PtMK, 200710-180810 (Lhasa, and Mt. E.
200710 (a Tuesday... You lose track of days when on these long cycling trips...)
In Tibet on highway #109, south to Lhasa...
I slept fairly well except for the noise of some heavy equipment working at night -- the construction madness of China).
I'm up at 0600, and we depart by 0915.
It's up and up against a strong south wind. But, today I'm feeling stronger, more energy for some reason (hard ever to predict about this!).
Xuni, not 'feeling well,' trades Liu for seat in truck. But, the rest of us, led by Christophe, stay together and make good time.
We have lunch with a solo Chinese girl cyclist we meet on the highway! This is extremely rare, a Chinese girl out cycling alone to Lhasa! I can remember only one other in my 5-years cycling all over China. Elvis, smitten, follows her after lunch.
In the afternoon we run right into a rain storm, and have to cover ourselves huddled together in a ditch. It got so bad I had the truck go ahead and scout for a culvert tunnel.
Xutan and Liu, who had been behind, catch up to us.
We stop in a village have a hot lunch, then not too far as wind/rain hit head on. I notice a RR bridge .5KM off the highway to the right, and we make for it. But, as soon as we're happily under the RR 'bulls,' 'attack' and demand we leave. But, Xutan and I argue with the 'big boss' (I'm yelling at this point!), displaying documents (invitation letter, etc.) from CITS in Lhasa. After calling the 'big, big boss' he relents, but tell us we can't camp any closer than 20M from the actual line (above us on a constructed 'berm').
We pitch the community tent in a howling gale, but one of the 'bulls,' helps to carry rocks to anchor. Later, I walk 100M to give him 10RMB. One good turn deserves another!
I pitch my tent too near the RR line, and am awakened by the roar of passing trains! Additionally, the storm never abates, and wind-driven rain has my tent flapping all night. Welcome to 4600M ASL / 15,000ft. ASL, Tibet (higher than Mt. Evans, the highest peak in Colorado, U.S.A.).
We have managed only 46KM (partaking of a hot springs delayed us), but now are 220KM south of Amdo. This in 3 days, or 70KM average per day. I'm always happy if we can average 10KM per hour. Now, after two months on the road, we're only 200KM from Lhasa!
I'm up at 0600.
We able to depart by 0900, but directly into a strong south wind (3M per second my little device records such).
We practice our cycling 'peloton' (grouping close together in single file), this at Christophe's suggestion, our own French cyclist. We want to enter Lhasa, in a manner that impresses the media (we hope to attract). But, some don't understand, and I have to yell several times when people do what I think are stupid things (like leaving the group to go to the toilet).
It takes 3 hours to go another 25KM and into a village where we stop for lunch, a long lunch (2 hours).
From 2 to 6P.M. we only manage 22KM against a very strong head wind.
The truck however, continues another 12KM to find a good camping spot. Exhausted, we stop for the night, a total of 59KM for the day!
I'm in my sleeping bag by 2100 hours (9P.M.)
It starts raining at 0300, and doesn't stop. Note, I haven't slept well on this entire trip: I can't breathe, a 'double whammy,' from both the elevation and a stuffy (congested) nose (dryness, thus I was always happy about it raining at night). I had a thought, however, that my mouth, my teeth, are a part of the equation, the stuffiness. So, dreaming or not, I vowed to brush my teeth more!
We're off at 0900 into a driving rain, but emboldened by the fact we're now so close to Lhasa (hot shower, warm bed, good food, etc.). For some reason, maybe the same, I feel stronger than usual.
Wet and weary we make Namtzo Lake Town (Chinese or Tibetan name?), 35KM in three hours -- where you turn off for the Lake. Now it's so much larger than when I went through there 11 years ago on the way to Namtzo -- I hardly recognize it.
We find a restaurant and stop for a hot meal, and to dry what is wet (gloves, boots, socks). Note, I never had what I needed in the way of clothing/gear. Even the expensive stuff purchased in Germany (by my German partner, Rucha), 'Made in China,' wasn't any good!
Two hours later, fed and drier we head out again. The first part, downhill, is easy, but the second half of the afternoon, rain and wind again.
We stop having made some 73KM, and camp at 4100M ASL.
Again, and for most of the trip so far, I have a sleepless night. I can't breathe easily 'because of congestion, and if you can't breathe, you can't sleep. Even the rain in the night didn't seem to help much.
I'm up at 0600. I notice, getting out of the tent, that a calf (or some heavy animal) has somehow gotten into the vestibule, and stepped on some of my gear. Anything can happen 'out there!' 'Ke Garne?' What to do? Ah, it's all experience!
