Today I rode Ruakaka to Wellsford for the Pedal For Plunket 2015 ride and it went well.
Although State Highway One is busy we had a support car & van following warning of cyclists ahead. The traffic was great, quite a few supportive toots and waves as they went past.
The climb up the Brynderwyn Hills, a first for me, was fine. Road works meant the passing lane most the way up the hill was closed to traffic but ok for me to ride. It was great having a lane to myself. I thought I knew this road but was rather surprised to see the old “Skyline Café”, which marks the top, appear sooner than expected.
I did the 53.1 km in 02:38:00 which was ok given there was 952 m climbing (about 300 m of it on one hill!). I haven’t ridden over the Brynderwyns before but had the gentler northern slope to climb. The downhill was fun, twisty with nice cambered curves so I still managed to max 71.8 km/h!
(Photos by the awesome Plunket & The Warehouse support crew)
I decided to take the coastal route back to Ruakaka (and my car!). It is a bit longer but avoided having to climb the Brynderwyn Hills again, has some nice scenery and much less traffic than the main highway. That was the prime motive as I was riding solo for the return leg.
At one stage that stupid looking rear view mirror I wear proved its worth again. I was on a narrow slightly downhill section when a van caught me. There was no verge to ride on so I was maybe 0.5 m inside the white side line.
As I was doing about 50 km/h and thought they’d wait until past the approaching corner, no visibility to see if clear, before passing. I watched them start to overtake in the mirror and pulled over as close to the broken seal edge as possible.
Then another van came around the corner from the opposite direction. They both had to swerve quite violently, to their respective lefts, to miss each other.
About 5 minutes later a Police vehicle went flying past, lights ablaze.
Karma? What odds that the vehicle coming the other way would be a Police van.
Another couple of kilometres down the road I caught up to them talking to the eager overtaker. I stopped and the Policeman said “You’re brave, risking your life out here”. I should have mentioned I carry my Drivers license when cycling as I.D. and because it has the word “Donor” on it!
He said his colleague was “Having a chat” but it looked like a ticket was being issued to me.
About 10 km up the road, one of those share the road signs which I hope someone will pay more attention to in future.
The road joins the coast at Langs Beach (below) and it looked lovely. I did the 63.5 km in 4:00:00 as stopped at Langs Beach (munched a healthy apple and protein bar) and Waipu Cove (not so healthy Kapiti ice-cream!).
Bizarrely the route I took to avoid the big hill actually had 962 m (+10 more) climbing! Lots more smaller hills which added up.
Langs Beach towards Ruakaka (below)
Waipu Cove (below)
All donations greatly appreciated!
Back in the day I would have stayed around home all day to see Bathurst. Today I went for a bike ride and watched all of Bathurst!
I went into the city to check out the Grafton Gully cycle path which opened while I was away. It threads through Spaghetti Junction and under Grafton Bridge connecting the North Western cycle path to the waterfront. It is great that I can now go from near home to the waterfront (about 20km one way) without riding on the road.
When I got home I fired up the MySky and watched all of Bathurst (albeit sped up 30x unless it looked like something interesting was happening) and caught up with the live broadcast. Isn't technology wonderful!
Now to watch the last bit of a very interesting race!
(A mix of travel notes and comments added later)
23-09-2014 – Tuesday.
Back at the Radisson, Kathmandu. Last time I was here Kathmandu seemed rather strange, chaotic and exotic. The chaotic bit hasn’t changed but now it now seems reassuringly familiar and (almost) civilised.
Perhaps some of that was the rather westernised ‘bubble’ that the Radisson represents but a glance out the window soon reminded you where you were. I had a room with a very Kathmandu view.
24-09-2014 – Wednesday.
After breakfast—a leisurely and delicious breakfast—it was time to pack up the bike. My bike box had survived the overland journey from Lhasa so I just had to scrub off the mud, pull it apart and pack it.
I must have done a good cleaning job. The customs inspector at Auckland said: “Are you sure this bike has been across Tibet, it looks brand new!”
I guess a cycle workshop in the Radisson car park isn’t an everyday occurrence. We had a few local observers watching us work!
Our Kathmandu cycle workshop, photo by Helen
After packing it was time for lunch. Although we were going there for dinner Nic, Tim & I decided it was a good idea to check Fire & Ice standards hadn’t slipped while we were away.
Besides, for the last week or so of the trip I’d been craving that salty No. 25. La Marinaro anchovy and olive pizza enjoyed on the previous visit. The pizza was divine, even better accompanied with chilled beer and followed with gelato!
