Lhasa to Kathmandu Bike Ride Part 2

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Day 5  Gyantze to Shigatze 94km – relatively flat riding

Breakfast this morning was just one dish after another starting with rock hard corn cereal pellets and oats. Then came a fried egg, fried capsicum, toast and lastly broccoli and bok choy. Also on the table when we arrived was a chilli pineapple combo, peanuts, and hot chips?! Some rice chonchi also came out too. They must think westerners eat a lot!

breakfast in Tibet

Chilli pineapple, peanuts and hot chips for breakfast

breakfast in tibet

The “Pieces of Corn” where inedible

Raining today so piled on the wet weather gear and warm clothes. I had on leg and arm warmers, windproof vest, light weight vest, light weight long sleeve, shirt and knicks and full gortex top and bottom and booties for my shoes and water proof hat. Phew.  Left late today at 9:30 as we had to change the flat tyre on Wendy’s bike which Tobi is riding today.[Wendy recovering from hitting the tarmac yesterday and Tobi broke his wheel] We eventually set off for todays 94km first through the streets and then finally out of town and along the outskirts of town, all the while getting rained on. It wasn’t long before Tobi’s tyre needed pumping up again and not too much further on and it was flat again. Stopped in the rain and patched it and put it back on and we were off. I had put on my goggles too as the rain really splatters up on your face when you are drafting your fellow riders. I also put on a face mask as it was coming in my mouth, this elegant style helped a lot and I could then draft away.  We stopped at one point for a wee break – the roads are up high with drop off’s on both sides. Renae, Bekk and I had eyed a little spot behind some tree and Renae took off first and then proceeded to slip down the hill in the mud and then get her foot tangled in the fence below! Unhurt – so quite funny.  Bekk and I headed to the other side of the road and found a safer looking tree!  On we rode, the rain still raining but not as much. Went through towns and eventually rolled into our lunch stop at 12:30 where the sun was out and we’d knocked off 54km, not bad.

bike ride in tibet

finally arrived at lunch after riding in the rain all morning

Lunch delicious again, chips, rice dish, cauliflower dish and some sardine thing. Soup first which tastes amazing but I think is loaded with MSG and I think is giving me the headaches. I got a slight one after 2 mouthfuls so have decided to steer clear of soup. Lunch relaxing but after 40 minutes it was time to leave and do the final 40km to Shigatze. 40km and 6 stops to fix Tobi’s back tyre!! Lucky the weather had changed into a beautiful afternoon. The first stop was on the road and we got lots of beeps as we and the van were still literally on the road as we found the hole, fixed hole and put electrical tape on the rim where a rough bit was.

changing a tyre in tibet

We are still parked on the road as we change the bike tyre….the cars and buses just drove around us

The next stop was much more fun, we stopped near a house and a side road and while the boys spent an age finding the leak and fixing it and putting it back on we became VERY popular with the locals. It’s like a tweet went out and before long the whole village was there watching us. Hilarious.

changing a tyre in tibet

every tyre change needs an audience?!

I found a little boy playing and gave him a pen. Soon after his mum and sister came home and in an instant the girl had her hand out too. I gave her a pen and then found some cardboard and wrote HELLO on it. The boy then copied it really well. I gave the girl a piece of cardboard too and they went away and I saw later that Hello was written on that too. So beautiful. We must have been there for about 40 minutes and we were quite the attraction. Just before we left Bekk decided to take off her leg warmers and I think she regretted that decision as it soon became a spectacle. Ooooh, ahhh, lots of wow’s when her bare leg was revealed. On we rode for another 10km, getting closer to town as more cars were on the road and Tobi’s tyre flat again, so we just pumped it up and kept going. Another 10km and its flat again.  This time we put a whole new unpatched tyre in it and thought – if that doesn’t work – he’s in the van.

riding in tibet

It wasn’t all changing tyres today (although it felt like it)