We depart at 0900, and in 1.5 hours (11KM) we're at the top of a 4600M pass. By now, having gone over six passes above 5K M, we arrive hardly out of breathe!
Then a long 'down,' some 30KM in the 'Hot Springs Town' (I remember from 11-years ago.). The boys, wanting to 'race,' go ahead. I bring up the rear. Waiting at the junction are the 'fast ones,' me Yogi, Xuni and Fei arriving so many minutes later.
We crank a couple Kilometers into the village for lunch. Again, I'm amazed at how much the area has been built up. There was nothing there 11-years ago. We had planned maybe to partake of the hot springs (pool), but when we found out what it cost, 128RMB each, we decided against. Can you image...? That's about $16U.S. to go swimming.
But, now we're going down toward Lhasa, and the 'smell' the comfort enlivens us.
Another 30KM and we start looking for a campsite, now in a narrow valley.
We end up in a 'fight' with a RR 'bull,' as he won't let us camp where we want. We want him to call the 'big, big boss,' but he refuses.
We go on, looking, but only after about an hour, and several missteps, do I spot a bluff across the river. It takes a bit to get there, over a bridge, but it turns out good with a nice view, but nothing but hard dirt and rocks to pitch tents on.
Tomorrow the big day, Lhasa at last!
240710, a Saturday (Coincidence... Our camping location was right at a junction (the bridge) where I had been driver with a group to Tsurpu Monastery, some 11-years earlier. Even more amazing, I recognized the place even built up as it has been in the interim.)
Only 30KM from Lhasa, we arrive, at least on the outskirts, by 12N. Everyone is excited! We haven't seen any comfort since Geermu, 30-days ago.
We stop in a town, the main street under construction, and we have to thread our way though much 'shit.' Finally, a huge boulevard is revealed, and I lead the 'peloton,' east on Beijing Road.
It takes another hour (Lhasa so large now) to glide past the Potala Palace, but we're all entranced having made it!
I lead the group back to our hotel, the Sunrise, on the southwestern part of the City.
Here we indulge ourselves in a 1K RMB lunch, complete with curious media.
Our 'host/sponsor' in Tibet, the TITS (yea, 'tits' for short) has arranged a welcoming 'party' complete with banner in front of the hotel. (See at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/)
After lunch we were interviewed by several reporters, an article (with me on the front page) ends up in 'Tibet Travel.' It seems like a dream now (writing this months later).
The group takes off to find lodging of their choice and budget.
Xutan and I have dinner with 'QiQi,' the writer from 'Tibet Tour' Magazine.
The we ride back to the hotel in the dark.
250710, 'resting' in Lhasa
This was my list of things to do while in Lhasa:
Find personal items in store
Get something for congestion
suck lemon water in sinuses
bicycle: wash, maintenance (Shingo)
Meet Zhang, Liu, and Elvis
Purchases; Various bags to carry
Arrange picture in front of Potala (Xutan)
Plaques for party (Xutan)
L/S/ bptt; (metal?)
Wednesday Gov.-produced live show for group
Friday P.M., party: pick location, time, etc.
Upload pictures and text at www.cyclingpeace.org
Note, text for plaques:
"Congratulations! (name). You have successfully completed Haqi-Hutch's Tour-Cycling Course: Lijiang, Yunnan, to Lhasa, Tibet, 2800KM in 51 days! Please promote the use of the bicycle as transportation wherever and whatever you do!" F.A. Hutchison
26-290710 (in Lhasa)
Here was a list of things to do:
0730 breakfast buffet with Xutan re party
Print out certificate
Lunch at 11A
Tibetan Medical University
Storage - inventory
X.T. - stamp
P.U. Camera, 450RMB
pay hotel 4X 800RMB
2X L-Zh photos, 40RMB
Bank WD 2K RMB
300710 (in Lhasa)
party night (at the famous Accordian Bakery Restaurant), things to do:
Chen, bring drum
WD RMB, bank
Purchase 3 of her music CDs
310710 (in Lhasa)
1000 Sunrise Hotel: Go through items (in garage) to store or to take..?
010810, a Sunday in Lhasa
WD RMB at bank
Trek Bicycle shop for brakes
Prepare for departure tomorrow
020810, departed Lhasa, a Monday
After another group picture (view all at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/) in front of the SR Hotel, we departed at 0915. And sadly without Liu, who decided Lhasa was far enough.
Getting out of town, with all the traffic a reminder of how many motor vehicles are now on the streets and highways of China.
