Lhasa – Kathmandu 2

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 Day 10: We started to ride this day at about 10am, we were led out of the city and onto a fast, sealed road, where we found we had a tail wind and it was gently downhill along the valley toward Shigatse, -it became a very fast ride!

Along the road side the land was flat, arable, and it was the day for cultivating! 






Every available horse, ox and yak must have been out there pulling a plough or harrows, and the women were coming close behind, doing the planting.
As we got further down the valley, the crops of barley were further ahead and already sprouting, it became warmer as we went on and left the mountains behind.
About mid-afternoon we reached the city of Shigatse, checking into the Shigatse Hotel. It was another hotel of the same Chinese design and just as cold as we expected it to be! It must take also a prize however, for being the most unbelievably overdecorated hotel in history !


-even on Chinese standards the lobby here is grossly overdone!

Shigatse is the second largest town in Tibet, but it seems to being missing out on a lot of what Lhasa is getting from the rampant Chinese economy. Its streets and buildings are modern but uncared for, it is dirty, untidy and unattractive.

It has one major claim to  faim however, as the traditional home of the Panchen Lama Lineage. The Panchen Lama is the second spiritual head of the church in Tibet, second  but still subservient to the Dalai Lama. His position too has a political involvement, such that the present incumbent, like the one before him, is currently under house arrest somewhere in China, -and he is still only a boy!
The home of the Panchen Lama in Shigatse is the Tashilhunpo Monastery. Like the Potala in Lhasa, it has a commanding position on the hill above the city. 


From the outside likewise, it is an impressive building, a complex of palaces, temples and a functioning monastery.








but our arrival was at the wrong time of the day, late in the afternoon just as several tour buses and landcruiser groups of Chinese arrived in town and descended upon it.


We could see little for the people, they crowded into the temples, with guides making loud commentaries, but many of them too, were combining a fleeting pilgrimage, hastily pushing forward from deity to deity, making donations, paying homage and making their prayers…
Although we couldn’t see it well however,we couldn’t fail to be impressed by the 26 metre high guilded statue of the future Buddha, -the world’s largest they say,  but it was off the ‘allowed to be photographed’ list. In the circumstances, we had to make do with lesser easier seen images…elephants and monkeys, albeit in a more lightening cartoon style…


Dinner that evening was in a Nepalese Restaurant downtown, and I can recommend their banana lassi and vegetable curry but no-one was unhappy with their meal!

Day 10’s ride: 95 km  Altitude 3880.

Day 11: After coughing my way through a cold night in the Shigatse Hotel we departed about 10.00am, riding through the city to continue on the highway, the other side of town. The road surface was good, the terrain relatively flat with only minor undulations, but we were slowly climbing up in a wide valley.


The land around was poor looking, but was being cultivated, we passed scattered houses and small settlements.


Later in the day ,on the distant side of the valley was the isolated Gyachung Monastery, but it was not somewhere for us to stop, we were pushing on to the campsite.
The last 20 km proved quite difficult with increasing climb, a head-wind and uncertain distance to go, so no-one was unhappy to see the tents of the campsite in the distance at about 4pm.


I spent the rest of the afternoon coughing and sleeping in the tent…

Day 11’s ride 99 km, Altitude 4100m

Day12:  It was a comfortable night at the campsite, we had the company of yaks for breakfast.




They are unbelievably docile, these had just wandered through the camp from the nearby houses.

The ride was an easy start, we climbed steadily further up the valley and then in the distance was the next obstacle, Yulong Pass. It was a long ramp of well-formed road, consistent gradient, and proved not too difficult; we climbed about 400metres from the valley to reach the prayer flags on the summit.


(Tibetans always have prayer flags blowing in the wind at the top of any road summit, sometimes as here, they will toss paper prayer notes into the breeze as well, -for good measure!)


Of course it was cold on the hill-top and especially so when we came to ride down the fast decline on the other side


However, our reward was at our lunchstop, not too far beyond the bottom of the hill, at hot springs, about 10km before the town of Lhatse!


