Day 8: Preparations for KailasWe leave tomorrow morning. I catch up with my email, buy an extra memory chip for the digital camera I am using, and buy a lightweight camping stove and two gas cartridges at one of the many excellent outdoor stores in Lhasa. I also swing by Shigatse Travel, where Rene, the owner greets me 'Hey, John, right?' which I guess explains the message. I tell him my name is Martin and he replies, 'Whatever.'
He gives the impression that he truly doesn't give a shit, which in an odd way I admire - living in America you can get sick of the outward trappings of customer service. Later in our trip when a minor disaster befalls us, his own employee refuses to call him to ask for help because it would just be a waste of money. I find out later that Roger, the other Westerner responsible (if that's not too strong a word) for our trip, doesn't give a shit either, but in Roger's case I understand his motivation - the search for enlightenment. What brought Rene to Lhasa, and what keeps him here? I never find out.
We arrange for our group to meet that evening for dinner at the Yak Hotel restaurant. I finally meet my fellow-travellers - Paul (Pablo), a British academic, a Swiss couple in their forties and a Danish couple in their twenties, all of whom have been travelling together from Kathmandu. I'm in a completely different Lhasa from the one where I have been all week. The staff are impeccably dressed in uniforms presumably based on Tibetan national dress, the menu is vast and covers all five continents, and prices are in the thirty-yuan range rather than e.g. the four yuan I paid for lunch. How ironic that it should be here, after five years in India and filty market food stalls too numerous to mention, that I finally come down with food poisoning.
After our meal we head to the market to buy some cups and thermos flasks for the journey. I bargain down the prices in Chinese, then as I walk back to the hotel I suddenly lose my balance completely and my head starts to spin. I just make it back to my room in time to vomit into the toilet again and again, followed by explosive diarrhea. I spend the whole night either sitting on the toilet or kneeling down and throwing up into it: after a while everything is coming out clear from both ends but I still don't get any rest or feel any better.