(A mix of travel notes and comments added later)
13-09-2014 - Saturday
Although only about 60km to cover we had the Simi La pass to climb today. It was only 4525m max and the road was mostly good. From camp there was about a 10km gradual climb before the real pass began. Also passed the 5,000 kilometrestone (awkward I know but you can’t have a 5,000km milestone!).
The climb was gradual with several switchbacks. I saved a few hundred metres by using an old concrete track which cut out one corner. Part way up some road works meant it got a bit dusty but a breeze, headwind on the lower part & nice tailwind nearer the top, blew it away pretty quickly.
Wondered what the roadside slogans say but forgot to ask
Found Bas & a nice dog waiting at the top. Seems no matter where you stop in Tibet a dog appears. They are all very calm, almost submissive, with endless patience as just sit & watch waiting for food (I guess) to appear. Have seen very few fights between them, more play, and never felt threatened by them.
The downhill was great, carving down the side of the valley with several switchback turns. After that it levelled out a bit but was still downhill with a side/tailwind. Was pretty easy to do 25-30km/h for the rest of the trip.
I discovered those big striped blocks marking the roadside are probably not crash barriers. Either that or my Keywin pedals are really tough!
I stopped and leant my bike against one only to have a big chunk fall off the corner much to Nic & B’s amusement. I reckon if you went off the edge of the road and hit one your last memory would just be a cloud of red, white and dirt brown dust!
Coming into camp meant negotiating a small gravel road. Slowed down to unlock my front suspension and fell off again! It was an elegant (well felt it to me) forward roll over the handlebars landing on my back. Apart from embarrassment at doing something so stupid (again) there was no harm to me or the bike. I don't even think there was a witness!
Later I did find a couple of dents in one of my Sigg bottles (stored in a pocket on the side of my back pack) so it might have taken the brunt of the fall!
Lunch on arrival was great: Vege noodle soup, roti and warm lemon drink. We had a spot of rain, even light hail, but it is sunny & warm again now. Just as well as the camp is right beside a river. If it rains heavily upstream we might have to move tonight!
Ollie & Paula made out to the Nepal/Tibet border after a very early start this morning. The only real cure for altitude sickness is going down, Nepal is the only way down.
I've been off Diamox for a couple of days now and feeling fine so far. Only medical problem I’ve had so far is my nose got burnt so will have to slap a plaster on it as seems sunblock alone is not enough.
The neck/head buff I got in Lhasa was the best purchase ever, protecting neck/ears/lips/face, but find riding with it over my nose a bit restrictive.
The truck had gone to the border, another vehicle & driver could not get through the Police road checks from Lhasa, so a lot of extra gear was put on the bus. Was interested to learn this could have been a problem as the bus is not permitted to carry 'cargo' (like tents). Even cyclists who chose not to ride have to get off and cycle through checkpoints as was easier than dealing with passport checks etc. This sort of state intervention is what Tibetans go thru every day of their life.
Dinner was great: Spaghetti, fried egg plant (which I really liked in spite of not usually liking egg plant) and green beans. Desert was fruit salad, pineapple, melons and cherries (from a tin but any fruit is fine by me).
Tomorrow brings another high pass, demanding a 1200m climb, and the prospect of wet weather...
Quote of the day:
"They've changed the road!" – Sujan, having carefully explained directions, finds the road had been totally transformed in the past year!
Camp altitude 4126.000 meters
Post 12. Jaikang to Shegar (New Tingri) Hotel