The hot water was fed into a pool in a covered building, it was suitably hot, clean, didn’t smell, we had it almost to ourselves, -and were not even asked to pay!
It was a great way to get properly warm again…
After lunch it was only a short ride into the town of Lhatse, a sizeable, but unexciting place. The Brazilians elected to stop there in a hotel for the night, but the remainder of us preferred to camp, we carried on the short distance to the next campsite.
Between Lhatse and the campsite unfortunately was a checkpoint, checking for what I am uncertain, but we were held up there for more than an hour. It was sunny and windless in that spot; for the second time that day, we all became hot, -then uncomfortably hot as we waited still longer without explanation. There didn’t seem to be a problem with us or our visas, only eventually we were allowed to pass once the crew had handed over 2 of our LPG bottles which were confiscated! (Fortunately we were still left with another 2, I do not know if the authorities were aware of that, but at least we could still have cooked food!)
Why that happened was one of those Chinese mysteries which neither T1 nor T2 could (or were inclined to) fully explain to us…
Our  campsite for the night was only a few kilometres further on, at the beginning of a narrowing, steeper valley which we would climb in the morning. 
There was a nice clean stream and it was a delightful spot, once the afternoon wind down the valley settled in the evening.


The proximity of the nearby village however ensured that we had a steady stream of ‘visitors’ well into the evening, adults and children…


Here Alex and Tamara with bicycles are being studied by a curious but mute woman standing idly by with her shovel…Their’s is a different perspective of ‘personal space’, they will often come close to peer inside the open door of a tent, but in the case of the adults anyway it was always ‘look, but no touch’.
The children here were noisy, and a bit of a nuisiance, although their behaviour didn’t seem too worrying that evening compared with that in some other campsites. However, the following morning Anthony discovered his cycling shoes and socks had been stolen from beneath the tent flap, along with a canvas tent bag…it was the only true incidence of theft (that we were aware of) during the whole trip.
T1 went down to the village in the morning on a mission to recover the items, he was successful, -but only with the help of a small bribe to a parent!Day 12’s ride 75 km Altitude 4000.Day 13: The climb over Lakpa Pass this morning started immediately on leaving the camp,


it was on well formed, recently rebuilt road with a very consistent and easy gradient, -but it did go on. It was 25 km from the campsite to the summit, about 1200m higher. I took it very slowly as to breath deeply or try to speak would bring on a fit of deep, painful coughing, (not that it was really any different from the days before or the days after, but I did seem more aware of it on that Lakpa Pass climb!)


The prayer flags at the summit were a very welcome sight, it also marked the entrance to the National Park which included Mt Everest, we were now getting somewhere!
However it was freezing cold with a strong wind and there were many local people on the summit intent on selling us trinkets, they were quickly given, and received, the message not to bother me until I had my warm clothes on!
Once that was done I could  pay attention to my surroundings


and indicate the altitude on the signboard, the one part of it I could read…


Then it was the turn of Anthony and Stephanie to draw the curious onlookers.

We had been told that we might be able to see Everest from here, but there was no chance of that today, there were white snow showers blowing in from that direction.
It was too cold to wait for the rest of the group, the snow came, so once again in full cold weather gear we headed off down the other side to our lunch-stop in the shelter of the valley.
There was a freezing cold wind, although we were going downhill we had to pedal hard into it; it snowed and hailed freezing our faces…The ‘Rescue Orange’ cooking tent signifying lunch couldn’t have been more welcome or appropriately named that day!
Of course soon after, the sun came out and it warmed up so it was easier for those coming later…
We enjoyed our lunch in the sun and lay about for some time before setting off for the afternoon ride down the valley to Shegar.
Unfortunately, it was then as I stood then that I discovered I couldn’t. I blacked out and fell onto the gravel. It was a strange feeling, something I had almost done several times over the days before, but always controlled it… I tried 3 more times and each time I couldn’t, I still blacked out; my blood pressure just wasn’t there!
I was determined to get on my bike thinking that once I got going I would be alright, but when I found I couldn’t stand long enough to even put my helmet on I was convinced I was not going to win…
I conceded, and (though I had little choice) allowed myself to be bundled into the back of the truck to ride…
There I stayed, slowly getting my head back over the 35 km truck ride down to Shegar, where we were to spend the night, -in a hotel.
I somewhat dizzily checked into the hotel, -of course it was cold and there was no hot water, but by keeping all my warm clothes on, under the blankets I did manage to sleep a little.
I slowly recovered my head, but it took all the afternoon before I felt safe to venture out for a short slow walk around Shegar…




