(A mix of travel notes and comments added later)
14-09-2014 - Sunday
Todays pass, Lhakpa La, was a real challenge. Starting at 4100m it rose continuously to 5240m. Unlike the earlier passes it was more like a NZ one going straight up a river valley with some steeper gradients, rather than having switchbacks.
There was a bit of traffic on the road. The locals were gathering stones, slate?, and carting them back to the village in motorised carts.
I stopped for a bite to eat at what happened to be about halfway up the pass (although couldn’t see the top). From there the climb got a steeper with little relief. The ‘ledge’ road sign was a new one to me, stay away from the edge!
I found the last ten km a real challenge ending up resting for a few minutes every 2km, 1km nearer the top! Since I was stopping anyway I took a lot of photos! The arch draped with prayer flags which marked the top was a very welcome sight.
A cool headwind arrived and dark clouds were building up on the nearby peaks. The bus was waiting at the top and I was one of the last to get there. it was the first really high pass I’d ridden since being off Diamox which may have been a factor.
Some didn't do all the climb, they'd already taken off towards Tingri. The descent was gradual and the headwind meant you had to pedal to maintain speed.
I stopped for the balance of my (packed) lunch and noticed the clouds were really building, even had a spot of rain. In about 15 minutes the weather went from bright sun to quite a threatening looking storm front building.
Although nominally a sealed road there were lots of road works with long stretches of gravel/dirt, often single lane. Seemed to be no logic to how this was being done as some bits had been ripped up but had no sign of any work going on. Other places had been ripped up and a were being rebuilt. They had small temporary quarry, rock crushing and concrete plant near the road to provide the materials. No Ready-mix concrete deliveries here!
Was glad of the wide tyres, suspension and disc brakes on this downhill. Although the gradient wasn’t especially steep (still had to pedal) had to keep the speed in check on the rough bits.
At one stretch I waited for a truck to come through, to avoid its dust as much as anything. It was carrying the remains of a Mercedes M Class which must have had a rough ride. Every panel was dented, looked like it had rolled several times.
I thought I had 40-50km to go (turned out it was nearer 30km) and was riding alone. As it was getting cold (wind chill) and late decided to jump in the bus when it next appeared. That was further 10km down the road.
I wasn’t sure what we were doing for tea (restaurant/hotel) and didn't want to arrive late and inconvenience the others as 50km could take two or three hours in this terrain. The bus always follows the last rider, those riding it get the same slow trip.
As it turned out the road improved, as did the weather, so could have probably kept riding. I did ride from the last police checkpoint into Shegar as couldn’t got through it on the bus anyway (paperwork!).
Although happy I made the right call at the time this was the only bit of the trip I did on the bus where I could have ridden.
Pity, I can’t say I rode all the way!
The 'hotel' is less than spectacular although one of the best in town. The actual room is tolerable, for a night, but they have no hot water at all!
After several nights of camping and a long day in the saddle looking forward to a shower it was really disappointing. The place was festooned with solar panels but not sure what they were heating.
I felt like pointing out even the word HOTel has more HOT in it than this establishment but doubt they'd understand
Instead of a nice hot shower it was a basin wash with water boiled in the jug. I have a room to myself tonight, well had to share it with my bike but it didn’t mind the snoring…
Dinner (at the hotel) was a very average buffet, mostly vegetables and little meat (none I'd eat, which is rare for this carnivore). Camp meals are much better than this!
Tomorrow we head for Everest Base Camp via Rongbuk Monastery but it'll be a couple of days riding.
One feature, a good one, of Bas’ guiding is that he will ignore the trip notes and change plans if required. The next couple of days were to prove the wisdom of this approach.
Quote of the day:
"Where's that damn bus?" – Me having decided I'd had enough riding for the day. The bus appeared soon enough then later I regretted getting on it. Fickle eh!
- Lunch stop @ 5071km’stone, altitude 4606.500 meters
- Lhakpa La Pass Crest altitude 5220 meters
- Shegar Hotel Bed altitude 4334.500 meters