SHIGATSE TO RONGBUK
SHIGATSE TO LHATSE – (Bus Trip 58km) 92.61km Total Ascend 879m. Total Descend 763m
So I was feeling refreshed as we started today. We actually had a bit of a journey in the bus to get us started as covering the full 160km would just be too much in the context of the whole trip. Despite this one of the guys in our group (Nigel) decided to give it a shot and left early by himself on the bike. We ended up picking him up about 30km’s in as it was just too cold! When we finally got going the terrain was rolling up and down but quite pleasant. The weather was still quite cold so the uphill was quite welcome to generate a bit of heat! We did have two passes to negotiate today but at 4050m and 4520m we handled them easily.
The 5000 kilometre marker to Bejing
We also passed the 5000km marker to Bejing, it had a lot of graffiti written on it left by the many Chinese tourists. We had also become a favourite of many of the Chinese tourists who liked to get their picture taken with us and our bikes! When we got to our guesthouse it was back to basic accommodation (no hot water or showers and literally a long drop for a toilet).
An example of the “long drop” toilets we would need to get used to. This was actually one of the better ones!!
The big pack of baby wipes I packed was coming in handy for the “dry showers”! Not to mention the “dry shampoo”! Overall I didn’t smell too bad! Lol
LHATSE TO SHEGAR – 82.49km (27km climb to 5248m) Total Ascend 1362m. Total Descend 1062m
This morning when we left Lhatse the sun was shining bright and the day felt really crisp and fresh. It was also really peaceful and I was happy to cycle by myself for a bit as everything just had a really relaxed feel about it.
A beautiful start to the morning
This was soon to change however as we had the highest pass of the Friendship Highway ahead of us. At 5248m this would be the highest we would go and could potentially see our first glimpse of Mt Everest at the top. I was a little anxious how my body was going to cope with the altitude so I promised myself to take it easy and made sure I stopped this time to drink more fluids and take in some energy bars. I also got some tunes on the iPod and I think this helped a lot! (The Chinese tourist going past in a car and shouting”Go Faster did NOT! I think she meant to be encouraging but just got the wrong choice of words?) Anyway I think I got to the top in a little over 4 hours! Unfortunately the weather had clouded over higher up so there was no view of Everest but I felt pretty good all the same. It was cold though so I was grateful for the mug of tea (provided by our amazing Tibetan helpers) shoved into my hand to warm me up at the top! We didn’t hang around long at the top as we still had some mileage to do but at least it was mostly downhill or flat.
Me and my mug of tea at 5248m
Arriving at the guesthouse I do have to admit I felt pretty tired but when I discovered the boys who had arrived ahead of me in the “bar” drinking a beer I felt obliged to join them. (At 7 yuan, which is roughly 70p for a large 600ml bottle “How could I refuse”?). I was very glad to have opted to pay the $10 upgrade for our accommodation tonight and get a descent hot shower! It had been a really tough day and this was probably the most physically tired I had been but I went to bed happy!
SHEGAR TO TASHI ZOM – 50.41km Total Ascent 1026. Total Descend 1168m
So although the distance to be covered today was relatively short compared to what we have been doing this is the start of us going off road so it makes it much tougher! As always the day starts off with the uphill! This time the 5200m Pang La Pass. All off road! All bumpy! And what felt like a million switchbacks! (When the road turns back on itself). Despite this, and admittedly I might be a little crazy, I really loved it! Riding off road is definitely more fun! I also managed to find extra strength from somewhere and made it to the top pretty quick behind only the first two boys. (Admittedly I’m not sure some of the others were trying that hard)? Today we had lunch at the top of the pass with some great views but unfortunately still no Everest! Somehow we also managed to persuade Mangal, our guide, that it would be a good idea to take us down the single track that led us downhill from the top! It was actually pretty steep and a bit technical in parts but we all made it down in one piece and it was so much fun!
Group rest on our way back down!
