Highway to Mount Everest

Last month I struggled to ride my mountain bike over the terrible roads up Mount Everest. This is what I wrote about the ride:
“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.”

Maybe a government official read my blog and felt embarrassed, because yesterday it was announced that the unpaved road to Mount Everest Base Camp (108 kilometers, 67 miles) will be changed into a “blacktop highway fenced by undulating guardrails”. The job should be finished in four months already. I wish they had done it half a year earlier…

But is this really good news? Except for the few crazy cyclists that ride up here, I doubt it. Think about it, if you go to Mount Everest, do you really want to go there by highway? Part of the adventure is that you are in the wilderness, far away from civilization. A paved highway does not really give you that feeling in my opinion. But maybe I am too much of a romantic…

On the other hand, it is good news for the locals. A good road means that more tourists will visit, so there will be additional ways of earning money. The locals living in Rongbuk, the village closest to Mt. Everest (the few houses in the picture), are dirt poor: they begged for the left-overs of our dinner when we were finished. Hopefully this road can improve their living conditions a little. Don’t be surprised if the tour groups start showing up now as well, riding in comfortable touring cars to the base camp.

If you plan to go to Mt. Everest after the road is finished and still want to experience the ‘original’ feeling, that will still be possible. Instead of taking the shorter paved road, you can continue the Friendship Highway to Tingri and take the dirt road through the mountains from there. Only a few Land Cruisers per day take this road, so I don’t think it will ever be paved. You will have to cross some streams, and there are no villages or a mobile connection for the full 125 kilometers from Tingri to Rongbuk, so be prepared.

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