Thankfully that was the last of the tyre issues and we reached Shigatze and followed the van to the hotel getting lost along the way due to road closures and traffic at 5:15pm. I couldn’t believe it was that late, sun was still blazing. Hotel looks like all the others we’ve stayed – huge entry and pray flags above. After settling in us and our bikes Wen, Bekk, Mark, Steve, Tenzing Nema and I took off to visit the hospital again. Wendy has sore ribs and bruising +++ in her groin. Tenzing and Nema are a great help and set about describing the accident and details in great animation. The doctor did not even examine Wendy but sent her off for x-rays. We tried to get an ultrasound of her groin – but apparently this is not possible. Team health support then wandered the corridors and found the x-ray dept. Once again Wendy stood up in front of screening table and if I hadn’t of been there I’m quite sure there would be 5 minutes of screening prior to the picture being taken. Eventually she fired off a ribs and left hemi pelvis x-ray both on small films (no they could not just do a whole CXR apparently) and we went back to the waiting room and waited. Got called in to look at hemi pelvis x-ray to decide if we wanted it re taken. Picture was fogged +++ (like totally black) so decided to re take it and then we discussed the x-ray. Had a look and decided – no rib fractures, no pelvis fractures and no pleural effusion or pneumothorax. Carry on!

xrays in tibet

Team Health care checking out Wendy’s x-rays in the second largest city in Tibet.(Wendy’s photo)

Back to the doctor where he read the form the radiographer had written and said – No problem. This was all done at the tea room door. We convinced him he should examine Wendy’s bruises so reluctantly he did and then said “rest several days”.  He sent us off to get stuff from the pharmacy too. Team Wendy’s health support went and bought some spray on stuff to get rid of the bruise!! All up for 2 x consults and 2 x-rays and 2 x spray bottles of drugs it was $20. Add that to yesterdays $2.50 and she has a substantial claim. Thank-goodness she has “No Problem” I’d hate to be here if there was “Problem”.  Back to hotel and met the others and went to Tashi Restaurant about a 15 minute walk away. Very tasty – had Naan and paneer panah – yum. The two cooks and Kalden came too but didn’t sit with us as seems the custom. In bed at 11pm ish.

Day 6  Rest Day in Shigatze

Breakfast at 8am was the weirdest yet – mostly a Chinese fare and not western at all. Barley flour, which apparently you mix with Yak butter tea and eat it – did not try this. Instead I ate the greens and got an omelette. An egg a day here for me in Tibet. Went back to the room and did Wendy’s washing in the bath tub then Wendy and I headed out to shop. Tenzing headed out to visit the police station to register us first and then to bike shop with Tobi to fix his back wheel. Wendy and I took off to buy good coffee, a 30 minute walk away to “The Unequalled Coffee Shop”  were Wendy ordered a coffee $7:50! Very relaxing here and free wifi too. Next we headed down to the markets – very hustle and bustle – everyone out for the day. Streets all bumby and uneven and mud all over the place from this morning’s rain.  We went in search of one of the wool aprons that the Tibetans ladies wear, I like the woollen ones better than the satin ones. Of course they are more expensive and varied in price from 300 Yuan to 200 Yuan, or $50 to $32. I ended up finding one I liked for 150 yuan so about $25. My most exciting find for the day though was muesli bars – FINALLY!!! , now I might be able to get up those hills?!  More shopping and looking now on“Walk Street” and found the bike shop and Tobi and the wheel getting fixed. Two people on the job – 4 hours work – had to put all the spokes back in and tighten them and they did it all on the ground in the squatting position!!!! 150 Yuan or $25!!! We also found out that Tensing had not managed to get our entry permits to EBC! (Everest Base Camp) They are not letting any foreigners in at the moment. We will need to try again everyday and hope that the situation changes. Major disappointment, we have about 5 days left to get them. Considering that we only got the okay to get into Tibet 7 days before leaving AUS, it is a very changing situation.

