side of the street so I went to ask and found they were going to Tibet. Then the next problem was that I didn't even know the name of the tour company I was going with - apparently my company consolidated their trip with another company! Eventually a helpful guide found my name on a list and at least I knew I was on the right bus. We drove back to the Bhote Koshi valley (where I'd just left the day before) and then on to Kodari at the border. Including the hour off for breakfast it only took us about four hours to get there. Then we were ushered in to a tea house and told to get lunch (it was only ten) while our guide took care of the immigration formalities. Over three hours later he returned and we walked across the bridge into China.
There was a huge line at the Friendship Gate (after the friendship bridge), but the Chinese officials were very quick and we were through in just a few minutes. Then we (my group and dozens of others) were hustled in to the back of large trucks and we started up an incredibly steep and narrow (and rutted and just plain scary) road. About half way up we had a flat tire which was a good thing as it gave me a chance to walk around and restore some feeling to my legs. Finally and hour an a half later (and 1,000+ feet higher) we got to Zhangmu. Then I realized why the border crossing was so quick below - we haven't been through immigration or customs yet! It actually went pretty quickly and in about an hour I was through - but the pouring rain and lack of shelter made it a very long hour. We then waited in our land cruiser for another hour or two while the guide got organized, found the drivers, and got the paperwork stamped. While I was waiting I glanced into a couple shops to see what Chinese stores have in them - apparently mostly beer, and only Pabst Blue Ribbon (a beer I would have been happy to never of heard of again) and Budweiser. My first thought was that maybe a big black-market shipment had come in, but then I realized the cans were all printed in Chinese!?! Of all the things for us to export. There are six of us in the group - three American students (all from the Pacific Northwest) who have just finished a quarter abroad in Nepal, a Malaysian man, and a Swiss woman - with our guide and drivers that's a total of nine in two land rovers - luxury! With the time change (two hours fifteen minutes ahead) it was after five by the time we hit the road.
We drove up into the clouds into a land of waterfalls and cloud veiled ridges and peaks. The road was unpaved and narrow with an incredible drop off, but the condition of the road meant that we moved quite slowly. With the frequent checkpoints and the road conditions it took us nearly three hours to cover the 50 miles to Nyalam - but the scenery was incredible and the ride passed quickly.
In Nyalam it was after eight by the time we settled into our hotel rooms - but it was still bright and sunny so I went for a walk to take some pictures. The people are beautiful and very friendly. There are yaks everywhere - and they all have dangling ear decorations. The houses are picturesque trapezoidal shaped building with lots of windows, brightly painted trim, and crowns of prayer flags. In my half hour walk I had a conversation (with no words) with a young mother and her daughter, got invited to eat diner with a bunch of workmen eating from a common bowl on the street, and got called into a movie theater by the entire crowd. I was in love with Tibet. I met up with the others for diner. I was really starting to feel the effects of the altitude (over twelve thousand feet) and had a bad headache, but still had a great diner (chicken with peanuts). I just got back to the hotel when I realized that I had acute diarrhea (translation - I got a one minute warning before I had to be over a toilet). Plus my headache got worse, I developed a fever, and I couldn't catch my breath. It was a very long night.