We left Shigatse early that morning and were headed towards Everest but about an hour into the drive, I heard something snap in the engine from the back of the bus and about ten minutes later, we came to a rolling stop. The bus was officially broken down on a Tibet road.
One of the belts had popped and we were essentially stranded for what became the next seven hours. The driver and our guide were busy trying to rig a new belt from an extra they had but it was too large. Instead of calling a bus right away, they tried to call to the last town to get a replacement belt and were trying to stop every bus that passed us to see if they may have had the correct sized belt we needed.
After six hours, they finally called a backup bus to swap with ours as it was obvious we were getting nowhere. With nothing much else to do, we sat stranded on the highway for a while then we all went our own directions.
Some of us hiked around a bit in the foothills that surrounded us and later, most of us walked into a tiny village nearby to where we were broken down. There really wasn’t much to do there but on our way out, we stopped into a tiny diner for some Yak milk tea.
Its a drink that is a bit difficult to describe but essentially its tea with yak milk. What’s it taste like? Have you ever had Egg Nog? Its almost like an Egg Nog consistency with a bit of spice and a touch of Yak. I had two. It was surprisingly delicious.
We made it back to our bus within an hour of our replacement bus showing up. It was much smaller (and a bit dirtier) than our previous mother ship but at least it was running. It was now so late in the day that we knew we wouldn’t make it to the town we were meant to go to for the day.
Nor would we reach Everest Base Camp today. The bigger issue was the fact that we wouldn’t get a ‘makeup day’ because of this setback. Not only were a lot of our Chinese Visas running out at the end of this trip but as a group, we had only a 7 day Tibet travel permit so collectively, we had to cross the border into Nepal no matter what.
So instead of getting all the way to our intended town that night, we stopped short just after sundown but luckily, we did get our first glimpse of Everest from a distance just as the sun was setting. It was an awesome sight to see, especially after all we’d been through that day.
The place we stayed that night had been booked as a last resort by our guide and it already had quite a few people staying there but luckily there was room for our group. Many of those we met there were from all over the globe yet many of them had just come from Everest and were traveling in the opposite direction.
We shared stories that night and later tried to figure out sleeping arrangements since we were still a couple beds short. And sleeping there that night was the coldest it had been since getting into Tibet and of course, there was absolutely no heat in the rooms. If you’ve ever slept in a room where you can see your breath, you can relate. I remember being told it was -10 Celsius that night. Although I had a couple blankets, I was not about to freeze another night so I opted to sleep in almost all of my clothes, including my hat, gloves and two pair of socks. Yeah, it was that cold. Luckily, I had acclimated a bit better that day and barely felt the altitude that night.