It is only a small town, without major development yet, but it is a hub for the Everest tourist industry. There is a collection of small hotels, shops and agencies who will arrange 4wd tours to the big mountain.
Situated as it is in the junction of 2 valleys it has some great hillscapes around it, rugged profiles and dramatic scouring patterns of erosion…








and the late afternoon sun brings out the best of the patterns of light and shade.

The hot water was available in our hotel rooms from 7-9pm, we appreciated it for the short time we had it, there was no heating otherwise. The bathroom was also very dark, it would have been impossible to consider shaving, but we had all given that up after the first attempt 10 days ago anyway, it was a far too painful process on our dry, cracked and scaling skin, it would wait!

At dinner time we went back into the town from our big Chinese Hotel to a smaller local Tibetan one. It was warm! It was only a small place, the bar and restaurant area was low ceilinged with heavy beams, the panels between decorated with murals, but most importantly there was a central stove, fired with yak dung, keeping the place warm and with a constant supply of boiling water on top. Why couldn’t we be staying there instead of that awful Chinese Mausoleum?
We all had a good meal, my Yak curry had the tenderest of meat cubes, -although there were not a lot of them…and the potatoes as always were excellent. For 10 yuan, about NZ$2.50 it was not bad eating.

Back at our hotel, we were able to have a reasonably warm night’s after all, they supplied 2 inch thick woollen  blankets, impossibly heavy to move beneath, but they did keep the warm in!

Day 13’s ride (for those who, unlike me, did it all): 75km Altitude 4250m

Day 14: Although still somewhat light-headed and after a meagre breakfast from the hotel buffet (all there was available!) I set out riding with the group at about 9.30 am. It was cold as there was cloud obscuring the sun and we were riding into a breeze.
Shortly out of Shegar we had to pass through a passport control, fortunately on this occasion uneventfully. 
We were on the main part of the Southern Friendship Highway so it was a good road and we were going down the valley, but soon we took a left turn off the highway, toward the village of Chay, on a rough, narrow, badly corrugated road, slowly climbing…

It didn’t take us long to realise that we were now on the ‘Landcruiser Route to Everest Base Camp’. This is where they were all going, and we were in their way. Many of the 4wds travel alone, but also many do not, they pass in convoys, numbered 1 to 12 -or 15 (and remarkably, most often they are still in their numerically correct order after presumably 100s of kilometres travelling!) None of them pass slowly, invariably they come from behind with a honking of horn, they don’t seem to realise we can hear them without, then they honk again impatiently when we haven’t immediately moved over to the side of the road they want us to!  But we have the right to our preferred track on the road too, and the impatience of many of them was replied by me with the single finger salute…although I’m sure that almost certainly it probably meant nothing to a Chinese National, but I felt better for it.

(Just note that not all this tirade of hatred for Chinese 4wds grew in me over the short 10km ride between the Friendship Highway and the small town of Chay, but it was the beginning and it developed thereafter over the next 48 hours to Everest Base Camp…!)

Chay was in fact a delightful little village, another checkpoint,  we waited there a short while at passport control




as our riders came in.


Beyond Chay the road climbed towards Pang Pass


starting gently, it continued through a series of 42 (documented) hairpin bends and 1000 m to the top of the pass at 5150 m


Once again the prayer flags on the summit (5150m) were a welcome sight,




But of course it was cold…We waited awhile for the rest of the group and then lunch was served, fortunately in a tent.
Again the promised views of Everest and all the other mountains was just not happening for us; but we couldn’t wait; we had to keep going down.
We thought the hairpins going up were impressive, but when we saw them on the other side…they were an art-form!


It was a dramatic landscape




like nothing we had experienced before; but it was too cold to stay around and enjoy it!
We had to go on down, with all those Landcruisers and through all those corrugations…it was a matter of gritting the teeth, choking on the dust and hanging on!

