Trevor was nauseated and had a headache in the morning and he bought an O2 travel bag and nasal tubing. After sucking back one bag he felt pretty good and the hotel filled it up again for him to take for tonight.
When we went out to the bikes they were covered with frost and it was -1. We decided to wait a bit for it to warm up. We thus set out an hour late at 9 am and it was 2.5 degrees. We have 412 km to Nagqu Tibet!
The road today is again in pretty bad shape and the number of trucks is insane. This is a real work out and probably some of the most intense all round days we have had. There is almost nowhere to stop. If you must stop on the verge you are taking your life in your hands.
We hit the first check point of the day and this took about an hour. A lot of checking of paper work and searching the gear. Trevor had his Jetboil fuel confiscated. While we were checking Trevor noted his Nescafe had opened in the top box and he cleaned it out and took it off to get the worst out. About 10 km later he was just in front of us and the top box came crashing off…he did not notice. Dan picked it up and waited for the van. Top box that was born in China died in China!
We did stop at the highest pass today at 5234 m, but did not stay long.
It was then down from there to Amdo after 276 km. We had crossed into Tibet, but there is no marker at least in English. The last 20 km it was raining and at times almost snowing. It was pouring when we got to the town, but by the time we made it to the far side it was sunny. The gas stations here you must show your ID card even to get into the station. There is a gate and a policeman checks ID. They saw us and let us and then asked for our DL and gladly sold us fuel…from a can. We had to wait a while for the guides as we knew there was a police check point at the end of town and so we heated up some noodle soups.
The sky is again looking black in our direction. While we were waiting at the police check there was huge dust storm and the fierce winds blew the black clouds away. We had some wet road, but no rain.
You descend from 4600 m at Ando, but rise again to 4863 over another pass. The descent continues to 4500 m at Nagqu. The number of truck in lines in both direction is mad. About 15 km from the town the road is totally destroyed and the trucks are jostling for position to avoid the deepest holes. We weaved in and out to keep us some speed to get over the biggest dips, which are death defying at a snail crawl.
There is another police check 8 km from town and our guides were 45 min behind us because of the insane traffic. The police were very nice to us, asked us out of the line to park ahead, and invited us into the office with the coal burning stove to warm up and get out of the now brief rain shower. So happy we have the 20$ SIM cars as it has come in so handy to text the team as they are usually far behind us and for the police to call them. They made 3 call while we waited here as they to talk to Toni and Bam, which meant that once they showed up all they did was photocopy our Tibet permits and we were done in 5 min.
The ride to the city was uneventful and we were into the hotel by 6. Orvar is again not well but it seems he has what I had in Mongolia more of a low salt issue than altitude. Trevor was initially ok and came down for dinner and then was sick again. He has his O2 bag and we refilled it. Neither has now eaten all day. The plan is to get an early start as we are down hill all the way to Lhasa at 3500 m. The hotel was again ok and pricey. We had just an ok dinner in the hotel “dining room”.
We were again asleep before 10 and had a restful night (no calls or knocking). The hotel include breakfast was also ugh, but there was steamed buns and boiled eggs and we had our own Nescafe so we survived. Both the other 2 did not eat this morning. It is sunny, but 2.5 degrees. We geared up and were about to set out when Orvar was again very dizzy. He recovered and insisted on riding. We had only gone about 6 blocks when he pulled beside be to saw he was unwell and we pulled over. He was sweaty and ill looking and likely hypoglycaemic. We pulled out the glucose ampules we had and he felt better in a few minutes, but we convinced him to ride in the truck.
We have 332 km today to Lhasa and if it is like the last two you need all your wits.
Our driver Mr Tang is a motocross rider with lots of experience. Orvar’s BMW suit is 4 sizes too big for him and so fits the much larger Mr Tang pretty well. His wind breaker as well, but the helmet is another story since he could not do up the chin strap or put the visor down…this made for some cold riding. We taped up the legs of the rain pants that he wore over long johns and jeans.
Prostrating and other Pilgrims on the way to Lhasa.