We stopped once just beyond the city, this to gather the group together. Here Elvis dumped the portable chair I'd given him (Strange, to me as why not do this before departing? If probably had to do with the weight). Coming out of some trees (toilet) I ripped my jacket.
Another mishap, Xutan left some of his clothing back in the hotel room, so our support vehicle (Zhang, our Tibetan driver) had to return to Lhasa to retrieve.
The highway was good (always around a Prov. capitol), and even with a 'bicycle' lane.
We passed Shingo, who had stopped to repair a flat tire. Note, the 'trick' with tour-cycling is Schwalbe Marathon tires (from Germany)! I never had one flat the entire trip (5K KMs)!
The terrain became semi-desert as we went down in elevation (Lhasa is at 3,600M ASL).
And for the first time during the entire trip, it became warmer and warmer until it was actually too HOT (cycling in t-shirts)!
We stopped for lunch in some shade trees overlooking the Lhasa River.
By early afternoon we'd gone 60KM, and this turned out to be the day we made 100KM (9-5P.M. or 12KMPH average). I think the most kilometers of any one day and maybe the best average.
About 4P.M. I started looking for a campsite. None came I went on and on entering a narrow canyon. But, at highway sign #4734 (distance from Beijing) I thought I'd discovered one, a dirt road just off the highway. Here I waited for the group to catch up. Then, however, news came of a hotel, just up the hill, and not far. I sent Xutan to check it out.
This hotel turned out good, although some pitched their tents in the parking lot (to save money).
We had a nice restaurant meal, a meeting afterwards, and then bed by 9P.M. (in my private room).
Unfortunately, this was another 'sleepless barking-dog night' and with my stuffy nose didn't get much sleep.
Note, I wonder in retrospect how I, at 70-years of age, I made it all the way without ever getting much sleep...? The body is an amazing thing -- it follows the mind.
The climbers that summit Mt. Everest have no doubt!
Off at 0900, it was up and down in this picturesque river canyon -- reminded me of southern Colorado. There was much traffic on this highway (#?), however on the way to Shigatze, Tibet's second-largest city.
For some reason Xuni, my 20-year old Chinese 'daugther,' (Xutan's sister) seemed to be having some difficulty as going slower and slower. But then, after lunch in a village, she zoomed ahead of all of us! Maybe 'low-blood sugar' in the morning. Note, both girls (Xuni and Fei) I tried to get on a better diet, like eating oatmeal in the morning, but neither ever did. Youth overcomes much. And they have to learn the hard way...
We went on until we've managed 77KM, and camped on a bluff.
The weather, at least the sky, was clear, but with the usual wind making erecting our community tent a challenge.
Note, I don't know how many times it took all of us, yelling and screaming above the sound of the wind, wrestling with flying this and that, putting rocks of the bottom, to try to keep from the wind carrying it away. I remember one time, when everyone was away taking showers, there were only three of us, and we barely managed to hang on to it until some of the others returned.
Now, this evening, we're only 100KM from Shigatze.
I slept fairly well, my stuffy nose only a little problem. It blew and rained all night, maybe that helped as more humidity and more air.
I'm up at 0600.
Why I only wore cycling shorts I'll never know, maybe wishful thinking. Or, watching Chris and Christophe cycle in shorts gave me the idea. Whatever, it turned out to be a bad idea, at least in the morning. Summer in Tibet is like winter in other parts of the world.
When we depart at 0900 the rain has abated. But, soon after we end up in a steady drizzle.
Seeing even darker to the west, I stop to put on my rain gear.
We're not into highway construction, and very unpleasant having so many detours, down and through mud.
We stop in a village for lunch at 42KM. One group in a 'noodle' restaurant, me and Xutan in a mifan (rice) restaurant.
After lunch the sun comes out. I take off my rain gear, and back to cycling shorts.
With the sun comes the wind, but I felt strong.
At 3:30 I catch to 'strongman,' Chris (Roach). We'd been at it 6.5 hours, and had gone 70KM.
I spied a grove of trees down by the river (name?).
I send Chris and Christophe down to check it out. They eventually signal to come, meaning it's good.
When I arrive, I discover the ground soft (even wet), many flies, and piles of sticks. All of this indicating the river has been here, and we're on the reclaimed bank. After some of the tents are up two Chinese men arrive to inform us sometimes the river overflows, that we should move to higher ground. I decide we'll stay for one night.
Zhu cooks a good dinner and we sit and eat watching the river (here as wide as the Mississippi). It's a lovely evening, even a little warm. The moon comes up, casting it's shaft of light right into my tent.
All is well, and I drift off (at 4250M / 14,000ft. ASL).