Further down in the valley, out of the influence of the wind, it became more temperate.


people lived there, they farmed and grazed their animals; they made terraces for their crops


but it was only a very ruggedly beautiful landscape!


Ruins of houses and cave dwellings also showed bad times in the past.

A the village of Tashi Dzom we met the Dzakar Chu River, we turned right and within a few kilometres were at our camp.

As is common at that time of the day, the wind blowing down the valley was fierce, the crew were having trouble managing all the tents; we helped when we could, but as we couldn’t communicate, were of little value…
The campsite once the tents were erected however, was a good one, alongside a sizeable river


and later; there were good evening views of the Himalayas upstream.


Day 14’s ride 65 km Altitude 4200m

Day 15: the wind dropped overnight as it always did, the morning was pleasantly calm, clear and sunny.
At about 9.30am we set out riding; but the Landcruisers had beaten us to it, they started while we were still having our breakfast…
The road was no better than the day before, narrow, ungraded, with metal size of anything from dust to small rocks and corrugations over its whole surface. It was unpleasant riding especially with the impatient 4wdrivers coming up behind.


We were now in the Rongbuk Valley, the one leading to Everest, we continued to follow it up all day.


It was dry, brown and dusty




as we passed groups of houses and small settlements, we got closer to the mountains.


We eventually left all those houses behind as the valley narrowed and the mountains at the end of it became bigger.


Is that one Everest???? -I asked on several occasions…
But before too long around another bend, there it was, without doubt…


and then it wasn’t too many more kilometres before the Rongbuk Monastery and our campsite…


There was no doubt about which mountain was which then! Everest commanded the valley -we were fortunate that it stayed clear for so long; but it was a freezing wind that was blowing straight down the valley off the mountain.
The days ride had been was slow over the corrugated roads but there had been a climb of almost 1000m.
The campsite was immediately alongside the little Rongbuk monastery; which was only built early this century but is still active and they say the highest in the world. With Everest as a back-drop,


it cannot help but be dramatic, if nothing else!






The cold breeze limited exploring much further that day.

Day 15’s ride 39km Altitude 5150m

Day 16: was to be a ‘rest’ day, we would stay at the Rongbuk Monastery Campsite.
Not surprisingly it was a slow start in the morning, although we were keen to catch the mountain while (and if) it was clear, that was more likely in the morning than later in the day.
Some walked from our campsite, others of us rode, but whichever way, it was only to be another 8km of corrugations to the Tibetan Everest Base Camp. In fact  the bad road was for less, as about 3 kilometres from the campsite all the 4wd vehicles had to stop, they were allowed no further. There was a cluster of souvenir stalls, tea shops and guest-houses, -all in tents.


and to procede beyond that, people in cars needed either to walk or take a ride in a donkey cart


So the last 5 km riding beyond was a corrugationless dream on a nicely metalled road, -in spite of the lack of air; it was so smooth, we felt we could fly!


Base Camp itself turned out to have little to offer.
There were assorted tents of un-named expeditions



but there was no activity of interest.
The mountain too proved elusive although we caught it at various times, almost clear;



the Rongbuk Glacier below it


and with the marker post showing the altitude to confirm I got there…(well, I was on my bike…)


It wasn’t what I had envisaged I would do with a day off at Everest Base Camp, months ahead I had imagined that I’d be finding some track or ridge to go off climbing for the day. Far from it; we were not even permitted to walk up the track onto the Glacier beyond the Base Camp, let alone go off scaling some peak at the side of the valley…not that when it came to it I would have felt inclined to anyway! In reality, it was hard enough to climb the little hillock of terminal moraine at the base camp to take photographs without adding another 1000m to it!
Instead, as the mountain wasn’t obliging by clearing and cold snowy showers were coming across, we didn’t stay about; we ate our packed lunches and slowly returned mid-afternoon to our Rongbuk Campsite.

The evening was another night spent in camp, but it was notable  for being John’s birthday celebration


and another cake was produced by the cook;


Everest also cleared itself nicely in honour during the early evening.