He rode the first 160 km to the first check point. We had to stop a few times so he could get the helmet off and warm up. We also stopped a lot today unlike the last few for pictures. The altitude rises to 4700 m and does not drop until about 80 km from Lhasa, which is at 3656 m. It is cold and windy for sure this morning, but better than yesterday. We sure saw a lot of Yaks today. We passed thru a number of small villages, which are much tidier and nicer than most of the Chinese ones we have seen.
The road surface as well today is very good. There is much less truck traffic and they stop in Nagqu in the day and then drive at night because they are not allowed to enter Lhasa after 730 am until late in the evening. There was however almost constant construction as they are reinforcing the road on both side with a concrete pad. There is nowhere for construction vehicles to be off the road so they are parked there and traffic fights to get around them.
Leaving the city we actually first went up in altitude and over a high plateau with panoramic mountain views.
There was a checkpoint 160 km from Naqgu. We stopped just before it so Orvar could ride the bike thru the Police check. It was fairly quick to get thru. Then we rode the 6 km to Danxung where we got lunch and gas. It was mayhem at the gas station with all the local with small bikes and only 3 cans to fill with. There was some pushing and shoving inside as the locals prepaid for their gas and then running to get a can from a guy filling his bike. For us we could pay after, but you always have an extra liter or 2 and you can not just put it in the jerry can. Dan bought 2 liters from the guys beside us who had too much and so we got a can!!! Orvar gave us his 2 liters he had and then Dan gave a local guy the 1.5 we had left….pay it forward.
Lunch was noodle soup cooked in a pressure cooker as we are still above 4600 m. We also ran into a Chinese rider here on his way to Lhasa.
There is a huge festival starting Oct 1 in 2 days time and the city will become very crowded. All the non tourist businesses will be closed for a week. All the hotels will be booked. This is partly why we have had to press so hard as we had to pre-book and prepay the hotel there for 3 nights (200$ us/night 3 star ad this is a good deal for Lhasa). This is a very popular hotel as it has an excellent location.
For the last three days we have been along or near the new rail line and for all this way there is a security guy is a yellow jacket at every bridge, pillar, overpass, or spot you could plant a bomb. This means every 500 m to 2 km!
We have seen a few crazy bicyclists an a few walkers in the last 2 days, but today we saw many more pilgrims along the roadside. Some were walking 3 steps then throwing themselves to the ground in prostration. They wear special paddles on their hands that slide out along the ground as they slide out flat on their belly. That makes for a very long 300 km. 35 km fro the city we saw masses of pilgrims and in fact they had the oncoming traffic blocked for a km.
Yet another amusing bathroom sign in China
Once we dropped in altitude it suddenly became green everywhere. 63 km from Lhasa there is a checkpoint and we pulled up and were asked to park to the side. We did not have to wait for the guides long and were only there 5 min after they arrived. There is another checkpoint 43 km from the city and it was the same story. We hardly had time to get off the bikes. The road now is thru a deep valley and is more winding.
About 25 km from the city it is suddenly a 8 lane divided road. We waited for the guides 15 km from the center and then followed them to the hotel. This was a bit of a stressful drive, not that there was that much traffic, but the number of times we were almost taken out by people pulling into our lane from right beside us or merging at high speed was crazy. I think Dan beat his personal record of number of car doors and hoods slammed in payback for nearly hitting one of the 4 of us. It was a long 15 km. About 2 km from the hotel we actually rode right by the Potala palace! We can see it from the street in front of the hotel.
In our hotel lobby-an altitude sickness treatment center.
THE most important issue now it to get the suits to the laundry as they have never been so disgusting. Luckily there is a laundry across the road and 200 m right from the hotel. The guy there said he could not guarantee how they would look as they were so bad. He has huge industrial machines and so we are sure it will be ok and it is what it is. We are all bagged and made a minor effort to see the streets near the hotel. There is a pedestrian overpass 200 m left from the hotel and a great spot for photos and then dinner at steam bun only place.