We pack up and go by our daily departure time, 0900. But, we have to push our loaded bicycles back up to the highway (several hundred meters). Chris, Xutan, Christophe, the stronger ones ride up the hill (a feat as dirt).
It's an easy crank once on the highway, except for the construction obstacles. On the outskirts of Shigatze we stop at a park to gather everyone together. Note, you want to be together in a city, as so easy to get separated and lost.
The first order of business is to find a hotel. But, I recognize nothing from being here 11 years ago. What was a dusty Tibetan town, is now a bustling Chinese city.
We end up cycling around to four hotels, The Shigatze (4-star) too much at 380RMB per.
We have lunch together and then split up.
I end up (with Xutan) in the Post Hotel for 220RMB / $33U.S. per.
I spend the afternoon napping as so tired.
Xutan and Zhu are off to the Government, Fei (our 'official' guide) with my passport (as we have to register).
In the morning I have breakfast in the hotel (usually I don't because Chinese 'breakfasts' more like lunch to me. But, sometimes they have boiled eggs.
I feel somewhat rested after a night in a bed.
I get online at the Shigatze Hotel (computer room).
I walk around looking for a supermarket.
I wash my bicycle (Ms. Feats').
For lunch I eat dhal bhat at a Tibetan restaurant.
Later, I cycle around the city to see if I can locate the hotel where we stayed (11-years ago) -- the 'honking madness of China' worse here. I think I identify at least the area, but everything has changed (grown).
Of course, this is the home of Tashihumpo Monastery, where the Panchen Lama hangs out. I remember in 1999, doing 'kora' around, climbing the hill behind, and being exhausted from the elevation (lack of air).
I take picture of bicycle statues across from the entrance to Tahihumpo Buddhist monastery (what a contrast).
Before bed I watch a 'Hollywood' movie, 'Network!' How stange, 'Network' in Shigatze!
Xutan informs me they're still trying to solve the Zhang and Teng 'permit' problems with the local Government.
To have air flowing through the room, I prop the door open with a honey container. During the night one of the 'fuwuyuan' (maids) pushes it back into the room and closes the door.
This at 0200. Thus, the flow stops. Note, Chinese so concerned about thieves. Nobody trusts anyone in China!
I write a poem during my sleepless sojourn:
Day after day,
What a break,
I'm up at my usual 0600, take a 'cold' shower, and fix breakfast in my room. I awaken Xutan at 0800 (as with most young people he likes to stay up and sleep late).
I go across to the Shigatze Hotel and get online. I send an email message to Nao, a Thai woman wanting to join us (to Mt. Kailas).
I take an 'oxygen nap,' from 12 to 1P.M.
During lunch Xutan informs me that both the permit problems have been solved (with Fei's help). We can depart ASAP. Note, Tibet a bitch because now run by the military: many check points where we all have to produce our passports, other documents.
We set a time to depart, 1500 hours, and everyone goes off to prepare. Note, beyond Shigatze there is little in the way of whatever you've forgotten. Yes, villages and Tibetan stores, but little choice.
We're off at 1500 hours, but only go until 1730, some 24KM. We camp near a stream (water source), this at 3800M / 12,500ft. ASL. We're up in elevation from Lhasa, and going up.
We have dinner and our usual meeting in the community tent.
I'm in my sleeping bag by 2100 hours (9P.M.)
080810 (The Beijing Olympic Games began exactly two-years ago!)
During the night it's unusually warm and dry. Thus, I suffer from head congestion a stuffy nose. I awaken at 0300 (you can't sleep if you can't breathe easily). But, I somehow manage 5 hours of sleep during the night!
I feel exhausted in the morning, but manage to get up at 0600.
Many times I wondered to myself if I could actually make it all the way to Mt. Kailas (riding, rather than sitting in the truck).
We're off at 0915, covering 30KM in two hours! That's fast on a heavy bicycle at elevation. Maybe it was the conditions, hot in the sun. This, in contrast with the last 3 months (mostly cold rain). The group suffers, however, probably dehydration (not drinking enough water). Rest stops became nap time. Elvis made this famous, able to sleep anywhere at anytime.
Ahead I stop at a river and bathe my feet in the cool water. Christophe, comes along and joins me. By and by they all showed up Chris, suffering from an infection was last (unusual for this 'strongman,' usually first).
We went on to the '5,000KM from Beijing' (on highway #318) monument, where we took a group picture.
I go ahead to find a campsite. At 70KM I think I've found one, but send Xutan and Zhu ahead to look for better. They phone up head that's they have found better and we camp at 76KM. Now, we're up to 4K M ASL.