I didn’t really need another Kathmandu traffic photo but had to capture the astonishing sight of a man in a wheelchair (middle of photo below) negotiating this busy intersection. He was about halfway across when I arrived, traffic dodging around him.
Might seem crazy but with no crossing, no wheelchair friendly footpaths and no hope of the traffic stopping for long there was no alternative.
Even though it wasn’t raining a close encounter with bat guano, earlier in the day, prompted Nic to deploy her umbrella walking under the ‘bat trees’ on the way to dinner.
Thought it looked cool against the traffic headlights but was amazed how well my phone (a Lumia 1520) captured it. Just had to turn the flash off (compare flash on) to get one of my favourite photos from the trip
It was great they could come, a considerable journey for some, as we celebrated an awesome trip and Jan’s birthday!
Jan in her party hat, Photo by Kirsten.
It was a great dinner and, perhaps no surprise, I had yet another No. 25. La Marinaro anchovy and olive pizza!
I was flying out mid afternoon with Bas, Eric & Kirsten and B was leaving a bit later (headed for Aus.) so we shared a shuttle bus. My day began with soft alarm coos from the pigeons perching on the ledge outside my window.
We met for a last breakfast before heading our separate ways. A year or more in the planning, a few weeks in the living and now it was over.
Our trip to the airport was uneventful until we hit gridlock traffic. It wasn’t far from the Pashupatinath Temple we visited earlier in the trip. The Kathmandu traffic management response seemed to consist of several Policeman giving conflicting hand signal directions at each intersection.
Apparently a VIP visiting to the temple meant they’d completely stopped traffic on the main ring road off which the airport access runs. In this case that V.I.P made for Very Immobile People!
Although we had allowed, normally, ample time at one stage wondered if we would even get to the flight. It worked out OK in the end, must add the Lady running the Malaysia Airlines check-in desk at Kathmandu was awesome.
By the time we got to Kathmandu it appeared I was one of the lucky few avoid the “Survivor Tibet” lurgi. I still maintained that until I stepped of the plane at home in New Zealand feeling OK I couldn’t regard it as a victory.
My sister met me at the airport and seemed a bit flustered. I thought it was just because the parking monitors were hustling her out of the short term pick-up area (had taken me a while to get the bike out to the kerb) but not so.
While I was doing the dangerous stuff in Tibet, safely, at home my Mum had fallen—hanging out washing—and smashed her shoulder. It happened the previous evening, about the time I was leaving Kathmandu, and she was in Hospital awaiting surgery.
After a brief pit stop at home I was off to hospital, visiting!
As I write this in Jan 2015 Mum is recovering OK. The surgery went well and she is adjusting to her shiny new replacement shoulder!
(A mix of travel notes and comments added later)
22-09-2014 – Monday afternoon.
Such an action packed day I made it two posts
(Monday morning is here)
You can certainly see the difference between Nepalese and Tibetan (OK, Chinese) infrastructure. That nine hundred kilometres of sealed concrete edged Tibetan highway we rode becomes this in Nepal:
Leaving Kodari on the Arniko Highway, yes Highway!
The Arniko Highway follows the river down a valley. Great for us as mostly downhill riding and bizarrely, considering it is THE highway, ideal for my hardtail mountain bike.
The lush green foliage and humid dense air was contrast after several weeks on the Tibetan Plateau. It really was noticeable how different the oxygen rich moist air made you feel and how different it felt. I had never thought of air as ‘thick’ before.
Does rocks on the roof suggest it sometimes gets draffy here?
Noticed further down the road that flasher houses have bricks, not rocks, holding down the roof.
Before going to Nepal I’d watched this BBC Documentary:
“Comedians Rhod Gilbert and Greg Davies attempt to drive through the mountainous, landlocked nation of Nepal. Starting from the chaotic border with India, they travel across the country's most important roads”
The last 15 minutes showed their attempt to get from Kathmandu to Kodari, the Tibetan Border. They found the road blocked, impassable, by a landslide. It was not dissimilar to what lay ahead of us.
They abandoned their 4WD vehicle and tiptoed across the slip, still on the move, to catch a bus on the other side to the border. It was filmed in 2011, three years before I travelled. I was amazed to find the slip, although somewhat restrained and the road reformed, still there.
This house, the occupants they talked to—as rocks rolled down the hillside—were still living beneath it. A rock wall is their only protection from a vast loose looking slope above.