Festival day in Shigatzu so everyone comes to town

Festival day in Shigatze so everyone comes to town

This afternoon we visited the monastery, it is one of the largest in Tibet and all about the Panchen Lama. Huge statue made of copper and clay and painted gold. Working monastery and monks and Tibetans everywhere – was very impressed. In and out of all the stupa’s and around all the corners and corridors – so old and so much character. Eventually wound our way through the maze – people everywhere, kids too – some tied onto backs and others walking around.

shigatze monastery

Shigatze Monastery

Got saturated walking to dinner and after a picking possibly the worst restaurant for dinner to meet at we all left and walked around the corner and went to the best smelling place in view which was a hotpot place. Don’t think foreigners had EVER been in as there was lots of giggles and we got led to the back room where we found 2 large round tables. Ordering happened straight away and lots and lots of giggles and pointing and visits to the kitchen and help from a women who spoke a little bit of English. The only veggies we got where the veggies she knew how to say, so Steve went to the kitchen and ordered more. Very, very, very amusing. We got 2 hot pots – a chicken one and a veggie one. We put one in each table and they bubbled away. Chicken one – was a whole chook as we found both the feet in it. Mark and Steve ate them (sort of – very fatty). So warm and so yummy. Had bamboo, ginger, tofu, and lots more to add to already great soup. Eventually Steve went out to get the bill and found the restaurant empty and all staff just sitting there waiting for us to leave 35 Yuan each$6. Lots more giggles as we left.

hot pot tibet

Whole chicken in a Hot Pot (Bekk’s photo)

Rainy still and Renae had a headache so Renae, Tobi, Wendy and I all caught a cab home for 10Yuan. The card I was given at reception this morning for this purpose coming in very handy. Shower and sorting and packing and wifi in the hotel corridor/stairwell when we got back.

Day 7  Shigatze to Ressa 100km – rolling road

Breakfast was the same fare as yesterday – average. Packed up and went down at 9am and thus begun the 2 hour trying to leave Shigatze saga. Lots of things happened. Firstly Tobi discovered his newly repaired wheel hit the side of the bike – not good. Then the weather looked like it might rain and with Tobi now going with Tenzing and Nema to the bike shop we all had to have enough stuff with us if we didn’t see the van for 3 hours or so.  A re-sort required. Then we had to buy more water for the rest of the trip and put it in the truck – off we all went. Rode to the shop and the men did water shopping – thanks men and then off to the bike shop we go and find Tenzing, Nema and Tobi all drinking butter tea across road and bike and wheel have been taken elsewhere. Nema then decided Mark’s broken chest strap on his backpack needs fixing and he gives him his half off his backpack and across to a sewing machine they go – no charge and eventually we leave at 10:45am! It did not rain and getting hot and only 20 minutes from bike shop (where we had all pee’d) we stopped again to pee and remove shell wear. 45km to lunch and mostly rolling as Kalden would say. Ups and downs. Ups and downs. At about 12:30 the van rolled up, we were 30km down. Glad to get rid of  my excess clothes – I love Tenzing and Nema and the van. Tobi has wheel and a usable bike and Wendy is on the bike now too. 24 km to lunch and Wendy did well. Finally the lunch spot came at about 60km as they couldn’t find suitable spot earlier. We had an audience – 4 ladies all watching us and leaning on the truck.

lunch in tibet

Do you ever feel like you are being watched as you eat lunch??

Very helpful too as they poured the jug of water when I washed my hands. They stayed and watched us till we were half way through lunch. Great spread again – coleslaw, soup, these cheese pasties, potato and tuna. Yum. Very hot in the sun. The first 60km where a dream compared to the final 40km. Started okay then we hit the headwind +++ hard to all stay drafting as road rolling up and down. All up we gained 300 meters today so are now at 4200ish tonight. Oh, what a gruelling ride this arvo was. The van kept on going past us – it’s like groundhog day – I’m starting to know what it sounds like. It’s probably the only car that doesn’t come at you fast, beep and then drive on the opposite side of the road to get around us. They all beep to let you know they are behind you – as we where two groups for some of today, I got a beep in my ear as they drove past me – so loud. Eventually got into camp at about 6pm. Very pretty spot, behind a “hotel” After showers and tent sorting we all went up for a look. The cook (Baja) is friends with the owner, so we got a tour and then sat in their living room/kitchen. Room is simple – beds and mats. Kitchen had the fire/cook top raging fuelled with dried yak poo. Very effective – very warm. Battery like a car one – connected to a lot of wires and a TV in the corner. Person lying down next to me asleep? – butter tea in the thermos and something in the huge tea pot that got checked a lot. In bowls was the barley flour.