Setting up tents it's still sunny, but a storm comes soon and forces us into the big tent (dinner and our meeting).
Tomorrow, we go over a 4,2K M pass then reach Lhase. This is where we take the junction to Mt. Everest. Then in another 45KM a 5.2K M pass as we approach the tallest mountain in the world. Note, I remember seeing it in the distance... A sharp, white peak jutting up above all others.
090810, a Monday
And yet another night of fitful sleeping. But, I continue to survive, even under duress. Bless my mother and father for giving me such a good body/mind).
I'm up at 0545.
Putting on my contact lens (only one), I'm distracted by demons (the closer I get to Kailas, the more they 'attack'). But, I've brought another.
We depart at our usual 0900, and up 6KM to a pass, this in only 1:15 minutes. At the top we run into many foreign tourists (tour bus). We have quite a conversation as they are amazed we're there on bicycles.
Then down 15KM and then another 25 into Lhase.
We have a good hot lunch in a Chinese restaurant.
I go shopping, and then take a hot shower (Chris and Christophe there too) in a public bath. The best public bath so far. Note, the guest houses/hotels don't have hot-water bathing outside of Lhasa and Shigatze.
Somehow I 'lose' my RMB bills, or think I have. I return to the public Shower to loock, but not there. The demons fucking with me again. Then buying pears and wash cloths in a shop I discover the money inside my backpack. Normally I keep small bills in my pocket. Maybe I'm just getting senile!
Xutan has checked out about the highway between highway #318 and the town of Saga (shortcut saving us having to return to Lhase). He thinks it's possible, but dirt. Knowing this, I choose to visit Everest Base Camp.
We head out, but only crank another 10KM before discovering a nice campsite (grass, and by a river). Note, hundreds of streams and rivers in Tibet. Seems like we were always cycling next to one.
During the meeting Xutan talks of 'living in the moment!'
Shingo burns some incense, as we're only 2 to 3 days from Everest Base Camp.
Tomorrow, 2 5K passes to get over.
I have a good night for a change, even dreamed.
Up at 0545, I'm ready by 0830.
Heading for the first 5K pass it's relentlessly up for 22KM, the vertical climb 1200M. But, both the highway and the weather good (makes a huge difference). I thought at times I wouldn't make it, but I kept going drinking water and sucking up honey.
At the top Chris informed me this was the 'big one!' The next slightly lower.
At the top Tibetans selling trinkets and whatever to the bus tourists.
After a group picture in front of the 5248M ASL monument we gladly coast down, although in some places I had to crank.
I caught up to Xutan and the 'fast group,' to wait for Fei.
10KM more and camped on a bluff overlooking the river.
Exhausted, yet ambulatory (Some nights I couldn't get up out of my chair!).
Zhu cooked his usual good dinner and afterwards our nightly meeting, Tibetans sticking their heads in so curious about us. Xutan announced that the entrance fee (per person) is 180RMB / $27U.S.
We had come 50KM in 9 hours, and now were up at 4400M ASL.
But, we're now just 200Km from EBC.
110810 our 100th day on the road (from Lijiang May 5th)
I finally slept all night! No nose congestion at all. Why? Maybe the rocks?
I'm up at 0545, and after my morning ritual we watch, in the distance, Tibetans herding a flock of sheep in and out of the river (far below). When some of the sheep got carried away in the current, the herders dove in and 'rescued' them. I thought the treatment somewhat brutal. Money is 'God,' you know and we wouldn't want to lose any of our 'meal ticket.'
It's easy down to a town sounding like 'Biba,' one of the best starts ever, Everest looming in the b.g.
We eat in a restaurant in Biba, and vote on going to EBC (Everest Base Camp). Everyone wants to go, so Xutan off to the ticket office (in N. Tigri) with Zhu.
We wait and wait, all afternoon, them not returning until 6P.M.
But, they have accomplished an amazing 'smooch' job, and we are allowed in, no charge. We're saved some 2650 RMB / $400 U.S.!
We rush off trying to get through and camp, a major military check point.
At the check point, we have to present passports and documents, but Fei and Xutan take care of this (at least for me). After about one hour, we're all 'approved,' and allowed to continue.
But, with fading light I only go 3KM before pointing to an area north of the highway. Note, I've camped (put up a tent) in the dark, but someone has to hold the flashlight.
We have our meeting celebrating 100 days on the road (a milestone). Also, Xutan's lost glove is returned to him (somehow?).
Tomorrow another 5K pass, and then just 100KM to Base Camp.
I'm in my sleeping bag by 1000.