Day 17: We awoke to the rustle of snow falling off the tents


It was a spectacular sight and the snow was continuing.
Our 7.30 am cup-of-tea-in-the-tent normal delivery was late however as the crew found it difficult to get out of bed too, possibly because of the snow, but rather we suspected because of sore heads and a rather late night…
It was very cold and still snowing lightly as we left to ride back down the valley. The going was a little easier as it was downhill and we only went about 15km along the Rongbuk Road before we turned left, rode down an unlikely looking track onto riverbed, across a bridge and onto the grass bank on the other side.


We were taking a short-cut, cross-country, to the town of Tingri. This road was barely used, in places barely more than a double track and certainly off the normal Landcruiser route, we all enjoyed some excellent mountain-biking.


It gradually climbed a wide open valley which was unpopulated apart from one small village


but from which,naturally, the children came running


These children were as dirty and as curious as the rest of them, but they were different, they were not pushing and demanding in the same way; maybe a reflection that the tourist industry wasn’t using this road much yet?


The road climbed steadily back up to 5100m and over a gentle pass, the summit was marked with a modest cairn and collection of prayer flags, then descended to our lunch spot by a stream in the valley just below.


It was a late lunch and by then the wind was up and although it was sunny, it was cold, we didn’t linger.


The ride was downhill however, the wind was mainly behind us and although the road was in parts very rough, we made fast progress down the valley.


The views of the surrounding mountains were spectacular, the valley itself rugged and barren.


I regretted we were riding so fast, concentrating on the road, rather than the scenery!

As the valley opened out later in the afternoon the wind increased and dust storms were overtaking us. They would only last a few minutes as a wind gust came down the valley from behind, but we were soon uniformly light brown in colour; dust coated that is; apart from those parts of our legs and feet where the dust became mud cake as we forded little streams…


We were a very dirty lot when we arrived to wait for the truck at the checkpoint in the little town of Chakru;


-we resembled the inhabitants of this windblown, dusty little town


The authorities were easily satisfied, we were permitted to ride on to our campsite, only about 5 km later, near the town of Tingri


seen here in the distance as a small dust storm passes by it.


It was a very windy campsite, it seemed impossible that the tents could ever be erected; the Brazilians opted for the high-lights of a hotel in Tingri instead.
But our tents were finally up, staying up and they had no more hot water in the Tingri Hotel than we did…we made good use of the irrigation stream running through the campsite to wash bodies and bikes…


In the evening when the wind dropped, the mountains cleared, it became the most spectacular of our campsites yet.




Everest was completely clear on the left!

Day 17’s ride 69km  Altitude 4340m

Day 18: The next morning the scene was similar, but frosty, the little stream beginning to freeze over…


We rode through Tingri on the sealed road of the Friendship Highway, but it didn’t last long, within a few kilometres we were back onto a metalled, corrugated road, although as it was in the process of being graded, it was not all in bad condition.
A short distance beyond Tingri we stopped again for hot springs


at a small hotel on a hill. In the courtyard there was an open hot pool,


we took it over


much to the embarassment of the 2 boys who were enjoying it to themselves until we arrived. They needed the reassurance of their mother with a very large sarong to emerge from the water…
Like the last, the hot springs were clean and non-sulphurous although judging by the white on the land around the hotel, they were laden with salts.


After our thermal dip we resumed riding down the valley,


it became wide, open and uninteresting, it stayed that way all morning. We passed villages, there were also clusters of ruins, we were told (without verification) that they were the remains of fortifications against invading Nepalese.
After a lunch stop at the town of Gutso (appropriately named I thought, when I overdid the fried Spam!) the scenery changed as we turned up into another valley and had to ride into the strengthening wind. It became hard dusty going, not helped by passing heavy traffic.




