(A mix of travel notes and comments added later)
12-09-2014 - Friday
Rapid Rob’s glued Tibetan mudguard was still holding up and a bit of mud finally gave it a used look. I haven’t had any mechanical problems to date (other than the broken guard I caused!). The majority of the trip so far has been tarmac so the wide tyres & suspension haven’t really been tested (apart from a few potholes!). Running the Schwalbe Rapid Rob tyres at 50psi has helped reduce the rolling resistance. They are a bit truck’like on the seal although better than I expected in the fast downhill corners.
Had more, good, to learn about Schwalbe tyres later in the trip.
So far I’m happy with the bike but for next long trip I will sort out a rack of some sort to save wearing a back pack. Although only carrying day clothes (wet weather gear etc.), lunch some days, snacks and couple of litres of water it would have been nice to put that load on the bike itself. Could do a handlebar bag but I don’t like the way they interfere with the steering balance and front wheel visibility.
After negotiating the Friday morning traffic, not bad apart from a few large trucks zooming past, to get out of town we were back on the open road.
The terrain was more interesting than the previous days flat ride with mountains lining the wide valley we rode along. Yesterdays rain and cold were but a memory, perfect timing from the weather!
Passed some large new property developments on the outskirts of town. One building housed the "Beer Liability Company"?!
The road are good. At one stage I feared there was a vehicle on fire ahead only to find a tarmac gang laying new road. It was an interesting mix of machinery and manual work. The machine was laying the main road seal strip but a lady with a large kettle of tar was filling the gaps between the tar and concrete kerb stones. Amazing to think when Bas last rode along here about 20 years ago it was a dirt road all the way…
Today we had a snack (as lunch would be later at camp) and I, or my legs, decided 4931 km from Shanghai was a good place to stop. You pass these stones every kilometre, pity the trip notes didn't make more use of them!
One less interesting sight was two bus loads of passengers peeing, and the other, just beside the road. Needs must I guess but it was rather odd to see this en-mass just metres from the road (no photos!).
There was one new town with a large industrial complex outside. It looked like an array of solar panels from a distance but when you got closer it appeared to be vast arrays of tubes. There were also two large silos, perhaps pressure vessels?, so suspect it was some sort of power generation facility but couldn’t be sure.
Helen flies past on good old The Warehouse bike!
The ride was a bit longer than the intended 90km as the first campsite option had been washed away since they last visited. We did more like 96km with the last 10-15km into a headwind in the river valley. I was getting pretty tired towards the end and pleased to see the camp site.
I arrived about 15:00 for a late lunch of soup, vege pakora (fried fritters) and chips. Followed that with the ritual cup, actually two, of sweet hot chocolate. It was Cadburys and the mix of milk and sweet (sugar laden enough without adding any) chocolate was lovely.
The campsite is near a couple of houses which means we have cows, a donkey and half a dozen local kids visiting. One was fascinated by Andy’s watercolour painting. The weather is hot and sunny, but suspect the hot will go with the sun as we are relatively high again.
It did, got out the Icebreaker 250 for the first time for dinner!
Dinner was awesome, much better than the Hotel last night! We had chicken, rice, vegetable salad and a great pizza. Pizza made in a tent in the Himalayas, can you believe!
Tonight was the first really clear night we've had. Great to see some new stars and the Milky Way arch clearly, my first time in the Northern Hemisphere! The photo doesn't do it justice but, hey, its hand held and taken with a phone!
Sad news of the Day is Ollie & Paula having to leave the trip due to Ollie showing signs of altitude sickness. A tough decision for all but wise given the potential risk. A line from a website about this, I read before the trip, says it all:
Every year, people die of altitude sickness. All of these deaths are preventable. If you are travelling above 2500m (8000ft), read this information and tell your companions about it - it could save your life.
A reminder that we are in riding some extreme conditions and you really do have to pace yourself.
This was also a very clear indication of the problems you could have dealing with the authorities. The only remedy for altitude sickness, especially if already taking Diamox, is to get down. The Tibetan Plateau is vast and we were in the middle of it, a long way from any down.
The only way down was to get to the Nepal border, still some 600km away. The plan to get a car & driver from Lhasa was foiled by inability to get the right passes for the vehicle & driver. The truck accompanying us had the passes (it was going to the border anyway) so the Tashi & Driver set off for an epic drive. I heard them leave in the middle of the night, we didn’t see them again until the very late the following day.
Upon reaching the border it was a short helicopter flight (arranged by Sujan & colleagues in Nepal) to Kathmandu hospital where a scan showed the decision to evacuate was the right one.
In Nepal you’d just ring up one of several helicopter companies and, weather permitting, you’d be on your way. Tibet doesn’t give you those options, no private helicopters and the bureaucracy just doesn’t care. No form, no go.
While it showed how vulnerable you could be it was also reassuring to see how well the guides handled this. The right calls were made and the whole crew worked out the best solution.
Camp altitude 4138.000 meters
Post 11. Laga Camp to Jaikang Village Camp