Lhasa to Kathmandu Bike Ride Part 3

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Day 9 Belbar to past Tingery

We all decided on an early start today so took off at 8am hoping to get the best views and it made for a cold morning ride. Had on arm warmers, shirt, lightweight vest and jacket and windstopper vest and jacket, knicks and leg warmers! 3km slightly downhill to the checkpoint, sun coming up so lovely colours and not too bright for photos. Rode along a river with barley flowers either side and big cliffs/hills and craggy peaks, it was beautiful.

Everest Base Camp

The sign leading to Everest Base Camp. So close……Yet we are not allowed to go there   :(

Before long we came to the EBC check point – we all filed in behind Tenzing – and got no permit to EBC – we are all very angry at the government party poopers. Bummer – and a major disappointment for us all. With no choice, we rode on to Tingery – 57km to go and easy rolling but mostly downhill – lovely riding conditions. Wendy on the bike today all day after being on and off it over the last couple of days. Stopped a couple of times along the way, once to watch a Sheppard hearding his flock with a sling shot to get off the hills and walk on the road. So casual and easy.

Herding the goats, Tibetan Style with a sling shot

Herding the goats, Tibetan Style with a sling shot

Lunch was at 11:30 near a river saw us basking in the sunshine peeling off the layers clothing. Lunch of cabbage, beans, rice, dahl and the round UFO things (they taste good, but I’m not sure what they are). Didn’t linger as long as we usually do and headed off for the 10km final push into Tingery. Checked out the shops and found Tingery a bit of a hole of a town. Lots of little shops and lots of motorcycle shops too. Dirty and very much a trucker’s stop. Spent a bit of time here just shopping around and once again there was lots of interest in our bikes.

The truckers town of Tingery

The truckers town of Tingery

Shopping in Tingery

Shopping in Tingery (photo by Bekk)

 

Another 10km saw us into tonight’s camp spot. Looks a bit dingy but is on real grass for once. Supposedly we have views of Everest and Cho Ooi but not at the moment – too much cloud cover. Arranged tent and had jug wash in shower tent and then took off exploring the hot springs baths up on the hill with Mark, Bekk and Steve . Tenzing told us it was a dive and he was correct, I think it was actually an abandoned baths and was probably much better in its heyday. What a hole and not a sole in site for a while until a couple of decrepit people came along. We went back to camp and watched the clouds lift off the Himalayan range. First one huge mountain – not sure which one.  Then Tobi, Renae and Steve went out to the road to practice using the sling shot he’d bought in town. Mema, Saki, Nema and Tenzing all out there having a go too. Then whip cracking too and I had a go at that.

Looked up and could see the clouds starting to lift even more over Cho Ooi and Everest. We all watched and watched and eventually the clouds had gone- how cool was this!!We couldn’t get to EBC but now we had an awesome view of Mt Everest at sunset.

Mt Everest, from afar

Mt Everest, from afar

Day 10 Tingery to between passes

Lots of dogs barking overnight ++++ so I put earplugs in and Wendy had to wiggle my toes in the morning to wake me up. Think I was alone in my goodnights sleep though – Wendy kept awake by the barking and Renae did not have a good night – 3am – gastro hit – she’s not well this morning and neither is Mark actually – he started feeling ill at 6:30ish.  Mt Everest in view this morning – it’s not every day you get to eat breakfast and look at Mt Everest so that’s exactly what I did.

Setting off for the days ride with Mt Everest in the background.

Setting off for the days ride with Mt Everest in the background.

 

Renae rode in the truck today and Mark initially toughing it out on the bike. 57km to lunch and nice riding, rolling but more down then up. Beautiful day for it, once the van caught up the jacket and vest came off. Lots more hellos and waves at little towns. What I have noticed though is the further we go west the more we are asked for money. Mark and Bekk ahead of peloton today and then behind and then in front again and it soon became apparent Mark really not well and we also learnt that Bekk nauseated too, so they reluctantly got in the van too. Lunch was yummy for those who ate it – home made taco things, vegies x 2, and dahl and rice. I love the dahl. At the end of lunch Renae was asleep in the van, Bekk was busy throwing up and Mark constantly looking for a loo. We decided the best thing to do was to put them in van and send them straight to camp. Steve, Wendy and Kalden and I rode on and the truck followed us all the way up the pass – 23km from lunch – 15km of it was up and into a headwind.

bike riding in Tibet

Looks a bit like a waste land

Oh – the headwinds, so, so difficult – ahhhh. We tackled it slowly, bit by bit like all the other passes. Wendy doing well today, she is back on the bike now for good. We eventually made it to the top 3 ½ – 4 hours after lunch.

