Altitude Sickness

Golmud Travel Blog

 › entry 10 of 16 › view all entries

After Xiahe, once Archie was fixed it, was time for our first night of camping. Well... nearly. Because of the time lost there was a bit of reshuffling and we ended up going back to Lanzhou for the night....but the next night it was time to camp! So after driving allday at around 4o'clock Riki and Renee (drivers) started keeping an eye out for decent places, and eventually pulled off the road somewhere which was grassy and fairly flat. We put up our tents and just took it easy for the evening, kicking the rugby ball round, playing hacky sack, whatever. Actually my memory is really a blank about the details of this night, im not even sure there were many particularly interesting details. But I remember the meal was one of the best Id had in China(!), the sunset was pretty impressive, and of course you could see millions of stars. So it was a good start the camping side of things. Unfortunately it was the only decent night camping we had!

The next night was spent in hotels in Golmud. There was absolutely NOTHING to this town, apart from the fact it used to be the place where the train to Lhasa starts, and so is the starting point for the most contraversial train route in the world. I dont know too much about it but ive heard people saying the train is pointless economically, but is more a way of consolodating the Chinese hold on Tibet. So more Chinese can migrate to Lhasa for jobs, flushing out the tibetans, plus it also gives better military access to Tibet. But from our point of view Golmud was just a place to sleep.

By this point everyday we were getting higher and higher, using the method of going over all your high passes during the day, and sleeping lower at night to acclimatise. I think it was the next day we camped again at just over 4000m, this time not in such great surroundings, with the straight, never ending road on one side, and the straight, never ending train track on the otherside. You could see mountains in the distance but otherwise it was flat for miles, and getting stormy. I remember at this point feeling pretty confident with the whole altitude thing, and there were a few others feeling the same way, so we were playing football, rugby all this stuff, getting really out of breath but recovering quickly enough. Anyways the storm kicked in at some point and most people headed to bed. In the morning half the group felt like shit! Myself included. Its completely normal, apparently when you sleep you breath normally instead of heavily as you would at high altitude while youre awake. So youre starved of oxygen throughout the night and wakeup with something resembling a very very bad hangover! Plus our tent had its own lake. Spirits were not high! So with the altitude symptoms its completely normal, but it was also important to recover asap. Anyone who didnt make a quick enough recovery would have to be dropped from the trip, they said risking full on altitude sickness was not an option. So we started driving a bit higher just to suss out if it was ok, some people got worse and we had to turn round and camp in the same place. As it turned out that was the last night of camping we did.

Anyways! to cut a long story short everyone was well enough the next day to continue up to Namtso (about 5000m above sea level, another 1000 above where we were now). And I think this was the day we made it across the official Tibetan border! Woo!

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photo by: seahlk