Today were were up and out by 8 and took the city bus down to the Potala Palace for some great photos. We were delivered here by Pam, but handed off to another guide Suran from his company as Pam needs to secure the Everest base camp/border permits for us. We have to be inside and up some of the 365 stairs to get in for our ticket time of 10.
There are 2 security checkpoints and 2 ticket check points. You can not buy tickets the day of only the day before, which Pam did yesterday after the hotel was finished with the passports. (They must register the passports with the local police here in China). Pam was happy to see we had a coveted 10 am time slot. The ticket has a time and your passport number on it. There are hundreds of locals walking clock-wise around the Palace up to 3 times (2 hours) per day. Some are prostrating the whole way and this takes 3-4 hours for one circuit.
At the first security check point the guard noted that Orvar had a different number on the ticket and the passport he has his Chinese visa in. He had to be in Sweden to get the Chinese and Russian visa, but as they will not issue them more than 60 days before entry that was not possible. In Sweden they have a loop hole for this and will issue you a second passport that you can have the agency obtain visas for you. He had clarified this with Ride China and the Chinese and Tibet entry paperwork had the right number, but they did not update the Tibet travel company here in Lhasa. They decided to let him in, but at the second check point it took a lot more talking by the guides to get him in. This means there may be an issue getting the Everest permit as the paperwork they submitted will have the wrong passport number. Pam has gone off to try. You walk up slowly and take lots of breaks at we are still at altitude. Once you enter the palace there are no photos and you must be in and out in an hour or the travel company will be declined further entry with their groups.
Then it was a death defying rickshaw ride back towards the hotel and the Jokang Temple. The poor driver got cut off by several cars and then a bus!
The entry to the Jokang square is thru a security check, which took some taking as Pam has our passports right now. There are hundreds of people walking around the temple here also and dozens prostrating at the gates.
There are separate queuing lines for pilgrims and tourists, but then they all funnel thru the one narrow door. There are also people exiting this way even though it is not the exit and this is causing mayhem. The line to the left is not moving because several hundred pilgrims are waiting in a special line to get closer to the “living” Buddha. We went right and into the main assembly/ chanting hall. From our side of the barrier we could see the naked Buddha, but the crush of people pushing on the other was something. The exit is thru the stairs to the upper patio and then back out onto the street.
We are hungry and had a quick lunch and then headed to the hotel at 2 for a well deserved rest. We only went out at 4 for a few minutes to get our clean laundry and SUPER clean suits!!!
We did not venture out again until after 6 and we walked the 20 minutes down to the Potala square for some pics and dinner at a local only place.
The Swede is not doing well physically. He has not been eating or sleeping well for several months and is malnourished. This with being 65, a brutal week so far, and the altitude he is done. We sent him off to the state clinic for assessment. He was seen there and got some IV fluid, glucose, and vitamin for a whopping 20$ US.
Today we are headed to “KTM” Lhasa’s shop about 5 km from the city centre as they have agreed to let us use their shop and drop our used oil there. It is a very clean and nice shop. We had brought oil in the van, but surprisingly they have oil!! They also had a lamp bulb for the 800 Adventure and a power washer to give the bikes a bit of a wash. Trevor was kind enough to do the work on Orvar’s bike since his was done in Beijing.
Just as we were leaving 3 Chinese riders pulled up and they are also on the way to Everest. They told us they had met other rider that said the road to Tingri (staging town to get to the Everest base camp) is closed daily 0730-1930 for construction).
Lunch was at a Muslim place so Lamb ribs and beef. We stopped on the way to sample these “egg Mcmuffin” deals.
We took the bus back down to the Potala square to take part in the daily ritual of the locals to walk clockwise around the palace spinning prayer wheel as you go. It is not too crowded at 430 as the busy time is the morning.
We hopped the bus back to the Jokang temple area and the old town and wander on Barkhor Street. We did but a small set of Tibetan prayer beads and a souvenir. This also allowed us to do some of the circuit of the Temple itself that again the local and pilgrims walk clockwise. Our guides met us for dinner tonight on their day off, which was nice as Mr Tong can really order the best food.