(A mix of travel notes and comments added later)
It was nice to be woken up with a hot drink, a morning ritual.
The weather was fine so we had an Al fresco Breakfast (photo by Helen). There was an option of cereal/muesli or nice (not gloopy) porridge with naan & egg to follow. i don’t usually have much breakfast at home (even before a ride) but tucked in to fill up the fuel tank.
On the agenda today was a massive climb up the Kambala Pass. A gain of ~1200m elevation over 25km made harder by the fact that it started at ~3600m elevation topping out at ~4800m (more exact heights from phone at end of post). For comparison some NZ elevations:
- Rangitoto Island — 260 m
- Waitakere Ranges TV mast — 374 m
- Aoraki/Mount Cook — 3,724 m
- Mount Ruapehu — 2,797 m
- Mount Taranaki — 2,518 m
The climb was an amazing series of switchbacks & straights. It was the sort of road you see on a Top Gear adventure!
It was summer harvest time, something we’d see through the entire trip.
The gradient wasn't too bad but just breathing was a challenge.
Most the climbs weren’t especially steep, compared to what I ride in the Waitakere Ranges, but just go on, and on, and on, and on!
It was more a general ‘flat battery, legs won’t turn over’ feel than the acid burn you get on a shorter steep hill.
Bas & Sujan had emphasized not going out too hard as we were still acclimatising. Luckily the amazing views gave plenty of scope to stop for photos, my excuse for having to stop to recover!
- There was more traffic than I expected, some old vehicles struggling up the hill like us! Apart from a couple of dubious overtaking moments (3 vehicles into 2 lanes doesn't go even when slow) I didn't see anything horrific.
- At one point I was thinking this is really hard only to come across road works where an old lady (60s +?) was shovelling rocks...
- A Truck over edge was a sobering sight, a small stone memorial a sign it didn't end well.
Below is my favourite photo of the pass, both for the view and being able to stop for a while to take it!
The last 10km, and 250m elevation, were really challenging. I started to get slight shooting pains in my calf so slowed or geared down to increase spin rate and it went away. I took that as a guide to pace and had several breaks to recover. It was a relief to see the top although it was a bit of a tourist trap. There were decorated yaks, dogs and people selling souvenirs.
Breathing was an effort when riding steadily and anything like a 'burst' was not on. Even riding standing to give the rear end a short break was hard work. The top, like all the passes we rode, was marked with prayer flags.
The reward was for the climb an awesome view of Scorpion Lake, turquoise blue from glacier flour like Tekapo, and the mountains beyond.
The downhill was great, even overtaking car at 57km/h, although I slowed to about 30km/h to take the photo (below left)! It was a short ride along the lake before I met Eric & Kirsten & stopped to eat the packed lunch: Cinnamon bun, cheese, juice.
There was a really remote looking village across the lake but even it had power lines to it. The amount of infrastructure here is amazing. It's hard to take a photo without getting a power line or pylon in the shot.
Riding along the lakeside after lunch I saw some others had stopped at a lookout. I decided to see how they’d found the climb as we'd become quite split-up over the day.
Any thought of that conversation vanished as I came to a halt with my left foot un-cleated, hit a small rock which threw my balance the wrong way and crashed to the ground unable to unclip the other foot!
The only casualty was my pride(!) and the 50 Yuan (which I later found was 2 x too expensive!) rear mudguard I’d purchased in Lhasa. The mount broke but may be repairable if I can find some superglue at the next real town (2 days).
There were two options on the last part of the ride. You could follow the tarmac road up to the end of a lake arm through a village or take the rough road shortcut. It cut about 20 minutes off the ride and was a clay/gravel track along a small dam. A strong headwind on the last part made the short option attractive and I hadn't lugged fat tyres and hydraulic (front) suspension all this way for nothing!
There was another chance to try some off-road on the short dirt track from the road to the campsite. The lakeside camp had a great view but was rather more exposed and higher (at ~4400m) than the last. There was a cool wind and a threat of rain that didn't really eventuate.
Dinner was great: Chapatti, vege momo (dumplings), egg plant curry, banana and apple flan for desert. Amazing they produce all that in a tent in the wilderness. Was surprised when a dog arrived from nowhere but Bas persuaded it to go away…
Quote of the day:
“Do you think they had problems seeing me” – Andy (soon after saying he wore bright yellow for visibility) after a car nearly hit him.
"Fuck this hill is hard" - Attribution: me, and quite a few others from memory!
- Bottom of pass camp altitude 3605.500 meters
- Top of first switchback altitude 3776.000 meters
- Selfie apple stop altitude 4168.000 meters
- Top of climb altitude 4784.000 meters
- Lunch by lake altitude 4522.000 meters
- Camp altitude 4432.000 meters