At the top of the pass - not the most impressive pass we got to ride!

At the top of the pass – not the most impressive pass we got to ride!

The truck then left us to set up camp and we saw it was only downhill in front of us. Unfortunately it was also into a rather vicious headwind. Todays pass was rather dodgy looking compared with other fabulous passes, just some dingy pray flags and no shopping and at 4950meters we’d come to expect shopping!  We finally arrived at the real down hill section and the wind was now just trying to knock us off our bikes – 5 km to go to the campsite and we could now see the 8000 meter mountains in the distance and the camp site next to river.

between passes Tibet

Looking down on where we are camping tonight. The aptly named “Between Passes”

 

We arrived at about 5pm and with everyone else was still unwell – I quickly drank a gastrolite and borrocca in case I was next. Lots of stray people around the campsite here one man looked in the tents having a good ole gawk?! Bekk – seems to of turned a corner after vomiting 6+ times including a couple of times at the top of the pass, Renae also a bit brighter but still got the runs and Mark is the least brightest. Very windy spot here and after a shower I played cards with Steve who had vomited up the borocca and gastrolite I gave him, but was blaming exhaustion and not the gastro bug thingy. Others slowly joined us and cards played until dinner at 8:30pm . Had soup, spaghetti and sauce and dahl and rice- the cook had asked us what we should have and who was actually eating dinner. Then we got a cake as this was the last night we would be camped together – Baja is really a very talented cook. Very excellently iced too. I said a speech and then Baja cut it. Too cold then to sit in the mess tent and Steve tired and bikes need to be put away with Steve’s help so off to the tent to warm up my frozen toes on coldest night yet at 9:30pm.

Day 11 Between passes to Zhangmu Thang Pass 5050 meters

bike riding in tibet

How an amazing day starts out

 

What an AMAZING day!  AMAZING!!   Didn’t sleep that well, but still managed ample zzzzz’s, I could hear Steve tossing and turning, and with everyone with gastro around you start to think am I next? Woken up to our last hand delivered breakfast tea – I’m going to miss that. At breakfast everyone seems to be over the worst of it. Bekk 100% – but not touching the eggs. Mark still getting there and Renae seems okay too. Light breakfast for them. Ready to go and on the road by 9am to tackle our last high pass – Thang Pass – 5050 meters. Only 8km of up from the campsite and I tackled it with Steve who said he is only at 70% (?exhaustion or touch of bug?) we did it with ease, only stopping about 5 times mainly to take photos – this was amazing. As you got higher you’d see a little mountain peak open up to a huge +8000meter Himalayan monster. Wow, wow, wow.

tibet bike riding

tibet bike riding

tibet bike riding

We are on the edge of the Tibetan plateau and are looking straight at the Himalayans. Blue skies and +8000 meter mountains are awesome. Mark and Bekk were already at the top with the van when I arrived and at 5050 meters it felt like sea level to me – so good to feel good up this high. Lucky we felt so good because we were up there for about 2 hours. We took loads of photos in all different locations, with and without our bikes and of us draping our welcome to Tibet scarfs over the mass of prayer flags, with the tassels getting flying in the wind and getting caught up in everything.  A bus load of Americans turned up and then a bus load from Brisbane turned up too, Woo hoo. Then Kalden came along and said – “need van for Renae”. Van already gone down for Renae! Along comes the van and Tobi and Renae have arrived and standing under the prayer flags. Renae is saying – is this it? – I thought I still had 8km of pass to go – I only got in the van 1km away! Tobi is there waiting and we are all watching them when Tobi says – can I ask you a question? He gets down on one knee and out comes the ring Mark and Bekk have been carting around and Renae is so excited.

will you marry me in Tibet

The now very big crowd of  Americans, Brisbanites, other pass hangersoners and us are all waiting to here what she says?  Bekk is trying to listen in as a bloke is doing the hard sell on a necklace to her.   Renae says YES and the crowd goes wild and the camera’s click away and a beautiful white gold single diamond ring goes on her finger. So very, very exciting. Very happy, happy time being had at 5050 meters with tears all round. The newly engaged couple then make some phone calls, texts etc and then after almost 2 hours at 5050meters it was time to head down. Down, down, down. Weeeeeeee it was loads of fun, but freezing and I was well clothed. So. so cold. Got to the bottom of the pass where others were waiting and did customary pee on side of Tibetan road (as is custom) then we started what was a very, very, very hard slog.