The trip notes recommended waterproof socks. I’d never heard of Seal Skinz and couldn’t find them in NZ. I’d left it too late to order them on-line but B kindly offered to bring me some from Australia.
I found they were brilliant in the cold, kept wind chill out even when it was dry, and ideal for roads with fords (as Kirsten & Eric are crossing below). Bike shoes are ventilated and overshoes (which I also had) are a real pain, both to fit and wear. I found waterproof socks just brilliant.
I was especially happy to catch B at one ford and shout as I passed:
“Seal Skinz rule!”
The road sweeps down the valley, it got even hotter as we descended.
Helen riding the decade old Warehouse bike.
X marks the B!
A terraced food supply system, rather lovely.
Barhabise Village/Town on the Arniko Highway.
Stopped to take a photo of it and a couple of guys walking past were interested in what I was doing.
Showed them my phone (admittedly an unusually large 6 inch screen Nokia 1520) , the GPS map that showed our location and that it was also a camera.
They were intrigued, especially when they saw our selfie shot (below). One of several occasions I’d like to have had a portable instant photo printer in my backpack!
A photo of Craig stationary at a drink stop because he’s too damn fast for me to catch and photograph riding!
This was the first sign of the devastation ahead of us. A muddy plateau with the remains of buildings. In early August a massive landslide created a natural dam which then burst.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — A major landslide early Saturday morning near Nepal’s border with China killed at least eight people and left hundreds missing, officials in Nepal said. It also washed out part of a crucial highway and blocked a river, leading to a dangerous build-up of water...
The death toll was later reported to be 156
The landslide was enormous, you could see why it had such a devastating impact. 156 had died as an entire village was wiped out. The aftermath also will impact the lives of many beyond the local area this is Nepal’s only overland trade route with China. For Kiwis imagine this is SH1, and there is no alternative route…
We rode, pushed, walked over it and it was a mission on a mountain bike. They had carved this ‘road’ to try and make a navigable route for vehicles but it really was tough going. The hot sun and humid air meant our altitude training over the past few weeks got a good test.
B contemplates the climb so far, from only about halfway up !
Up, up, up, up it goes
The muddy bush line above the current river in the photos below shows the height of the flooding created by the natural dam.
Heavy rain in the days before we had arrived had washed out the temporary road. Excavators were still trying to bridge the stream.
Nic pointed out I was actually standing on a bit of an overhang to take this photo. Perhaps just as well I was several kg lighter than usual.
This photo below, and the deliberately angled one below it, was an attempt to capture the scale of the landslide. Even a wide format photo couldn’t get the extents without cropping off the top. Hard to give a sense of scale but I’d guess that hillside was at least 300-400 metres high.
There were people dotted around the landslide constantly watching the hillside above. They appeared to have phone, or walkie talkie, in hand to warn those working below of further movement.
I rode down from here, challenging with the soft dirt and ruts.
The tiny red dots in the photos (below) are porters carrying our kit bags. The 20x digital zoom of my IXUS camera just got them in frame.
Compare the rocks to this stranded truck for scale!
I watched this heavily laden truck attempt to drive up here. It was futile as it got stuck soon after and the road just led to that traffic jam further up the hill.
I found this report on Disaster-Report.com while writing this post. The first time I’d seen a before/after photo of the area.
Quote from www.disaster-report.com/2014/08
Massive landslide in Barhabise area of Sindhupalchowk region of Nepal has blocked the Sunkoshi river. Disaster area lies 1.5 km below the meeting point of Sunkoshi and Bhotekoshi river.
Death toll from landslide at Mankha VDC in Sindhupalchok district has risen to 156. The District Administration Office Sindhupalchowk today declared those missing as dead as there was no possibility of recovering the bodies alive from the debris, ekantipur reported. Rescue workers have only found 33 bodies from the landslide area.
They also had this news report from the time:
In the small village a kilometre or so after the landslide I stopped for a drink from my water bottle. Noticed a small boy, maybe 7 or 8, playing with a Tonka Toy type excavator. He was digging a road into the face of roadside berm, a miniature version of the one up the road.
It reminded me of my childhood. We had a dirt bank a metre or two high. I used to build ‘dangerous roads’ into it for my own toy vehicles. I would liked to take a photo but asked his mother, or perhaps much older sister, supervising him. I couldn’t work out if the response was a yes or no, so didn’t. It was sad to think, on reflection, he could have been emulating rescue workers digging for his relatives as many people were still missing.