The valley progressively narrowed and the road climbed further, we were heading towards another pass. Although our plan originally had been to ride that pass today, our guide T2 recommended that we should not, that we would camp beneath it to ride it in the morning.
None of us were sorry to see the tents at the campsite he chose, windy as it was…

Day 18’s ride 60km Altitude 4500

Day 19: Another snowy morning




As we knew we had a longer ride today we had resolved to get on the road earlier; but not very successfully, it was still 9.30 am when we left…


The advice from T2 that we should leave climbing the pass until this morning had been good, it would have been difficult pushing on up the valley into that strong head wind of the afternoon; in the calm of the morning it was much more pleasant.
The road gradually steepened and wound its way up the side of the valley to the first of 2 passes through the Himalaya  Range,  Lalung La. It was not a difficult climb and when we reached the prayer flags of the summit, although we had only climbed about 500 metres we felt we were on top of the world


then as we rode over the next ridge


the mountains were just there…-glass mountains, -there to reach out and touch.
We had 2 similar passes to climb in quick succession, as we descended the first, the next was visible in the distance


but between us and it, in the valley between, just by the buildings, was our lunchstop.


The second pass, (Thang), after lunch was short and an easy climb to the summit at 5050m


but the prayer flags here were of additional significance


notwithstanding the tremendous view of the mountains


it was the final pass of the whole trip! A momentous oocasion, so time for another group photograph with a full head count


It goes without saying that it was cold on top…once again, we had full cold weather gear on for the descent!
With an added feeling of accomplishment we had a fast ride down through the hairpins on the other side


into the valley beneath. It was cold down there too, with wind and fleeting snow showers,


and we arrived at our campsite next to the school at the town of Yarle about mid-afternoon, to spend the remainder chatting over endless cups of tea in the shelter of the dining tent.

Day 19’s ride 56 km Altitude 4265m

Day 20: It snowed on and off overnight, dogs howled incessantly, but we woke to a pleasant morning in the campsite


From before dawn we had been hearing the voices of children, thinking they were already around our tents, but in fact we were not the subject of their attentions at all


they were walking slowly about in the nearby field, reading and chanting repetitive verses from their schoolbooks, then when school opened, they disappeared, we didn’t see them.

Knowing that it was all downhill from here we set out enthusiastically and turned down the valley, I’d even heard one vow not to pedal until she reached Kathmandu! But in fact it didn’t turn out quite like that, there were still some significant climbs as the road went up over terraces in the valley or climbed to avoid bluffs.


It was still a beautiful valley, with high mountains in the distance,


and as we got further down,


increasing patches of green around the villages.








The town of Nyalam is new and Chinese,


but of significance as the road climbing to the little pass beyond it, with the dramatic mountain backdrop,


although we didn’t know it then,  was going to be the last uphill riding for a very long time!


We soon saw that it looked to be downhill from there-on…

Interestingly too, there, the weather suddenly changed. From being warm to the point of having to take clothes off as we went through Nyalam, when we started that long descent we were met with a cold head wind and increasing cloud, we were soon putting clothes back on.
There was some great rugged scenery in that fast ride down,


there were also endless road-works,


although we weren’t held up on bicycles, many vehicles couldn’t pass (Occupational safety and health would NEVER allow us to ride among the road-works the way the Chinese did!)


As we descended further the gorge narrowed and steepened even more, streams and waterfalls ran onto the road -and the remains of a winter-time avalanche…


Trees started appearing, firstly stunted conifers, larches then later, the broadleafs and deciduous birches…

Deeper and steeper,


the gorge just kept going on, and us with it…


that is, until we were forced to stop a while by a loud bang and flying rocks ahead…the workers had blasted away a cliff face!


even we felt it prudent to wait there while the rock was cleared away…


But we were loving riding this gorge, it demanded all the superlatives, longest, deepest, steepest, greenest and the river below was  an ungradeable cataract.


We kept thinking it must end soon and the gorge open out, but it didn’t, it appeared that it was going to last forever!


Of course it couldn’t, and didn’t, we eventually reached the town of Dram (aka Zhangmu) where we were to stop the night.


Not that Zhangmu is out of the gorge, it is still very much in it, perched high up on its wall, with no flat land and no tangible reason to be there!
It is however the last town in Tibet, the border with Nepal just below.

We had ridden 70 km and dropped an amazing 2000 metres! Already we felt we had more energy, we could walk up stairs and hills without feeling the need to pause for breath.