The rest of the way was a bit wider and still quite bumpy but not so much that you couldn’t go fast! Mountain Biking I’ve decided is much like skiing, it’s about trying to pick out the best line and go as fast as you can, hoovering on that tipping point of being in control and being totally out of control! Of course I LOVED IT! Arriving at our guesthouse we all had pretty big smiles on our faces! We smiled even more when we discovered that here the beer was only 6 yuan! This made up for another guesthouse with no shower or hot water! (The first of 3 nights in a row!). Tashi Zom itself is a somewhat forgetful town but I was struck by the alarming number of stray dogs! Even for Tibet there seemed too many!!
TASHI ZOM TO RONGBUK – 42.08km. Total Ascent 933m. Total Descent 88m
So today is the day that weather permitting we will finally see what for many of us, is the highlight of the trip. Up until now Mount Everest has always been hiding under the cloud but today we will be riding up close to base camp. We are praying for good weather so we can see her summit! The road today is again bumpy in a “if you didn’t laugh you would cry!” kinda way. It is deceptively slightly uphill to start and it seems none of us can really go that fast (apart maybe from Nigel who arrives everywhere first)! The weather though is nice so as the rest of us play cat and mouse as we stop and pass each other back and forth on the way to our lunch stop, we are chatty and relaxed, laughing about how much hard work it is but we can’t quite work out why?
Lunch before the final climb to Rongbuk
After lunch, buoyed by the idea that we will finally see her, I managed to rally a bit more energy and set off at a comfortable pace. The down side of this is that I kind of end up all by self. I cannot see Nigel who is always out in front and I also quickly loose track of those behind. I also don’t have a GPS watch or anything that gives me distance or altitude so it’s difficult to know how far you’ve got to go! The ride by myself is actually quite nice and it’s easy to get lost in your own thoughts as you take in your surroundings. I am relieved though when I finally see the bus go past and drop off some of the others who had clearly had enough and opted for a bit of a ride! This means I must be close as they have chosen to walk the last little part to Rongbuk. I suddenly remember to look up into the clouds and then all of sudden she appears, not in her entirety, but there is no mistaking her all the same! I am lifted in spirit and energy (and probably start swearing quite a bit in my excitement)! The last couple of kilometres are easy as I ride in her shadow. The cloud also starts to clear a bit so when I arrive at the Rongbuk Monastory, where our guesthouse is located, I can clearly see the summit.
The moment I arrived………!
Mount Everest viewed from the Rongbuk Monastory
Trying to put into words and describe to you how I felt is very difficult, I almost start crying again, but this time it’s not the altitude even though we are close to 5200m. Gradually everybody else arrives and we just sit there and gaze at her as our view improves and the cloud lifts fully! The clarity of the air is amazing and the view really is spectacular! I have been told by others that the view of the North Face from Tibet is better than the view you get if you trek to the Nepalese Base camp. I can’t really confirm this as I haven’t been but I am blown away by the views from Rongbuk. As a group we are all really happy at dinner as we sit inside looking out at her through the window. I have to keep pinching myself to remind me where I am!
RONGBUK TO BASE CAMP and back 16km Total Ascend 266m Total Descend 266m
Today is an easy day, a day to act like the tourists that we are and take lots of photos! After breakfast we have only 8km more to go to reach the tourist “Base Camp” which without a proper mountaineering permit is the closest we can get.
The final ride to Base Camp
Nobody is in a rush today and we all stop for lots of picture opportunities. In actual fact “Base Camp” turns out to be little more than a mound with a Chinese policeman to “keep the peace” but we don’t let this get us down. The views are fantastic and we have a clear view of the summit. We sit there for more than an hour chatting and taking more photos. It’s hard to see how the rest of the trip will live up to this? As we cycle away from her and back down to the guesthouse it really does feel like a dream has become a reality but it’s having a hard time sinking in!
Group photo at the top
The rest of the day is spent relaxing and most of us opt for a good long power nap in the afternoon. When I resurface later in the day another group has arrived who are doing the same trip as us but on Royal Enfield Motorbikes. These bikes are very popular for touring around this part of the world, especially in India. The group are mostly British and as I talk to them describing our trip and my experiences they are blown away by the fact that we are cycling the route! I am reminded what a truly amazing experience I am having!