Tibet's cliff-side border town with Nepal
Tuesday 22nd September – to Zangmu on the border with Nepal.
Stopped by roadworks on the cliffside path, we walked the final hour and a half to Zangmu, saved from falling rocks by the fence installed for just that reason. What a dangerous cliff-side road.
What a crazy town!
Stuck to the side of a cliff overhanging the Zangmu Valley which winds into Nepal is the Tibetan town of Zangmu. Even though it is only one street, telling you that might give you the wrong impression. It IS only one street, but it starts at the top of the valley wall and switchbacks all the way down to the gushing river and border post at the bottom. Everyone has ‘main road’ frontage AND a view of the valley. It’s so steep that some of the buildings are beginning to topple, with some empty and apparently condemned. My concern is that if they fall it will be like dominoes down the hill and, you guessed it, the place we’re staying is right at the bottom. We DO have a valley view - now, unlike those of us who got the noisy street rooms. The first room they tried to give us was a bedsit triple with no windows or furniture. Other people weren’t so lucky and got stuck with rooms that included no curtains (and windows across the street), blood-stained walls, no lock on the door and walls that had more mould than paint. We’re told the Sherpa Hotel is the best place in town, but I’m not convinced. Border towns are shite the world over because everyone only stays for one night because they have to. No one would make it a holiday destination or stay more than one night. Everyone that is except Intrepid? What were they thinking to plan for two nights here?
Looking out the window and down the valley, I can see Nepal, so close, yet tantalisingly, a world away. Looking up, there are swallows nesting under the eaves. Looking down, there is rubbish. It just gets tossed out windows and off the roof and now coats the mountainside below me. I can’t lean out the window too far, lest I catch the slops that fall past intermittently, thrown from the kitchen on the roof.
We planned dinner in the restaurant so we’d be here when our bags arrived, which they did just before we started. The Landcruisers made it through.
It then started to rain heavily.
Dinner wasn’t memorable, which at least means it wasn’t memorably bad.
Wednesday – Landslides, destruction and our early ‘escape’ from China.
I was up a few times during the night and the shared toilets got sh$ttier and sh$ttier. Why won’t they flush?
Looking forward to even a cold shower this morning, we were more than disappointed to hear that the hotel now has no water.
I spent some time before breakfast poking my zoom lens out my hotel room unsuccessfully trying to photograph the nesting swallows feeding their young and it gave me a new-found appreciation for wildlife photographers who get ‘that shot’.
It seems that our hotel is not the only victim of a sanitation-less situation and we are now told that last night’s rain caused a landslide that knocked out the town’s water supply. At least it didn’t knock out the town itself, though any other day, it might not be such a bad thing. Did I just say that?
We communicated our frustrations with this place to our guide Ling last night and she said without a natural disaster, she couldn’t change the itinerary, no matter how crap this place is. I said to her this morning, “Surely a landslide is a natural disaster?” “Can’t stay here with sewerage backing up and no water for kitchens to wash dishes with?” Doesn’t bear thinking about really. Perhaps they will rename it Zangpoo?
Nothing to do but go and eat and see what happens. A bunch of us found a lovely Nepalese place around the corner and the food we were served made us ‘hungry’ for more of Nepal. Made with black tea, milk, cardamom, ginger and sugar, the Marsala Tea was delicious and I got his recipe.
The restaurant had bags of water hanging from the ceiling like the ones you take a fish home from the shop in. We discussed what they might be for and I suggested that maybe it was instead of sprinklers in the case of fire. I was being kinda silly, but we asked the owner and he said, “For fire.” We’re still not sure if he stands there and pops them with a blow dart or if the flames are meant to touch the bag and release the water, by which time it’s too late. If the flames are so big they’re touching the ceiling a few hundred millilitres of water is useless.
Just then, Ling came in smiling, so we knew she wasn’t bearing bad news.
The good news? She’s been in contact with Intrepid HO and we can PO.
We’ve moved our itinerary for the last 4 days forward one day and will now leave this afternoon at 3pm and have 2 nights in Kathmandu instead of 1. YAY! (This is extra-good for Amanda and I because we were only going to have 24 hours in Kathmandu otherwise and I might even have missed the AFL Grand Final.)
Happy with the news, we went off to explore Zangmu. At least you don’t need a map in a one street town! The only trouble with the one street is that it is actually the main and only road linking Nepal with Tibet, so everyone uses it. This might not sound too bad until you put long trucks on narrow roads with hairpin switchbacks. Much forwards and reversing later, they negotiate just one of many such bends with traffic building up behind.
This would now be my last day in China and my last chance to acquire “Mops of China” photos for you. I was in luck. With all the rain they get, it seems this place does a lot of mopping and they come in all shapes and sizes and they love to hang them in public. I got some great photos to share.
Not had internet for awhile (this town had to have one redeeming feature) so took the chance to keep in touch and post a blog.
Back to hotel to pack my bags before returning to the same Nepalese restaurant for lunch before departing. What a tasty lunch. Amanda & I met up with Keith & Tess and all 4 of us ordered the Nepalese Vegetarian Set. SO TASTY. I’ve not had meat for quite a few days now, but I don’t miss it. Sure, it’s available, but just like buying seafood away from a coastline, it’s not always the best option. Our lunch today was classic example of that. It was a delicious introduction to Nepal, a country we shall be in, in just a few hours if all goes well.
That traffic I described above, continued the short distance to the border and it seemed to take forever to get the loaded Landcruisers that last little distance. Eventually we just grabbed our bags and walked to the border post, located on the Friendship Bridge with Nepal. That’s a misnomer. Getting OUT of the country was not going to be easy.
Among many things, China forbids; pictures of the 14th Dalai Lama (currently in exile in India), Tibetan flags, and of course else anything inflammatory and NO! I don’t mean hydrocarbons or firecrackers. To this extent they took much time in examining the contents of everybody’s bags in minute detail, including perusing my address book, souvenirs, and other random stuff in my big backpack.
I was concerned because I was reading Michael Palin’s Himalaya and there’s a lovely full-colour photo of him meeting the Dalai Lama. Current reading, I’d put the book at the bottom of my day pack, hoping they wouldn’t find it. I popped it by my feet out of sight whilst he delved through my bag. With a big smile, I helped him squash everything back into my bag and walked off without presenting my bag of contraband. Passport control followed and I was free…almost. Walking across the Friendship Bridge you are greeted with something I’ve never seen before on a bridge border, and I’ve seen a few. A red (of course) line in the middle of the bridge drew a literal line between the two countries, though you didn’t need a line to see the difference. On the Tibetan (Chinese) side were armed and tense soldiers, grey buildings and solemn faces, whilst the Nepalese side welcomed us with casual soldiers without guns, colourful if somewhat dilapidated buildings and happy faces. What a contrast.
We’re all quite happy to be leaving China/Tibet. I’m sick of being ‘controlled’ by the state in what I can say, what media I choose to access and even the books I choose to read.
Confucius says – Girl who work as legal secretary probably called Sue Wing.