We checked into our final Tibetan Hotel, a new place, and nicer than the rest, there was hot water, light in the bathroom and as the weather was rapidly warming, it was time to brave a shave.

Dinner that night was cheerful, in the Himalaya Restaurant, I can really recommend the vegetable curry, the deep fried bananas and the Tibetan ‘Lhasa’ beer, my first for almost 3 weeks!

Day 20’s ride 70km Altitude 2300m

Day 21: It rained all night, that was the first we’d had in Tibet, we were now on the monsoon affected side of the ranges. The night in the hotel had been warm and pleasant listening to the rain and a nearby waterfall through the open window.
Breakfast that morning was a very strange affair; it started with slim pickings indeed, while other tables around were laden; it was if we weren’t really supposed to be there, but that staff were all too polite to say so! Tiny morsels came to us slowly, we were able to pick away but evidently when they saw that we intended to stay there until we were properly fed, one of them went to the nearby bakery and came back with some excellent fresh bread rolls and with their honey and jam, we ended up by being rather well off for breakfast!
We couldn’t work out the explanation for it, it was as if T1 booking us in, had neglected to mention that we’d be there for breakfast…maybe to recoup some personal debt we wondered?
Whatever, well fed, we said goodbye to the Tibetan crew who were to be returning to Lhasa and we departed on our bikes; the first stop just 200 m down the road at Tibetan Immigration to check out of the country.
That was easily completed, we next wanted the border…


but it wasn’t just there, it was 5 km down the hill at the town of Kodari,we could see it right there beneath us at the bottom of the valley!   There was a series of hairpin bends and a very rough road to get down there to the ‘Friendship’ Bridge, 


which is the official border and where we had to wait.

There was a constant stream of people and vehicles passing each way. We watched as our luggage was unloaded and portered from our truck over the bridge into a heap in Nepal.
A guide arrived from the Nepalese side, we were then allowed across the bridge and to procede to immigration, the formalities were completed easily, but we waited again.
In Kodari we were back in a place with people who predominantly looked and dressed like, with a poverty level similar to, Indians rather than Chinese, it’s Nepal.


It’s is also an untidy, disorganised and busy place handling the border traffic;


the majority of which is trucks, but there’s barely room as they squeeze up the narrow road and 2 of them meeting becomes a major holdup so there are many delays.
Although we were getting hungry and almost ready for lunch on Tibet time, we were thankful of the 2 1/4 hour time difference with going back into Nepal, we still had a long way to ride in the day!
Our bus from Kathmandu arrived, we were asked to supervise and ensure our luggage was all present, intact and safely stowed, then head on down the valley on our bikes.


It was lush, green and beautiful with waterfalls


and more vertical sided hills


Small settlements perched on any flat land and farm terraces extended right up onto the hilltops




Nepal is quite beautiful.

The road we were riding was busy with noisy ‘TATA’ bus and truck traffic, it was mostly sealed, or had been in the past, but there were lengthy stretches where reconstruction had been started, but remained unfinished, put ‘on hold’ for a long time! However, as it was mainly downhill, it was easy riding, -and it was getting warmer…

The valley also becoming more populated with bigger towns.




The river, the Bhote Khosi, became big, we passed by several hydroelectric schemes where it had been diverted into a tunnel, to emerge sometime later down stream at a power station. We also passed white-water rafting groups on the rapid sections…they seemed to be having to put in a lot of effort even to go downstream…there was no white-knuckle excitement there!


We kept riding down the valley for 50 km,  then had a several hundred metre very hot ascent over a hill,  to be rewarded with a view of the town of Dolalghat at the bridge over the Indrawati River beneath






From Dolalghat we knew we would be climbing up again, we had to rise about 1000 metres higher in altitude to get to Dhulikhel where we would stay the night, so it was with some relief to us as we started up the narrow valley that it clouded over and then soon rained heavily. It kept us cool for the next 40 kilometres.
The climb up the valley was undulating to begin with, but mostly ascending, we climbed to a plateau, dropped a little, then started the final 20 kilometres going up to Dhulikhel. It wasn’t difficult, but it was continuous and we never knew how far we had to go, we couldn’t see the end beyond the long bends.
For that reason it was one of those climbs where to do it again would be much easier!


