(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.
Above the clouds!
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.
The most awesome downhill cycling ever.
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!
Trucks by the kilometre
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.
Quote of the day:
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!
Hotel altitude 2190.500 meters
Post 20. Zhangmu to Kodari (Nepal Border)