I was not able to update my blog for a while because we have been camping far away from civilization for the past couple of days. I once tried to post a message through my mobile from my tent, but it was so cold that my computer’s battery suddenly stopped working. But now we are in a guesthouse in the small town of Tingri (30 houses in the middle of a huge prairie), where we have electricity for the next 2-3 hours or so. At least, that is what the owners told us, they put on a generator for us so we can recharge our mobiles, laptops, camera’s etc. It seems the modern world has not reached this part of Tibet yet, and that actually has its charm.
I won’t go in too much detail about what we have done over the past days, because then this will become a book: so much has happened. Just some hightlights so you get an idea. Generally, it is even more difficult than I had expected. A few times I have come close to giving up, but each time I pushed myself to continue. I have encountered my physical limits a few times, but also learned that if you are mentally strong you can always push those limits a bit further. But in case you wonder, I also like the trip a lot. Most of it is a lot of fun, but you have to hurt a bit sometimes to enjoy it even more. Like my track & field coach in high school told us every day: no pain, no gain.
The first stage after Shigatse we drove for about 90 km, slightly uphill. We camped at a small stream at 4250 meters, just before a high pass. My dad and I arrived at 3:30 PM already, so we some time to read and relax. The night was not very relaxing though. First I woke up because a yak was trying to eat my tent (I did not dare to go out, but shining with my light made him go away quickly). Shortly after that I heard wild dogs barking, and they started chasing around our camp site. Not the nicest thing when you need to get some sleep. But I put in my earplugs and managed to get a few hours rest anyway. The next morning Sean (one of the camera men) told us that the dogs attacked his tent! Nothing happened in the end, but he was scared to death. He actually tried to call all of us for help, but we had all turned off our phones…
The next day turned out to be a very difficult one. It started with a 4700 meter pass right after we started, and that was still OK. At the top some people took pictures of me and my dad (we were getting used to it already), and then we did a fast downhill. 10 minutes later we were at about 4000 meters and had to drive another 20 km before lunch in a small town. After that the fun really started: a 36 km uphill ride to a 5275 meter mountain pass. We were tired already from the first mountain, and this one turned out to be almost too much for us. At first temperatures were still OK, but later in the afternoon it became colder. Also the wind started to blow, which slowed us further down. It was extremely tiring, also because of the lack of oxygen, but we finally managed to reach the top around 8 PM. From there it was a 12 km downhill (against the blowing wind, we still had to pedal just to move forward) to our campsite at 4900 meter altitude. Jay (camera man) also wanted to finish this mountain, even though he was far behind us. He managed eventually, and pulled into our camp at 10:45 PM. He was just as exhausted as us, and also half frozen. He was the hero of the day!
The next morning the inside and outside of my tent was completely frozen, because it had been so cold during the night. I wear thermal underwear, socks, gloves and a hat in my special low-temperature sleeping bag to keep warm, but it is still quite cold. I kept a small bottle of mineral water next to my sleeping bag, and it was filled with ice! So I put on some warm clothes, had a quick breakfast (outside….) and jumped on my bike to warm up again. After about 25 km we caught our first glimpse of Mount Everest, still more than 100 km away. It looked fantastic in the sunshine, without any clouds around it. About 25 km later we left the highway, and entered an unpaved road that leads to Everest (101 km to the base camp, with signs at every kilometer). After about 3 km we had to climb 22 kilometers uphill to a 5200 meter mountain pass. Once again extremely difficult, not only because of the altitude but also because of the dirt road. Climbing a mountain on a paved road is doable, because you come into a certain ‘swing’ (left-right left-right at a certain speed), but on a dirt road that’s impossible. But once again we managed, and we looked forward to the 10 km downhill to the camp. But that turned out to be even more difficult, because here the dirt road was in an even worse condition. Also the 10 km that the guide told us, were in reality 25 km. It took us almost 2 hours to get from the top to the camp, and my dad and I were once again exhausted. Gary also made it to the top of the mountain (congrats Gary, this was a really difficult one), but because he arrived around 8:30 PM at the top and it was getting dark he had to take the 4WD to the camp.
Yesterday we thought we had an easy ride, about 50 km uphill to Rongbuk (the entrance to Mount Everest Base Camp). But the road was so bad, that both Gary and the camera man gave up after a couple of kilometers already. My dad and I were not sure what to do, because this was hardly biking anymore. I am not sure how to describe it, but the road was in such a bad condition that even the Land Cruiser drivers complained about it. Walking was often the easiest or only way, and that’s what we did for some parts. If anybody plans to ride up to the Mount Everest Base Camp I would advise them not to do it. If I had known this in advance I would have given up. But because we had started we wanted to finish. And that’s what we did, but don’t ask me how. I was completely dizzy and could hardly eat or drink anymore. I had to lay down in my tent, but even that did not help much. The high altitude (our camp was at over 5000 meters) also did not make it easier, and I went to bed at 8 PM. Also here wild dogs around our tent, but I did not care anymore, I was just too tired to even think about it.
This morning I woke up and opened my tent, to find that it was snowing heavily. While opening the tent some snow had fallen on my sleeping bag and into my backpack, so the day did not start good. I was still tired from the day before, and I still had a headache. But I pushed myself to put on my clothes and get going. Not easy, but an hour later we were on our bikes again for the last few kilometers to Mount Everest Base Camp. It was snowing hard and I felt terrible, but we all made it to the top. The Base Camp was nice to experience once, but there is not much to do. Interestingly there was a big group of Chinese climbers ready to bring the Olympic torch to the top of Mount Everest. It should arrive tomorrow I think, so you might read about it elsewhere as well. Afterwards we rode back to Rongbuk, had lunch and then drove back by car to the Friendship Highway (the base camp excursion was an addition to the Lhasa-Kathmandu trip, it’s not on the way). And now we are in a small guesthouse in Tingri, from where I have a view on Mount Everest from my room. But that’s about the only positive thing I can say about it, I just realize they don’t even have heating. Anyway, I’d better post this quickly before they turn off the generator!