Sobering to think we had been riding over them.
In spite of the chaos around them I was impressed to see a temporary school in session. Amazing the value placed on education here, something too many Kiwi’s take for granted.
Our ride ended soon after. I’m not certain how far I rode—my odometer was a bit out due to varying tyre pressure from 30-50 PSI—but it was about 920km over 16 days riding.
The Nepal crew had two buses (due to shortage of trucks!) to take us to Kathmandu. With all the camping and cooking gear, kit bags, bikes and bike boxes it was a full load.
The drive back to Kathmandu was interesting. I was quite glad we didn’t ride this bit as the road was narrow, hilly and busy. After the relative isolation of Tibet, and the almost closed highway section we rode in Nepal it was a bit of a shock.
We stopped for lunch at a ‘café’ on the riverside. Although they had been advised we were coming it was amazing to see a wonderful meal appear in minutes in a place with few facilities.
I thought our bus driver was great but the passing traffic was amazing to watch. Probably better not to think about possible consequences! There were trucks overtaking on blind corners, cars overtaking trucks themselves overtaking mopeds which were passing pedestrians. I was amazed when our bus passed a car, itself not going slow only to have a fully laden truck following pass us!
There was one severe looking accident, a truck on its side in the deep ditch with a tarp covering the wrecked cab. Suspect, on a fine day, it wasn’t there to keep the rain out.
Some of the architecture as we approached Kathmandu was… um interesting.
I was surprised how far the agricultural land extended into the city.
We arrived in the middle of the afternoon/evening rush. It was nice to get back to the Radisson hotel, the prospect of a nice hot shower and a soft bed
After helping unload, my bike (on the bus roof) had collected a nice chunk of foliage from an overhanging tree on-route, it was nice to collapse.
I don’t recall going to dinner that night, think I just went to sleep!
Lots was said, lots more unsaid after today’s experience. It was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, adventure and reflection but the only one I can reliably remember was:
Seal Skinz rule! – Me & B
Post 22. Farewell to Kathmandu
(A mix of travel notes and comments added later)
22-09-2014 – Monday morning.
Such an action packed day I made it two posts
After a forgettable hotel breakfast—really can’t remember what they had but when peanuts are the most viable breakfast buffet choice it wasn’t much—it was time for the final stuff gear into bag battle.
Today we didn’t have the luxury of extra space on the bus as our bags would be portered several times between here & Kathmandu. If it didn’t fit in the red bag had to stuff into our riding bag, carry some other way or leave it behind. I didn’t have much trouble but donated my remaining snacks (sweets, chocolate & nuts mostly) to the crew and left a rather worn pair of beach shoes in the hotel bin.
I suspect beach shoes are not exactly common footwear in the Himalayas. The trip notes suggested sandals, thongs to Aussie readers, to wear around camp. I get blisters from them so took some Body Glove beach shoes instead. They were great for camp, easy to get on/off and fast drying if got wet. Photographed at our closest camp to Everest, 4480m above sea level, about as far as you can get from a beach!
Having packed the bus it was on to the bike for the last day riding. We descended 470m from the Zhangmu down to the Tibetan border. It was about 8km of zigzag road lined with waiting trucks as a landslide in Nepal has closed the highway.
We’ll ride to, and over, the slip but heavy vehicles can't pass. The plan is to have a bus at the border to run our gear & luggage to the slip. Porters will then carry it across to two buses (for one for gear/bikes, one for us) for the drive to Kathmandu. It gives us about 30km cycling from the border with little traffic, avoids riding into Kathmandu on a narrow busy highway.
Trucks waiting on the Nepalese border (below)
Bas had planned an early breakfast so we wouldn’t have to wait in a long line at the border. We were among the first to arrive, below, something which would become an issue for some later on.
There was some entertainment while we waited for the office to open. Monkeys playing, scrapping and, um, loving on the roof of a nearby building. They must give the wiring a tough time, but seemed to be quite happy up there.
There was some sort of morning parade, ceremony, on the bridge. I wonder if unusual as they had a professional crew filming it. The border didn’t open until it finished (about an hour later than ‘advertised’ from memory).
Morning parade on the bridge? Photo by Helen
It was farewell to the Tibetan crew and Tashi. He’d been an excellent guide, a lovely man and it was sad to think he can’t do what we were about to: Leave Tibet.
