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Day 69: North from Lhasa

Yangbajing, Tibet 
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Getting into hot water. This Olympic size geothermal pool in the middle of nowhere was the one place in Tibet I ever felt truly warm. Outside it was freezing.
Michael Palin - HimalayaWe pass two prostrating pilgrims, pulling themselves along the side of the road towards Lhasa, from which they must be several weeks away. The railway taking shape beside them will cross the entire plateau, one quarter of the land area of China, in 15 hours.

At Yangbajing a side road leads to a hot springs complex, where, in addition to storage tanks and a treatment plant that converts the geothermal power into energy for Lhasa, there is a lido with an open-air, Olympic-size pool. Immersed in the sulphurous water at 14,104 feet (4300 m) above sea level, surrounded by tundra and gaunt, grey hills, my body is, for the first time since arriving in Tibet, truly, unequivocally and luxuriantly warm.

Seventy miles further on, a town springs out of nowhere. A casual mess of a place called Damxung, where rubbish blows round and round in tight circles and hard men with pinched faces and red braids in their hair squat on the steps and watch us go by. Turning off here, we follow an unmade road up to Lhachen La, a 16,700-foot (5090 m) pass where the wind tears at the prayer flags and the sky looks ready for a storm.

This is the last pass before Namtso Chukmo, a sacred saltwater lake with great significance for pilgrims from all over Tibet.
Yangbajing, Tibet 
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 69: North from Lhasa
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Yangbajing
  • Book page no: 166

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