I'm up at 0545. It was a fairly good night, except I was too warm (note I have a -15C down sleeping bag that can be too warm). We're at 4100M / 13,500ft. ASL, but we're only at 28 degrees north latitude, and in August. Maybe the warmth caused me to dream, but I remember floating in a wonderful state.
We depart together (as always) at 0915. It's sprinkling rain, but by now nothing to us.
In just five KM we take the junction to Everest Base Camp. it starts out O.K, the dirt packed. But, the further we go the the more difficult it gets: loose gravel The worst for bicycling (unless you have the perfect tread for this. I have 'semi-slick' treads for both hard and soft surfaces, a compromise.).
We crank up in this 'shit,' 1100M / 3,600 ft. in 22KM / 13 miles. And with much vehicle traffic making it even more unpleasant (at least for me). What a bitch! I didn't think I could make it, but finally in six hours at the top another 5200M pass (just slightly lower than the one before). I can't recommend Everest by bicycle, unless you're a masochist!
There were many tourist and Tibetans at the top, where we 'hung out,' for 2 hours.
Then an incredible down, many switchbacks and in a hail storm.
Then a valley, a village, and finally a campsite at 6P.m.
I'm so exhausted I can barely walk!
We've done 53KM, camping at 4KM / 13,000 ft. ASL.
At our meeting we decide on rest day.
Everest still another 50KM and we have to go up 1200M / 4,000 ft.
The rest day here, a good idea.
What a crazy 'rest' day it turns out to be.
Fei makes friends with some local Tibetan children, that turns out almost tragically (certainly sad, if not tragic). She organizes games, and teaches them some English. We all give them our food, and THEN WE CAN'T GET RID OF THEM.
One boy latches himself onto me, and poignant it is (his expressions of curiosity). If I had the means, etc. I would have adopted him.
These children spawned out of animal couplings, are basically unwanted, uncared for and uneducated. It's tragic! I want to SCREAM at the parents, but they're children (mentally-emotionally) too! What to do?
I hike up the hill behind us bringing back another 'heart stone' (still have today).
We play with the children, trying to assuage our guilt, alternating with pleading with them to go home!
But, no matter how we suggest it's time, they won't leave!
I get angry at Fei for creating this, making her cry!
In the meantime, Xuni and Xutan climb up the hill behind us, making me worry when they don't return on time.
I walk to the river, hoping to bathe, but it's too cold. I douse parts of me, trying to refresh.
Our rest day turns into a nightmare.
With the sun setting we end up yelling and screaming at the children to GO HOME! I even throw rocks at them ashamed of myself! Finally they give up and disappear!
God, I beg, HELP THESE CHILDREN!
140810 Everest Base Camp 'day'
I'm up at 0545, this after a good night for a change (dreamt).
We're off at 0915 on what turns out to be another grueling day.
The dirt road the traffic, horrible!
We go up a river valley some 20KM to the military check point. After waiting for everyone to arrive, Fei collects passports, IDs, and submits all through a barred window. We take the opportunity to rest, drink and/or eat something. After another 20 minutes we are 'approved,' and they open the gate to Mt. Everest!
We go up and up for 30KM the road getting progressively worse! I suck up dust (from all the traffic) and honey to keep going.
Finally, after 7 hours, over a little hill, there is it, Mt. Everest hidden behind clouds. Being first, I stop, take a picture and wait for the others.
Shingo arrives, and sprawls exhausted on a rock.
The others arrive, and I decide, with Xutan, to check out what looks like a hotel, this across from Rombuk Monastery. it turns out to be ridiculously expensive (300RMB per), with no bathroom.
We meet the others on the road, and crank to a temporary 'village,' made up of Tibetan tents. Here we stop and have Tibetan tea, the 'hustle' on, many 'hellos' meaning come here and buy! But, just to sit in a comfortable chair is an extreme pleasure I would have paid for alone.
Chris and Christophe, having arrived a day before, have camped beyond the barrier (in an illegal) place.
We walk to their campsite where we have a meeting, and discuss what to do, where to camp. They opt to stay where they are. We decide to camp next to the village. But, are informed we can't without paying. Xutan calls the 'big leader,' but still no. 'Fuck that!' I say, and decide we'll go back and find a spot.
About a kilometer from the village I decide to camp right next to the road, although the ground is unusual rocky and sleeping may be lumpy.
We set up the community tent, our own, and have dinner.
Every once in awhile someone will announce 'the mountain,' and we run out to glimpse Everest. It's stunning when it reveals itself, and we take many pictures.
We've managed 47KM in 7 hours (7KMAPH and slow). Nonetheless excruciating for me, I'm feeling such accomplishment just to be at the foot of 'the Mother Goddess of the World' (north or Chinese side). Note, I've been to Base Camp on the south, or Nepali side as well.
