Because our first experience with the high Tibetan altitudes at Qinghai Lake led to a pounding headache, I was expecting worse during our bus journey from Xining to Yushu on the following day (click here for a map). After considerable improvements of the road, the coach needs between 13 to 15 hours for the 810 km. While most visitors opt for the overnight bus, we wanted to see something from the countryside and left Xining with the earliest possibility at 11 am (click here for a video of this trip). After reaching the Tibetan Plateau, the first stretch of road crosses a semi-desert, partly with large sand dunes. This landscape was completely in contrast to what I experienced during my train ride to Lhasa in 2007. Only after a couple of hours, the countryside resembled more and more what I had expected: an endless array of wide valleys, small villages with monasteries, yak herds, high-altitude lakes, and snow-capped mountains in the distance. Fortunately, we did not experience any serious symptoms of altitude sickness although reaching heights well above 4,000 m. In the afternoon, the area became exceedingly remote with vast wetlands often full of migratory birds as well as grasslands with antelopes and wild asses (the famous Kiang, a close relative to the Indian Khur). Shortly after passing the small town of Maduo (at 4,260 m), the sun disappeared behind the horizon. The bus still continued for another few hours through the dark before crossing the Bayankala Pass (with 4,824 m the highest point of the journey) and reaching Yushu around 1 am.
After a short night, we set to explore Yushu and its surrounding countryside – click here to read about it!