Sujan (l) & Tashi (r), Photo by Helen
The last bit of our time in Tibet was spoiled by a bolshie Chinese pair who kicked up a fuss about not being in front of the queue.
I was down the back, away from the front line, but they got quite worked up. Seemed to think that being Chinese gave them priority. There was only one line, no separate queue for citizens as some countries have, so it was tough luck they arrived late.
It got a bit heated until they finally calmed down, if I remember correctly, after an intervention from Bas. I suspect the orange helmeted yellow & black lycra clad giant (he’s tall, as seen in the photo earlier in this post) made an impression!
The border kerfuffle seems to amuse Andy , Photo by Helen
I must say the officials at the Chinese border were actually pretty good and the whole process (once the office finally opened) was far less hassle than I expected. I thought they'd go through bags but apart from the usual run through the x-ray there was nothing.
Don't know what the porters who were transporting the kit bags experienced. It did seem odd that you didn’t have to accompany your luggage through a border, just had the bike & day pack.
Bizarre border art as we left Tibet, photo by braver than me Kirsten
Once across friendship bridge we had to re-enter Nepal. The contrast was immediately apparent. From the controlled organised, albeit illogical, cold authoritarian feeling of the Chinese border you stepped into chaotic unorganized friendly Nepal.
A last look at Tibet, over the Nepalese border gate (above) & Kodari main street (below)
Tourist Visa time, Sujan sorted the paperwork for those who needed it, Photo by Helen
While we waited for the formalities (visa paper work and our kit to come over the border) had a chance to watch some of the street life.
Another small cycle tour came through the border when we did. Didn’t seem very interested in talking beyond the usual acknowledgements as they passed. Think they were the grumpy looking lot we passed on the way back from Everest.
Took this photo of them and to remind me, never ever ever buy/wear white lycra leggings…
One thing I noticed as soon as we entered Nepal was branding, on vehicles and apparel, largely absent in Tibet. Lots of U.K. & European Football (soccer for Kiwis) team kit!
Old Corolla gets the Chelsea fan treatment, chrome wheels and big exhaust. Those accessories probably cost more than the car!
However, I suspect the bus which took our kit to the slip was probably not an official Facebook licensed one!
Six on to one does go, Photo by Helen
“It’s just how it was 20 years ago!” – Bas remarking how Kodari, unlike Tibet, hadn’t changed since he last cycled through here.
Post 21. Kodari to Kathmandu, Nepal
(A mix of travel notes and comments added later)
21-09-2014 - Sunday
Todays ride descended from 3,700m to 2,200m in just 33km. Add little or no-pedalling needed 30-50km/h cycling to absolutely beautiful dramatic scenery as the road plunged down a gorge.
I wondered what the Chinese slogans on the roadside said but never thought to ask Tashi. Near the border this English one had me scratching my head too!
Protection at the food of the road stay away in future generation — The highway management mission xigase
There was another Army run checkpoint about 10km down the gorge. While we went through OK (with the usual line up in order kerfuffle) a Chinese vehicle coming the other way demonstrated why we were told no photos.
They took one from the car window and a soldier (armed remember!) chased them down and made it very clear that they were going nowhere until he was satisfied it was deleted.
I’ve also read it can make things very difficult for your Tibetan Guide.
We started riding above the clouds and descended through them.
In spite of the scenery it paid to keep an eye on the road. There was little traffic, hardly any trucks for reasons which would become clear further down the road.
Waterfalls cascaded overhead, sometimes onto the road itself and every corner presented yet another "must take photo scene".
The final descent through Zhangmu, literally a one street town clinging to the mountain, made more demands on the brakes then the rest of the trip put together.
It was a fantastic ride. Sujan thought I was joking when I said was happy to pay whatever was required for a lift back to the top to ride it again. Even if time had allowed the checkpoint paperwork would not!
The town is clogged with trucks waiting to clear the border. There was almost another town full of people living in truck cabs, cooking, eating, washing and (I presume) everything else on the roadside. They can’t go forward, don’t get paid until they deliver so just wait, for weeks.
I missed one great photo opportunity on the ride down through town. A man staggered across the main street with (literally) a side of Yak, fresh cut dripping blood, on his back! Busy traffic, nose to tail, and wet roads made a rapid ‘grab a snapshot’ stopping unwise.
The hotel room was good, although featured exposed wiring on half falling out wall sockets as seems rather common in Tibet! It did have a really nice hot shower once they turned on the hot at 18:00. Fears of another Coldtel until then!