I'm up at 0530 after a pretty good night. Note, try sleeping at 5K M ASL, that's over 16,000ft. I didn't awaken once to piss (normally at least 2X).
But, it's cool to cold at 16,000ft. ASL, even in August.
I 'm first in the community tent, but no fire. I light my canister cooking stove, and set it between my legs.
Zhang arrives at 0600 (has a difficult time getting up in the morning). But, he's a good fire maker and soon the tent begins to warm up.
Some in the group appears, as want to glimpse Everest (Qoomolungma in Tibetan/Chinese). We've heard morning is best for viewing.
And amazingly, the clouds part and there it is before us, the tallest mountain on earth! Everest, an awe-inspiring sight. In fact, Elvis breaks down in tears, thanking me over and over for getting him there.
We take a thousand pictures, mostly of us in the foreground. God knows we'll probably never get back here.
Suddenly I'm walking toward the mountain following Zhu, Zhang (our driver) and Elvis.
It's 7KM to Base Camp, and up about 500M. I go unprepared, and suffer for it later.
After following the road (buses take tourists up), we arrive at a relatively flat glacial plain.
The first thing, of course, because China is a 'police state,' is to check in with the goons. Note, Tibet is controlled by the military, and according to them we all foment revolution!
Don't think of mentioning the D.L.'s name in these parts, or you'll be whisked off to be water boarded! Luckily, Fei, our 'guide' has gone before us, and we're 'approved' as O.K. people (little do they know), and we walk on to a vast open space where they set up Base Camp (during climbing season).
On our right, the early group, Yogi, Fei, and Shingo are building a cairn (sculptured rock pile), as some kind of spiritual gesture. I have pictures at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/
We walk as far as we can go, a 'riverette' stopping us.
At that point I look down to discover something I have with me today, a rock on which the image of a dragon 'lives!` I'm a metal Dragon (1940). You think me finding this, a gift from Everest, a coincidence? Note, It will be my offering to Chasca Coyllur, the Goddess of Sex (Inca mythology) at Macchu.Picchu on 12.12.12.
To our right a hill on which there is some kind of monument, no doubt for the first Chinese climbers to summit.
I'm 'discovered' by a commercial film crew (something about an automobile). They want pictures with me, not the half-naked model shivering nearby.
On the way back we stop at Padmasambhava's monastery retreat. I can't imagine a more inspiring setting to meditate!
We have lunch in the tent village, then back at our campsite by 1P.M. (1300 hours).
I take a nap in my chair by the wood stove.
After dinner we have our regular meeting, but this one very emotional as Chris, Christophe and Yoji are leaving us tomorrow. (departing early, as have to make the Nepali border in three days.). I couldn't stop crying as partings difficult for me. Everyone spoke. Yogi gave Japanese coins to everyone. I gave both Chris and Christophe gifts, Christophe so overcome he cried in my arms. Yoji, he's the gift!
160810 (The most difficult day of tour cycling in my life!)
I have a bad night, with both nasal congestion and shortness of breath. But, in spite of it I manage to get up at 0400. We're departing early 0730, and it takes me, with all I have to do, three hours preparation.
We're off at 0750, but soon the boys (Ch.Chphe, Yoji, and two Chinese boys) disappear in front of us, so fast. We never see them again.
We glide down the dirt road 17KM to signpost '79,' where we take the road to Old Tingri.
Ohmygod, you can't call it a road, more like a trail, and from the very beginning neigh impossible with my tires and weigh (need a real mountain bike, with the right kind of tread).
Struggling up a steep incline to go over a bridge I exert so much I shit in my drawers (control different for older people). Of course, I continue hoping it ain't so.
The next 26KM, maybe the worst in my tour-cycling career. I finally am able to hide somewhere, just after a village, to check things out. Sure enough the worse is discovered. Well, there's nothing much I can do at this point so I clean myself as best as possible and continue on.
I have to push up hills, and crank over a 4900M pass. I thought I might pass out! I had to stop and rest every 50M, sucking up honey and water.
Next, a 2KM stretch of the 'road,' that is basically a river.
We get to the pass at 1:30P.M., 18KM taking 6 hours, or the slowest ever (3KMAPH). After resting, down we go 8KM on a crazy-bumpy road (with loose gravel) I've ever encountered. Note, cyclists: don't do it!
Then after another 26KM I find a good campsite near a creek. I pitch my tent where I can hear it.