bike ride tibet

Regrouping at the bottom with the local kids

 

We were expecting down all day, but this was actually not the case. Yes there was down hill and more of it then up, but we had the headwind of all headwinds. Wow. It was like riding into a brick wall. I started with Kalden and Wendy but soon left them. Just head down and go, go, go – wind so strong you couldn’t hear anyone talking or when they fell off your wheel. Then I set my sights on the newly engaged couple once I caught up we tailed and drafted each other for a while and after about 1 ½ hours Wendy and Kalden caught up – they had slip streamed the van to catch up. We somehow struggled through that wind and up all those rolling hills and then one more hill where I Kalden sitting with someone – and it‘s Saki the cook – lunch is just around the corner – what a welcome site that is.  Our last lunch stop sitting on mats in the sun. Dahl, vegies etc. very good once again and then 10mk to Nylam. Thoughts of shopping here but there wasn’t much to see  apart from a “department store” so checked that out. From Nylam it really was all downhill to Zhangmu – 30km of downhill and it was EXCELLENT. It started with some switchbacks and then we entered the canyon of the river we’d followed the whole way today. I wasn’t expecting  it to be this wonderful. The road was pretty good and the river ragging below was spectacular.

tibet bike ride

First sighting of the river and canyon

We went from being above the clouds to in them, to getting rained on and then a sunny day. So, so cool riding under waterfalls, over bridges and landslides and lots of water wow, I wanted to be driven to the top to do it all again. Lots of braking happening and Mark and Bekk and Steve way ahead of me. You couldn’t take enough photos of it.  Tenzing and Nema slowly following us down. Nema wiped my glasses clean at one point – he’s such a sweet, kind man.

bike ride tibet

bike ride tibet

We eventually got to Zhangmu and discovered that we had to wind ourselves down slowly through the streets. The town is on a very steep hill and you zig zag down, down quite a bit actually – for at least 30 minutes. The streets are built for one car but have two way traffic and some parking – so we were often caught in a jam.  With no sign of the van, but people telling us they saw 2 more cycles going down we just kept riding. Turns out we are 2 doors up from the Chinese customs boarder – so we are at the ass end of China tonight. Arrived at 6:30pm, a 9 ½ hour day that was stunningly beautiful – exciting downhill – hard, hard slog and then awesome 30km canyon ride – wow what an excellent day. Got our room keys and discovered the hot water is turned on at 7pm – we are all freezing and wet (the theme of today was freezing) so a ½ hour in rooms spent getting ready for a shower – so good.

Zhangmu

Zhangmu

 

Then we went to dinner 2 doors up – (lucky as it is now pissing down) and everyone came Saki, Baja, Tenzing and Nima and Kalden – we worked out we were paying for them as well. This turned out to be no big deal as it was an extra $5 each we paid. Meal I got was vegie chow min and it was HOT – woo. Worked out not to touch the green bits and then it was safer for me to eat. The cooks left so we gave Tensing and Nima and Mema(truck driver) their tips and a little Aussie badge. Mark and Bekk and I keen to have a look around town – so  we donned our full gortex wear and headed out to the street which was like a river. Such a funny place – house – waterfall next to it!? We didn’t see much that took our fancy to buy, but it was fun looking. Back to hotel and another plank of concrete for a bed with springs poking out so I blew up the down mat again and slept like a log.

Day 12 Zhangmu to Dhulikhel

Man I slept well last night – woke to stupid alarm instead of breakfast tea, and no power or water. We lit the candles and packed and went down to breakfast – we are on level 4 and breakfast is on level 1 (level 4 is street level) breakfast = terrible – worst yet. Just peanuts, breadrolls,  butter and jam. A greasy omelette came out too and no toaster. I got poured a tea from the 6 cuppa teapot that had ONE teabag in it. Was like water – so I took her teabag out and put it in my cup! She put ONE more in. Not surprisingly breakfast did not take long. What took the time was sorting out all our gear from the truck and van. The van and truck cannot come through as it is a foot crossing only.  We need to fill our bike boxes with our stuff so we pay for less bits and pieces to go be carried across the bridge.  We finally took off after Mark and Steve changed some money with random people and buying  3 chocolate bars with our remaining kitty money.  Went through customs at the first boarder and then rode the 11km down to the boarder. Mark and Bekk took off and Kalden told them to get in line when they arrived. Was cool down hill again with my brakes getting a work out.