kitchen in tibet

The owner of the hotel in the kitchen – you can see the battery’s in this photo too

Very comfortable, homely and rustic+++ The owner makes her own woollen aprons – she had the loom out the front. We got shown the ones she’d made and the price was 250 Yuan. We didn’t feel comfortable bargaining with her and 250 Yuan (over $40) was more Yuan then I had on me. Headed back to camp and Kalden went through the plan for the next couple of days and what we will do if the EBC (Everest Base Camp) permits don’t come through. Dinner which was soup (I am avoiding as it is the cause of my headaches– I haven’t had one since the night before Gyantse), pasta, sauce, poppadums, popcorn and spicy vegetables and more fried eggplant. Another winner. Played cards after dinner.  Altitude – 4269m

tibetian apron weaving

How to weave those beautiful aprons

Day 8 Ressa to Lhatze (just past it) Tso-La Pass – 4530 meters

Great sleep last night – love that I bought the down mat with me, so comfy.  Breakfast tea woke me up and once again Wendy received it – I never seem awake enough to get it. Breakfast of cereal again – yeah. Then I packed up quick smart so we had time to bargain with the hotel owner for the skirts. She actually came over to our camp and after a 3 way language chat, English to Steve to Nepali to Baja and Tibetan to lady – we got nowhere. I said 150 Yuan is what I’d paid in town and she basically with poker face said 250 Yuan – and didn’t care if she sold them or not! She had a real poker face and even after we stuffed around and knowing we wanted 4 – there was no change in the price. That was that and on we rode. Wendy having a go this morning. First 10km – rolling – bit of an up bit and then down then the pass began.  Wendy hurting++++ and Renae had a mini breakdown. No sign of the van so we sat and waited till it arrived and popped Wendy in the van and Kalden and I rode off and left Renae and Tobi and Steve to it.  Pass wasn’t so bad, just slow and steady all the way– only stopped once half way up as it was a bit of a slog. Others miles behind anyway and a stop always gives you back so much energy. Only 2km from there to the top and it was easy. Found Mark and Bekk already there and Bekk was frozen. I gave her my pink wind proof as I was still sweating away. She took it instantly. Photos and more photos and prayer flags and people who want to come up and touch your bike. Tso-La pass – 4520.

Tso-la pass tibet

Another pass conquered Tso-la Pass at 4530 meters

Van arrived and then not long after Renae, Tobi and Steve arrived. Yeah Renae – she came up smiling – breakdown a distant memory. More photos and then toilet stop in an impressive building with primitive loo’s – cement floor with holes and a very long (10 meters) drop! Breezy too. Then to ride down.

Tso-la pass tibet

The fun bit – riding downhill after all that climbing to lunch

Very jarring and steep and gritty ride down the pass, so Wen got back on the bike at the bottom and peddled to lunch at the hot springs. Just started to rain when we arrived so enjoyed lunch in the tent.  Brilliant lunch again – chips – yellow curry pasta, cheese sangas and spinach. Then we all checked out the hot springs. Renae and Tobi and I went to the 60 yuan pool and Steve, Mark and Bekk went to the 30 yuan public pool. There’s was super hot. Ours lovely and warm but a bit grimy. Lady in there the entire time naked and scrubbing herself. We just giggled and giggled. Was very very funny. We all had on random plastic shoes. All very funny. The hot shower at the end was the highlight.

