Saturday 22 May: Under the current Chinese dynasty, to travel this classic route across the roof of the world, you must be part of an organised tour group, have a China group visa, Tibet access permit and use a recognised agency to provided you with a Tibetan guide or 'escort'. So it's an eight-day tour bus (51st mode of transport) trip form Kathmandu with forty-four other travellers many of whom, like myself, will burst out of the tour package in Lhasa and continue over the Tibetan Plateau into Han China. Printed matter prohibited by the current Chinese government are religious books, pictures of monks (although there are plenty of monks in China) and maps of Taiwan.
Day 1: Kathmandu to Nylam (11,811ft): We bump our way along the Arkino Highway (named after the Nepalese architect who first introduced the pagoda to China 500 years ago) to the Nepal border post of Kodari. We cross the Chinese built Friendship Bridge (no photos) and continue on the smoothly paved Friendship Highway to Nylam and basic dorm accommodation with no showers or hot water.
Day 2: Nylam to Lhatse (13,287ft): Snaking upward on to the highest plateau in the world we reach Lalung La Pass (17,060ft) with views of the Himalayan range and the distant north face of Mt Everest (Qomolongma in Tibetan) where Andy Irvine and George Mallory were last seen "Heading strongly for the summit".
In Lao Tingri village I split from the group and enjoy a lunch of Yak and potato stew, cauliflower, rice and green tea in a tiny sitting-room sort of a restaurant. In the corner an old herder pulls a sun-cured sheep leg from his sack. Carving thin slices of the cold mutton the toothless Tibetan chews and sucks at them while slurping from his bowl of hot potato stew. He carefully replaces the leg in his bag with the furry hoof still sticking out of the top and ambles off. Air-cured meat keeps for up to a year in the dry Tibetan climate. As I'm about finish eating my dish it's immediately topped-up with more delicious stew and I'm happy pay 150Y (about £1.40) to the smiling cook, she's happy too. Tibetans only eat the meat of grazing animals, Yak, Goat and Sheep, not Chicken, Fish or Pig as these animals eat other living sentinel beings, maybe ancestors. Yak is the meat of choice as the death of only one large animal provides many meals.
In Latse we are again in a basic dorm with no shower or hot water.
Photos of the first two days on the Friendship Highway.