After spending the night in Damxung and grabbing a quick, but overpriced, breakfast we made the 1.5 hour drive to Nam Tso. We reached the highest point in our journey when we crossed La Ken La (Laken Pass) at 5190 meters (16600 feet). From this point on we had glorious views of the 70 kilometer long lake and the surrounding peaks.
As we approached the lake we stopped to take pictures of some tents used by the nomads who graze their yaks and sheep in the area. The family came out to check us out. They were very kind and let us see the inside of their tent and were willing to answer a few of our questions. They said that they have a house on the other side of the like but bring their livestock over to this side in the summer. Our kids shared some candy with their kids and Andrew wanted to stay and play. After taking a few pictures we moved on to the tourist complex at the lake.
The complex at the lake was a rectangular collection of temporary buildings set up around a dirt parking lot. All the hotels were the same type of buildings used to house temporary workers on construction sites throughout china. The walls are thin and insulated with only a bit of Styrofoam. The lights only work at night when the generator comes on. There is an enclosed hallway outside the rooms and then windows in the room look out into the hallway. Lights in the hallway stay on until the generator shuts off around 1:00 am and the thin curtain in the room does little to block out this light. Our room at the Sheep Hotel consisted of 4 beds crammed into the room and a small table. The beds seemed clean enough, but we used our sheet liners that we brought anyway. All the hotels in the compound were setup in rectangles around a small individual parking lot and the whole arrangement was set up around a larger parking lot for the tour buses that bring day trippers from Lhasa. My husband described it as looking like an old west wagon train circling up for the night. Not a single hotel had windows that faced out of the compound to allow guests to see the lake and the mountains. The only views were of the parking lot. There is no running water at Nam Tso and the pit toilet is a few hundred yards away. We were instructed to use this toilet during the day, but we could go behind the buildings at night. Make sure to watch where you are walking behind the buildings. Food at the Sheep Hotel was decent; we were too lazy and content to try out any of our other options for food.
Despite the dreary accommodations, everything else about Nam Tso was great. We spent our first afternoon hiking up the hill that juts out into the lake. The views from the top of the hill are great and once you make it past the first crest in the hill you are virtually guaranteed solitude. The masses that arrive on the tour buses only go to the lake and not up the hill. Once we reached the top we spent a long time enjoying the sun and reading and journaling. The kids build cairns and dug in the dirt. The hike down was much easier than the hike up.
After a late lunch we gathered up some empty water bottles which the kids used in lieu of buckets and shovels and headed down to the sandy beach of the lake. It was surprisingly warm and the kids waded in the water and built sand castles as if they were in the tropics. My husband even jumped in the water which he described as “refreshing”. His only regret was that the tour buses had left for the day so there were not hundreds of Chinese standing by to witness and be shocked at his dip in the lake.
We stayed at the beach for a couple hours and enjoyed what was probably the most relaxing day of the trip, though day 7 was relaxed as well.