“We’ll see how far we can get.” That’s what our host told us when we talked about driving outside of Kathmandu Valley for the day. In monsoon season in Southern Asia, that may actually not be very far. But we were ambitious. We were hopeful. We were aiming for Tibet.
Tibet is one of those places that just grips you. From it’s bloody history, to it’s controversial present, and it’s unknown future. From Brad Pitt to Richard Gere, Tibet is one region of Asia that has made it’s way into the hearts & minds of Americans. It’s mystical and mysterious, unknown and intriguing. Why wouldn’t we try to get there?
Our first week in Kathmandu, Nepal, has been pretty anti-climatic. It’s been cloudy & rainy, we’ve been fighting off sinus infections, and we really didn’t venture further than the tourist neighborhood. So when our host offered to take us on a road trip to see “real Nepal” and maybe even reach Tibet, we jumped at the chance.
A few questions we should have asked before leaving could have been “How long will this trip take?” and “How are we getting there?” Or maybe I didn’t want to know in advance it would be 6 hours in his tiny Hyundai. But that’s what adventures are made of!
We started early, and quickly beat the traffic out of the city, and just as my ears started to pop due to the elevation rise, we stopped for a mountainside breakfast. A beautiful hotel runs a restaurant on the side of their property, overlooking the Himalayas. Had it not been cloudy rainy season, we would have had a picture perfect backdrop. Either way, it was breathtaking.
We continued onwards, on windy roads through no name towns. Over puddles, rocks, mud and rubble in the little Hyundai that could. We were making pretty good time, with occasional photo stops of course.
With every turn of the road, it was another postcard perfect view. The rich greens from the fresh rains to the raging river below. The landscape of the Himalayas has texture that you can feel through the car window. It’s vibrant and engages all your senses. I found myself wondering how so much beauty could exist in one part of the world. And how can it be so untouched? So much of our travels this year have been through mega cities and tourist traps. But out here, on unmarked roads weaving through unnamed mountains, I felt the bigness of the world again.
We finally arrive at the border town of Kodari and it’s packed with Chinese and Nepali men & women crossing and carrying goods back and forth. We had no idea how far we could get, so we boldly just walked through the gate like we knew exactly where we headed, as though we weren’t the only white faces in the entire crowd. We cross Friendship Bridge and put our toes on the red line…and immediately get stopped by a Chinese border guard. And that’s as far as we could go. So we turn around, and head back to the car, and return to Nepal. But I made it to Tibet. I breathed Tibet air and touched Tibet space. That will have to do for now. I can just sit back and enjoy the big, wide world fly by my car window again, knowing that I’ll be back for more.