Zhangmu

Zhangmu

 

Great waterfalls everywhere too. Lovely morning – not raining. Got to the line at 9:30am and Mark and Bekk almost at the front so we all pushed in up to them. Our friends from Brisbane from the engagement party on the top of the pass where in line too. At 10, the doors opened and we filled out of China, handed over our passports numerous times to straight faced people – had bags x-rayed and looked through and all the while holding our bikes and wearing lycra. Then we were through – 20 minutes later. Outside and told not to ride our bikes across the bridge. Or take pictures.  The bridge was over a stunning water fall and canyon. Half way along bridge is a LINE with Chinese soldiers on one side and Nepalese on the other – very weird.

We can see Nepal

We can see Nepal

 

Jumped over line and into Nepal and the road is noticeably worse and atmosphere crazy too. Bobbing along next to us is women carrying all our belongings – tiny people hauling our bike boxes on their heads and our heavy bags too. Felt a little guilty.

friendship bridge tibet

Nepal immigration no big deal and then we were all on the side of the road with Baji and Saki and watching our stuff file in – plop, plop, plop. In all the confusion we didn’t get to say goodbye properly to Nema – such a lovely sole. Waved to Tenzing at Tibetan boarder. We sat and waited with our stuff and checked it was all there while waiting for our new truck which was late apparently. Mark off visiting every toilet he could find – he’s still not too well, very hustle and bustle here. We eventually left Baja and Saki to it and took off downhill. 50km down along some very, very bad roads – landslides and pot holes galore and rocks for roads was hard work concentrating. Wow, every muscle working to stay on the bike. Went through this huge muddy landslide and managed to stay on the bike – cool. Then we went over streams and all the while trucks and cars are also using the very narrow road.

riding in nepal

Stopped at one point and Renae was having a panic attack re the trucks. She calmed down and got on with it, so brave. More downhill craziness for quite some time until we hit a town. Regrouped here and carried onto lunch. Was hot now and not all downhill but “rolling”. We lost 2 hours at the boarder so at 12pm it was really 2pm China time and I was reaching saturation point as to how many muesli bars I could consume and I’d eaten my mars bar at the boarder. I did okay until the last couple of hills before lunch when all energy drained from me and thoughts of lunch were consuming me. Finally I saw the truck (our new truck) and I got excited until Saki and his fantastic smile said – another 5 km to go! Another 5km and I caught Kalden and we rode up the hill to a check point and found the others – we’d gone too far – back down the hill and to a little restaurant for lunch.—Finally. Little plate for vego’s and bigger plate for meat eaters. But they kept on filling up our plate as you ate. Initially I was put off as dahl came around to be refilled on my plate and it looked like a bucket of vomit! I got over that though and ate 3 more servings of it and also the Aloo curry. Yum. Hands washed thoroughly and stomachs full we continued on the bike. Mark and Bekk, then Steve and Wendy and me and then Renae, Tobi and Kalden. Up and over – rolling along for 18km till Saki and truck indicating down to a bridge then another umpteen km along a rolling (mostly up hill) to the 18km pass. Somewhere after the bridge I caught up to Steve and Wendy while Wendy was buying water. Then we rode as a team to the bottom of the pass – 18km of up to go to do our final pass. Woo hoo. Wendy bought a very powdery banana to mark the occasion and Steve a green mango. We hung around a bit eating this and then crossed the road to start riding and the truck turned up with Kalden, Renae and Tobi. Renae has done so well considering still having the runs. Renae telling Tobi to ride, Steve not feeling great, loads of discussion and I was ready to ride so Wendy and I took off and left Steve and Tobi to sort out what they were doing. This pass was great – it went up a bit and then went DOWN! Wow – first 4 km done in record time of 20km/hour – great. Next 12 not so fast. The 2 x juicy’s served me well and we took off. Lots of little shops, dogs, goats, cows and trucks along the way as we weaved our way up the mountain to Dhulikhel – 1000m up! We even saw a rainbow over the direction we’d come.

bike riding in Nepal

Far too many Tata Trucks on a narrow road.