But it all seemed worthwhile after finding our bus at the top and while waiting for the group, to be able to enjoy the cool fresh air and outlook over the ridge.

Our accommodation for the night was in the Dhulikhel Lodge Resort, just a short distance away with great views over the terraced valley below.  On a clear day it they say it has a panoramic view of the mountains of the Himalayas, we didn’t quite get that, but some of the peaks did show themselves just around sunset…




we had to imagine how it might look on one of those rare, clear days!
The air is fresh and clear up there out of the Kathmandu Valley, at an altitude of 1600m and the Lodge is a place with a lot of character,






we all wanted to stop there forever!

Dinner in evening was a cheerful event, with excellent food and what seemed, unprecedented quantities of meat…we tucked in!

Day 21’s ride 95km Altitude 1600m

Day 22: We woke early, still on Tibet time and hopeful of catching a view of the mountains, but that was not to be. The view down into the valley was clear 


but the peaks were obscured by cloud and stayed that way.
We used the time for a long, leisurely breakfast with a bottomless cup of milky Marsala tea  and a continuous supply of the most excellent form of semi-crispy pancakes…
At close to 10am our guide led us back to the road for the ride down to the town of Bhaktapur.
It was mainly downhill, but through busy traffic, that busy traffic however was compounded by trying to avoid the sheaves of wheat that so many people had strewn across the road…it took me some time to realise that the intention wasn’t thatI should avoid them, rather that I should ride over them; it was part of the threshing process! 

At Bhaktipur the threshing was continuing, everywhere, we found.
We took our bicycles into the pedestrian part of the town, in every square and on every old monument, people were threshing their grain!






Even the potters from the well known Potter’s Square had been largely displaced in favour of the harvest!


In spite of the grain everywhere, we took in the major sights of Bhaktipur






as in Kathmandu, were again impressed by the Newari wooden windows,


the carvings made to order


and of course down this alley way


the most famous window of them all


the ‘Peacock’ window.

The Nyatapola Temple


is the highest in Nepal


but there are many other temples and things interesting








in a small area.




As traffic is barred from the centre of town, compared with Kathmandu it is cleaner, tidier and more comfortable to look around.


it would easy to spend a lot longer there;


and while eating Lassi with Momos in a roof-top restaurant you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of it all!

But we had to hurry, our time in Bhaktipur was short and none of us wanted to ride into Kathmandhu without our guide; we needed him in all that confusion and traffic. For once the group would REALLY stick together!

That was quite easily accomplished; although we briefly lost track of Sylvia, she was quickly found, she knew where she was all along…
Then about mid afternoon, to the horror of the smartly dressed doormen, we rode unceremoniously up to the main entrance of the Hotel de l’Annapurna… and created an immediate difference of opinion about where we would be putting our dirty bikes…

The remaining afternoon was spent cleaning, up, packing up and final shopping in heavy rain, Kathmandhu Streets in the wet are messy, muddy and slippery places, best avoided…

In the evening fortunately we were taken by Makalu van with Mohann for our final dinner together, at the ‘Rum Doodle’ cafe.

This is fast becoming a Kathmandhu institution, started by and intended for conquerors or would-have-been-conquerors of Everest as a place to eat, drink, to tell lies and leave their mark for all time. (If you reach the summit and survive, you eat here free for life!) It’s not a small place, there are several rooms but the walls are fast becoming covered with oversized white footprints inscribed with names, dates and deeds. There are many tales to be told with each I am sure…
I’m not sure that we qualified to be there really, but no-one refused us drinks, so over some beers and dinner (they do a mean Tandoori Chicken) we we had a great final evening together. John had already returned to Scotland, but we still had the Brazilians to keep us well entertained and they found they had no shortage of greatly exagerrated recollections!

May 18, Day 23: Sadly; it was time to say good byes and go home. Anja left at 5.30am so then I packed, but it was still raining…I read, I had another long breakfast, I was  pleased we weren’t still cycling…mid-morning it was still wet, there was no point in going for a walk, so there were more goodbyes and I left for the airport to fly back to Quo Vadis in Singapore…

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