Our original plan had been to spend a full day at Tidrum hiking and soaking in the hot springs. It might have been the pervasive smell of yak butter in our rooms (I wish I could post that smell for you!) but I couldn’t bring myself to sleep in those beds again or go into the bathroom any more times than strictly necessary so we decided to move on. We were supposed to spend the night between Tidrum and Nam Tso at Reting Monastery, but we had been warned that this guesthouse was the worse we would see on our trip. We couldn’t handle anything worse so we decided to skip Reting all together.
Despite our last minute change of plans (one advantage of booking a private tour) the day turned out to be quite pleasant and interesting. We started our day with the closest thing we had on our trip to an authentic Tibetan breakfast. It consisted of fried potatoes and yak meat along with some rice. It was served with yak butter tea which tastes like salty butter. Yak butter is mixed with a little tea and a lot of salt and served warm and melty. It is not my favorite drink. Our guide also gave us some traditional tsampa to try. This roasted barley flour mixed with yak butter into a sort of dough was bland, but edible.
We were not about to give up our planned hike at Tidrum and headed up the side of the mountain bordering the nunnery after breakfast. Once we left the trash strewn river behind the views were fantastic. The craggy mountains and fluttering prayer flags make a fantastic backdrop for photographing the wandering yaks. We also walked past a sky burial site. While important religious leaders are entombed in stupas, common people are given a sky burial. In brief, the dead are cut up and their bodies are left in the open for eagles and other scavengers to dispose of. It’s a gruesome description and makes some cringe. Personally I think it is a practical and ecological way to dispose of human remains, but I’m not very sentimental about the dead.
After returning to the nunnery grabbing a cup-of-noodles from the little convenience stand we headed out on the back roads to Nam Tso. The road looks like a major road on the map, but the tire shredding track of rocks and dirt is anything but. This little trafficked road runs near the Kyichu River through beautiful valleys and picturesque little villages. We had an excellent driver who had protected his land rover with the appropriate charms hanging from the rear view mirror and decals on the windows to protect us from earthquakes so we felt really safe. The kids were really good in the car (even without the dvd player that we usually resort to on long car trips). They slept some and played some and overall the 7 hour drive was a relaxing time to reflect on our experiences and take in the views. We passed the site of a dam under construction which really drove home the point that Tibet is changing, like it or not.
We concluded our trip in the town of Damxung, which is just big enough to warrant a stop on the Qinghai-Tibetan railway. We were only 1.5 hours from Nam Tso and were assured that the accommodations were better than in Nam Tso. We spent the night at the Pe Ma (English name White Horse) hotel for $20. We enjoyed the clean beds and showers immensely and were quite pleased with the recommendation. It was a nice way to rest up for day 6 and Nam Tso.