There were times during this day I was SURE I couldn't make it, so difficult, so unpleasant. But, now only 30KM from Old Tingri and back on a good highway. But, I wanted was a good night's rest!
At this point, we've cycled 3,700KM / 2,220 miles from Lijiang in 64 days (106 total trip), have partaken of Lhasa, and Mt. Everest.
I slept O.K., although the usual let nostril problem (clogged), and difficult to breathe easily.
It rained in the night, plus the sound of the nearby stream was music to my ears.
When I did sleep, I had some interesting dreams, although I don't remember specifically. Sometimes, you awaken, it's right there, you return to unconsciousness, and by morning, it's all a jumble. What's left is the feeling. And these made me feel good!
I'm up at 0545, and everything outside is wet. How many mornings on this trip has it been like this... Many! Too many! I think it rained about 70% of the time.
We're slow to go, but off by 1000.
It's downhill now (1K M to O. Tingri(, but the road rocky and difficult. My backpack, strapped on the back of my bicycle kept sliding to one side. Others had gear problems too. Note, you spend years learning how to pack a bicycle, and with me it always seems to be changing, what I take, and how I pack it.
The road is 'ugly,' but the scenery makes up for the rough, long (3 hours) and arduous (sometimes up).
We rest and Zhu gets an idea for a bicycle race, from Everest Base Camp to O. Tingri. It's a good idea, but one almost impossible to pull off (big, complicated event, Gov. involvement, distance from Lhasa, etc.). Plus, it would be a 'spoke breaker!'
Finally we arrive at highway #318. Fei had taken another route, and Zhu was already ahead in O. Tingri. So, I think it was me, Shingo and Elvis that rested at the highway bridge. Unfortunately, Elvis parked wrong and the wind knocked his bicycle off and down several meters into the stream. We rushed to extricate it, but it was damaged (one flat tire, and one broken spoke). Note, you learn the hard way about the wind. It's knocked my bicycle over many times.
Even from a distance I could tell that Tingri had grown. When I was through there in 1999, it was but a wide place in the road. Now, 11 years later, maybe 100X larger.
Finally, the drizzle stopped during lunch and we went on to a Hot Springs Resort.
The 'Resort, was up on the side of a hill, and we had to crank through running water to get there.
We'd come some 41 KM, and were at 4200M ASL.
The 'Resort' turned out to be interesting, although typically Tibetan trashed out: the main pool in the courtyard hadn't been cleaned in a long time, green algae a carpet on top. The girls, however, were delighted to see us, and they ran about trying to serve us.
The 'big guy,' came finally and we negotiated a common room for those that wanted. I pitched my tent on the 'yard,' below the facility. Xutan pitched his on the porch, but water flooded him back inside.
I partook of the 'spa,' which was leaking from the rain. The hot water came after you pulled a plug, and flooded a rock trough. I was happy to bathe in hot mineral water! The humidity, the warmth opens nostrils. Note, it's incredibly dry in Tibet, even with the monsoon.
It rained all night, the wet kind of rain. And with the dogs barking all night, I hardly slept.
But, again, up at 0615, and ready to go by 0900.
I had trouble rousing the others inside, but we finally started off at 1030.
Getting back onto the highway was a bit trying, as going by the road you had to negotiate a current, the road inundated. Me and the girls headed directly for asphalt, but it turned out worse than going by the road. We had to push through a series of riverettes (I call them.), almost falling several times. On the highway we spent some time cleaning the wheel rims as gritty from the sandy, wet soil.
Ah, a hard surface makes riding a bicycle so much more fun. It felt so good to crank on, gliding along at some speed. We made 24KM in two hours.
I stopped at some point to change into to shorts, as the rain had ceased and the sun came out.
We stopped to eat lunch at 1230, Fei, Peng (a Chinese cyclist that had joined us at some point), and Shingo.
Elvis and Zhu, so fast, were way ahead. But, we caught up to them in another 10KM, in a village. Some how I ended up buying '90 Energy Food,' from Shanghai (turned out hard to digest).
Another 10KM, where the highway started up to a pass, we ran right into a rain storm.
This turned out to be the junction to Saga, however, so Fei and I stopped to wait for the others. I tried to keep dry and warm. She played with some Tibetan kids that were wondering around the highway.
When Zhu and Elvis arrived I sent them down the dirt road (heading north now) to check out a camping spot at a Tibetan compound.
When we got there we were 'attacked' by kids, and dogs, so I gestured to keep going.
Another 3KM and I found a spot, on a shallow slope just off the road.
It started raining hard again, but nothing stopped us (so hardened by this point). We put up the community tent and had dinner.
We'd come 63KM and were at 4,423 M ASL.