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Perilous Tibetan Road

September 07, 1986

My husband and I enjoyed David Holley's article on Tibet (Aug. 17), but as we traveled to Lhasa and crossed the Tibet/Nepal border to Katmandu recently, I would like to clarify a few things we found misleading in his article. He did not stress the completely primitive conditions on the road between Tibet and Nepal. It is at least three days of bone-jarring travel over an unpaved road that resembles an old washboard at best. Sometimes no other human beings are seen for most of the day. A mechanical breakdown could be a real disaster.

In Tingri, for example, we stayed in a 9 by 9 foot concrete "cell"--no electricity, no heating, no running water or toilet facilities, two metal cots with thin, dirty mattresses and icy wind blowing through the broken window glass. The outhouse was a good block away.

My second point is his concluding statement on how this trip can be done for as little as $1,500. I think this is very misleading to people who might think this can easily, safely or comfortably be accomplished at this price. Holley speaks Chinese, didn't mind asking strangers if he could sleep at their homes and walked/hitchhiked along a switchbacked road that snakes along hundreds of miles in barren terrain at high, subzero altitudes of 17,000 feet and more. On our three-week trip I did not see more than two or three people trying to do it this way, and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

Because of its remoteness and primitive aspects, Tibet is a truly awesome experience and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. For someone in excellent health and aware that it's quite a rigorous trip, this is a travel experience that shouldn't be missed. But it is very misleading to make it sound like an easy, relaxing tour. It is not.

J. BUTTERBRODT

Villa Park

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