It was the last dinner with the Tibetan crew tonight, time to thank them with well-wishes and tips. They've been fantastic coping with the arduous everyday tasks of housing, feeding and transporting (gear and tired cyclists) fifteen people. Also amazing dealing with the unexpected like a 600km overland trek to evacuate two people.
We will see them tomorrow, but only for the brief trip to the border. Sobering to think it is one obstacle they can not overcome.
Tomorrow was going to be mostly bus ride but the heavy rain has changed that plan. Now we must cycle to the slip that has cut off the only highway. Currently it is closed to heavy vehicles and we’ll walk/bike across to meet a another bus to Kathmandu.
This sounds like more fun for us but yet another logistical challenge for the World Ex team. They will porter our luggage and all the camping equipment across the slip while we just deal with ourselves, bikes and a daypack.
Andy, to me in midst of adjusting saggy leggings while waiting near the military passport checkpoint:
“Probably not the best place to pull your pants down”!
It was just the mountain bike shorts i had over my bike shorts but still probably good advice!
Post 20. Zhangmu to Kodari (Nepal Border)
(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
Nic said, as I simultaneously thought, “Wonder if they have a room..?” as we arrived. Before the hotel takeover was confirmed!
Post 19. Nyalam to Zhangmu (Tibetan Border)
(A mix of travel notes and comments added later)
19-09-2014 - Friday
The day Tim had mentioned he had plenty of toilet paper left, of the 6 rolls issued in the kit bags for camping, he paid the price overnight…
Photo, before use, of what I think is the worst aspect of camping! Photo by Robbie.
“Survivor Tibet" is down to three people, including me. I don't know what I've done to avoid it but only hope it keeps working.
Maybe I'll owe Mike Allsop (and his advice at TEDxAkl) a massive thanks after this trip? Perhaps the USANA multi-vitamin, minerals and probiotic supplements are doing more than making my pee bright yellow!?
Lalung La Pass was long gradual ascent. After a short section up the valley, beside the river, it climbed as a series of switchbacks to the top. One part high on the pass was quite flat, to the extent that some of us debated if it was the top. It wasn’t!
Andy (below) passes a flashing light indicating police checkpoint at the village ahead.
The actual top was marked by a small collection of prayer flags but have been misled by those. Sometimes they mark a significant site but not the highest point. Some views looked like those photos from the Martian rovers, albeit with fluffy clouds and blue sky photo-shopped in.
I checked the elevation on my phone here, wasn’t sure if we had more climbing, but this was the top!
From there it was an increasingly rapid descent to the saddle valley where we are camping for the night. Not quite per itinerary, a flow on from the change in plans at Everest.
The campsite was lovely. It is beside a clear fast flowing river near a few small farm buildings. At about 4900m it is our highest overnight stay but, in spite of being off Diamox, so far have felt ok.
You had to watch your step as the ground was pockmarked with holes.
Although we briefly saw the occupants, and Robbie photographed one, as they dashed between holes only recently found out there are several types of Himalayan Marmot. One of them, but not those sharing our campsite, can weigh over 6kg!
Marmot hole photo by me. Marmot photo by a far more patient Robbie.
Close-up of Ian's awesome bike soon after arrival. It combined titanium frame with belt drive 14 speed hub drivetrain (matching gear spread of 21 speed derailleur set-up) and, for this trip, a Tibetan mudguard!
Lunch was ready soon after arrival: soup, home made fries and jahpati with lemon squash. Due to a shorter than expected ride it was another lazy afternoon. I read a bit, more Simpsons math, and caught up with the trip notes. Also tried to figure out the next days ride.
According to my Nokia Here map it's 63km to Nylam but we are camping (last camp of the trip!) 2km beyond there. It's mostly downhill as we descend from the top of Lalung La Pass ~5100m (a short climb from the camp) to Nyalam ~3750m.
Due to the altitude, and fine clear sky, think it is going to be cold tonight. For the first time I have the icebreaker 260 thermals on in the sleeping bag (where this is being written!) on the theory it it's easier to get cool, if too hot, than warm once cold. Also will be needed should nature call during the night be needed although not bring on Diamox has greatly reduced that urge!
I woke up in the middle of the night sweating. Due to short term memory loss forgot about the thermals and thought had the lurgi! I was just too hot in that mountain spec sleeping bag!
After a map estimate of a 45km ride became just 27km in the real world:
Bas (to Eric): “What happened to the German precision map reading?”
Eric: “What's up with that Tibetan precision map?"