Hot springs tibet

hard to believe, but we had a swim in this grimy green pool

Only 20km to go and rolling as Kalden would say. Only one hill and it was conquered with ease after yet another toilet stop. So many toilet stops. We came to the town of Lhatse and had to wait at a Police check point for 5 minutes and then on we went.  Tiny town, women doing their washing in the drain. Barley yellow flowers everywhere making it look very pretty. With only 2 km to go we took it slow and make pictures (as Kalden says) went around a bend expecting to see truck and camp and it was not there. We were cursing Kalden for poor km estimation when the truck went past us and pulled in up ahead. Beautiful spot next to a river we had to cross, boys took Renae and my bikes over and Tobi “gopro’ed” Renae and I crossing the river in barefeet. Into camp – no shower tent as we all had a wash in the river – refreshing ++. Rain threatened all arvo but never eventuated into more than a few drops. Stray dogs and people around campsite again all checking us out. Cards – dinner – dahl bhat and mo mo’s and rice tonight. So, so yummy again. More cards then bed.

Day 9 Lhatse – Shegar (Belbar) 72km

I was awake before breakfast tea today, but slept really well again. No trucks or barking dogs overnight. After yesterdays river crossing shoes off episode – Mark and the 2 drivers built a bridge of stones for us before breakfast.

river tibet

First job of the day was to try not and get your feet wet crossing the stream

The crossing was fun and Tensing helped by taking over the ladies bikes. 9:15 was the starting time today and we had 25km of up to do to the pass – whew. 5248 meters. Off we went as a team. We did it bit by bit, stopping every 4km to start with. Many toilet stops. We rode past all these people mining slate – just off the side of the mountain.

slowly riding up the pass

slowly riding up the pass

As we got higher we stopped every 50 meters in altitude. I did well actually and despite it taking us about 5 hours to reach the top it was easier than day two’s ride. The van and Tenzing and Nema and Wendy a constant helpful companion.  The last 2km were meant to be the hardest but actually that wasn’t the case. We took off to stop at one corner and then hey presto the prayer flags appeared and we’d arrived.

Prayer flags showing us where the top of the pass is....a welcome site

Prayer flags showing us where the top of theThang-la Pass is….a welcome site

Such a great feeling to be at the top. The young cook, Saki there offering out a hot lemon drink. Lots of photos and even ones holding our bikes above our heads! Lots of interest in our bikes again at the top. 2 guys from Yuman province each had a photo with my bike and them and then my bike, me and him?! They did the same to Renae’s bike only this time they dressed it up with a welcome scarf? They showed me photos – they’d ridden from Chengdu to Lhasa.

tibetian pass

I even had enough energy after the climb for this picture at over 5220 meters in altitude!!!

With enough photos taken we had 3km of down to lunch. I took off and soon realised that my light weight shirt was no match for this wind – ahhhhh – a frozen 3 km down to lunch. What was I thinking? Lunch was breezy but delicious again – rice, dahl, cauliflower, bean thing and greens and the bread thing that looks like a UFO. Then just 47km more to go……we left lunch at 4pm. Fortunately it was mostly down – unfortunately it was mostly into the wind. We rode through a canyon of such with a river and fertile land and lovely villages. We even rode past a dozen horse drawn carts – one I followed for a while had a little goat in it.

horse drawn buggy in tibet

on our way downhill to Belbar we had the delight of riding past all these horse drawn carriages on their way to a festival.

Eventually arrived in Belbar at 7:15pm – a 10 hour day. All the staff waiting and in attendance. Bikes put in one area – then another – eventually we got keys and Tenzing got our bags moved to our rooms by the tiniest of 2 women! Thanks – didn’t have the energy myself really. Shower beautiful – hot and cold taps switched so it was touch and go for a while as I was freezing in bathroom trying to work it out.   Great bath to do laundry in. Had dinner in hotel restaurant – very tasty – had vegetable noodles and shared stir fry pumpkin (that was actually zucchini) and chips. 35 Yuan. Discussed what tomorrow will hold re what Tenzing will say to get us to EBC. Not much really – because we didn’t get the alien pass and he cannot ask if we can go – else we might be turned around. So we will just say we are off to the border checkpoint.  Why all the rules – party poopers. Went for a walk around town after dinner – not much here except A LOT x 10 small supermarkets in a town that probably stretched 800 meters. Found one store that said internet – got giggled at and then someone came out and led us to the roof and a little room and turned on a computer and no working. That was that for the internet. We’d been told as much, so no surprise. Back home late at 10pm.

Belbar tibet

Belbar town

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