We stopped when we wanted but more or less just ripped up that mountain – girls on a mission. With about 10km to go we started to do it in 2km lots. 2km then stop and rest and let our perineum breath again. Going up is hard on the nethers! Each 2 km was hard, the last 800metes of each 2km was harder still, but we soldiered on. I was in my element – wasn’t too bad actually, little stripy socked legs going round and around. Passed the truck a couple of times – reassuring to see it. Lots of other trucks on the road actually – and they not so welcome. At one point a Tata truck was coming at me and a Tata truck was passing me and I thought it is Tata Kate! Somehow we were still alive at 3km to go and I made the final push to the end. Cycle, cycle up and up and I got to this hill that was steeper and not wanting another break I thought – I will rest my perineum and walk up it and that was a good call, as back on the bike and 1 km and then I was at the top and Saki and his brilliant smile met me and Baja too. Woo hoo! Such a great feeling – I’d made it to the top.

Dhulikah

Making it to the top of another pass – such a great feeling

Thankfully it had cooled down a bit too as boy did I sweat. 18km – 2 ¼ hours and only one toilet stop in a drain near the top. Saki ran with us and showed us the way to the lodge. Mark and Bekk there and enjoying welcome drinks in the garden. Mark somehow made it up with his still dodgy tummy and very, very sore butt. Super human effort. We sat and talked about our amazing day – ordered momo’s and just recalled the day – so good. Others arrived, Renae got out of the truck and did the final 5km , good on her. And then we got our keys – walked down endless steps and finally got clean – logged on to wifi and Facebook for the first time since Nepal and ate dinner in the restaurant. Yum again curry with chapatti for me. Bed still hard – but soft compared with China.

Nepali Cooks

These two wonderful men kept us well fed and gave us the energy to ride.

Day 13 Dhulikhel to Kathmandu

Arranged breakfast for 8am – which was 10am China and everyone starving before breakfast came along and then breakfast took FOREVER. Must have only one cook. Like 1 ¾ hours. Got muesli and milk and omelette. One pancake enough for Renae – as per the waiter’s suggestion. Then look around town and got money from ATM and back to pay at 10amish. We were all ready to ride to Kathmandu. Ready – then it rained – after 16 days we are scared of the rain so took shelter under the hotel. After waiting 15 minutes we took turns at the van to find jackets and finally set off – 5 mins down the road we were sweltering and the rain had stopped. Stopped and jackets came off. Mainly downhill actually which was nice for a change. Streets getting busier and busier until we suddenly found ourselves on the out skirts of Kathmandu. Re grouped and we were all together – still – just. Our new truck we discovered was just inching itself to Kathmandu behind us. Often this was a blessing as you knew it would let you in to the traffic. Once in Kathmandu there were cars and motorcycles and other cycles everywhere and we all just weaved around them all. At a stop prior to Kathmandu – like 20 mins from Dhulikhel I’d got out the facemasks for everyone – this riding was  becoming messy and smelly work. We were all covered in mud. Somehow we all survived, but it was crazy. Weaving and pot holes and getting stuck behind buses that suddenly stop and let people on and off. We lost Renae and Steve at one point – they’d apparently turned off and gone another way around a roundabout and Wendy and I lost too with Kalden showing us the way – we then had to cross the road which took forever. Roundabout done and we caught up and finally we where off the main streets and weaving through Thamel and the shops and tourists and then arrived at the Eco resort – We’d arrived and Renae and Steve waiting (like 3 minutes). Saki there to greet us and not long after the van arrived, everyone elated – we’d done it. Everyone filthy dirty – how could we be this dirty riding on a street when we weren’t this dirty the whole time? Bikes full of mud. The odometer reads 990km. 10 short of 1000. Wow weeee. Lots of “make picture” moments in all different poses.  Such a remarkable experience spent with good friends and one I will remember forever.

kathmandu

990km from Lhasa to Kathmandu and we all survived and are still smiling

 

 

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2 Responses

  1. Eamonn Sweeney says:

    Hi

    Great article.

    I’m doing this trip next Sept. I’m a road biker and have never really rode a MTB.

    Any tips on how to train for this trip and what type of MTB I should bring (I’m currently looking at a Cannondale hardtail, triple chainring).

    Any other tips appreciated!!

    Thanks

    • The Outdoor Diaries says:

      Hi Eamonn, so excited to hear you’ll be biking in Tibet. We all had hard tail Mountain bikes which worked well as you will be riding on the road most of the time. The road gets instantly worse when you enter Nepal! I wasn’t a bike rider when I did this trip, I only bought my bike to go on this trip…. So I trained by riding up and down plenty of hills. They key is when you get there, is to respect the altitude and not push to keep up with your ride mates. Stop and take small rests when riding over mountain passes and you’ll not “pop a gasket” and be unable to ride as you’re too dizzy now. Otherwise, just eat lots and enjoy the descents! Kate.

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