(A mix of travel notes and comments added later)
20-09-2014 - Saturday
It was cold last night but not cold enough to need icebreaker 260 thermals. I went to bed (bag) with them on and awoke around midnight feeling hot. At first thought might be my turn for the dreaded lurgi but all was well after a cool down walk to the toilet tent!
After breakfast it was on the road for the 'last pass' before we leave Tibet.
Lalung La Pass has a double peak so had to climb about 300m from our camp in the saddle to the top. The climb was gradual but low cloud meant no sun (or much of a view sadly) and a chilly climb. I was in long arm/leg cycling gear with an icebreaker 200 top under my rain/wind shell.
The climb had a bit of a false peak, the real one in the process being 'decorated' with a subtle oriental Chinese style arch. I bet it was cold up there wiring steel reinforcing rod at 5160m, plus the arch height, in the strengthening wind.
This is the first pass after entering Tibet from Nepal. It had a small visitor centre and tourist info with some interesting translation.
The Lalung La Pass view would be spectacular on a clear day, five Himalayan peaks in one panorama, but for once the weather didn't cooperate. Can’t complain after the run we’ve had. After a few photos (Andy took this one for me) it was time to enjoy the downhill.
The first 10km or so wound down the mountain into a river valley. The gradient wasn't steep so most the time was doing 35-50km/h and only braking for the really sharp hairpins. It was an awesome descent.
After that it flattened out, although still downhill, but there was now a strong headwind blowing up the valley. This meant had to pedal all the way, at times down to a mere 12-15km/h battling the wind downhill!
Although we dropped from 5,150 to 3,700m it wasn't all downhill. At times the road climbed over a bluff, not huge but hard work after a day fighting the headwind. The scenery was spectacular as the road changed from open river valley to steep sided gorge.
Amazing riverside cultivation makes use of every square metre of land.
After biking thru Nyalam, a small town perched on the gorge, we carried on to find our last campsite of the trip. Given the lack of options the guys had done a remarkable job setting the tents up on one of the few grassy hillsides. Our intended campsite (below) but you need to imagine 40 knot winds, rain squalls and wet grass and Yak poo to complete the effect.
We accessed the site via a driveway which went past a Hotel that appeared deserted. This caused some comment (as in, wonder if they have a vacancy?) as the day was still gloomy, we were nearly in the clouds, windy and cold. As we arrived one of the tents blew down!
While we had lunch, in the mess tent, Bas & the guides found the Hotel owner had turned up and did a deal. Turns out the Hotel has 30 rooms, looked small from the road but was deep as buried into the hill and built around a courtyard. It was great there is enough room for us all, including the guides & crew.
As I write, from a warm dry bed, it's raining and blowing a gale outside. I think B's Birthday is much better spent in a hotel (albeit basic) than hanging on to a wet flapping tent on the side of a Tibetan gorge!
As the Hotel had no kitchen the crew were still cooking in the kitchen tent. In addition to their usual lovely dinner they produced something amazingly special. They’d made B a lovely iced birthday cake, in a tent, on the side of a gorge in a Himalayan gale. incredible!
A special memory for our last ‘camp’ and penultimate night in Tibet.
Craig, Eric & Bob watch as B cuts her ##’rd birthday cake, photo by Helen
Quote of the day:
Nic said, as I simultaneously thought, “Wonder if they have a room..?” as we arrived. Before the hotel takeover was confirmed!
- Lalong la crest altitude 5156.000 meters
- Hotel altitude 3682.000 meters
Post 19. Nyalam to Zhangmu (Tibetan Border)