Today we are only going 272 km to Shigatze (Rizkaze, Riz Ka Ze, Xigatze) on a good quality road that winds along the river. The best part is we only go up 300 m.
First drama of the trip occurred as we were leaving the hotel and turning right onto a 4 lane divided road. There was a bus parked in the right lane and the van pulled out into the left lane as no traffic was coming. Trevor was the first bike and when he pulled out there was an idiot on a moped going 50 km/h the wrong way down the the road and ran right into him. Bike down, but no damage. The guy of course took off. Trevor was not hurt in the crash, but wrenched his back as he was getting the bike up. He is in a lot of pain and all we have is Advil. We rode 8 km to the outskirts and stopped at a pharmacy and the guides went in and came out with some sprays. I gave him my Kidney belt and off we went.
There were 3 police checks in the first 150 km and we were waved thru. We stopped 144 km from the city for lunch and gas. There is a major check point 100 km from the city and we arrived about 15 minutes before the guides, but once they arrived we were out in 5 minutes. There is much less traffic on the G318 and almost no big trucks. There are several nice canyons and a few small neat Tibetan villages along the way.
Sand dunes as well!!
That said it still took 7 hours to get to 272 km Shigatze.
The hotel does not look like much from the outside, but the lobby is amazing with ornate woodwork painted in bright colors. The rooms have the look of a sultans bedroom.
We took a taxi across town for 2$ to a traditional Tibetan restaurant and tried “Yak” butter tea, which is actually quite nice as well as other local specialties.
We have confirmed the road closure for tomorrow even though we had hoped there would be no closures this week for the national holiday. This means we must be past the police check point before 0730 and this is 150 km away at Lhaze. We were up at 4 and on the road by 430 for the 237 km to Tingri.
We had packed all our gear in the truck last night and the guides left before 4 as they have to deal with the speed control. They did however get us a packed breakfast from the hotel for later this morning. The moon is full and lighting our way.
There is not that much traffic in either direction until about 15 km from the checkpoint. The road condition for the first 100 km is pretty good, but in the next 50 there are large sharp cut outs all over the road, which are a challenge in the dark. We passed the guides about 30 km before the check point and before the first pass. It was 4-6 degrees most of the way. We arrived to the checkpoint at 7am and the guides at 715. It is just a few km to the “construction zone”. This is the 90 km of road that is closed daily. The first 20 are fresh smooth asphalt and then another 20 of old, but not too bad road. This rises to a pass at 5234 m and it is -4. The real road construction started just before the summit (marked with a gate) and then down the other side. It is about 6 km in total of bumpy rock/dirt road (In the dark with lots of truck throwing up dust and blinding us with the oncoming lights) We were so happy to see this was not the entire rest of the way.
The sun was just rising as we made the descent. This was lucky as we then hit the old road that was paved, but in terrible shape over large sections with huge heaves and holes. The last 50 km it was 0-2 degrees and at the next summit we saw Everest in the distance just as the sun was hitting it…Magical.
About 3 km from town there is a police check and we went inside to warm up and wait for the guides. The team had also nicely had arranged that we could check in to the hotel when we arrived at 930.
We spent most of the day in the room with the heat on and under the duvets. It is bright and sunny out and the air temp is about 8, but when the sun hits your skin it is like a laser. We are at 4300m. We did a slow walk of the town, which consists of a few small hotel and guest houses, a gas station, restaurant, and tons of small grocery shops. Orvar has decided he will not ride the bike to the base camp, but will go in the van and he also says he will hire a truck to take the bike back over the mountain (too cold and bad road). We thought it was cold, but not horrible and mostly our toes and finger tips suffered.
We had dinner at at local place and our driver had words with the kitchen because the portions were so stingy (this is so not the Chinese way).
There is solar hot water here and they turn it on at 7, but when we came back from dinner there were two large tourist buses at the hotel and of course no more hot water. Kettle boiled water and a sponge bath it is.
The plan for the day is to ride 118 km to the Everest Base Camp at the top of the world.
We can not talk Orvar into going at all, which seems crazy as we have ridden all the way here for this! We had a expensive and marginal breakfast at the hotel and set out at 8 to the gas station. The fueling of 3 bikes took a total 20 min! It was 0.5 degrees when we left town. The first stop is the military check point 7 km away. Here everyone must go into the building and line up for the 1 officer who is entering the ID data by hand into a ledger by hand. Another 20 min here.
The incredible new paved road to Everest Base Camp at 17,050 or 5200 m crosses multiple 5,000-meter-passes with incredible views of five 8,000-meter peaks.
After the checkpoint you ride another 5.5 km to the entry gate for the newest paved section of the “Friendship” (or Chinese-Nepal) highway and pay the 180 RMB each (36$) to pass. The road is 98 km to the base camp.
The first part is across a flat valley bottom and then rises over switchbacks to the 40 km mark for the first view point for Everest.
Just after here we saw an off road hill climb and of course went up for a better view. Our driver Mr. Tang said he really wanted to follow us up, but was not sure the Jim Bei was up to it.
About 5 km later at the second view point you get a great vista of the switch backs on the down side as well as the cloudless blue sky and the panorama mountains view. We were all so hot now we had to peal off layers and its only 14.
Once you descend you ride about 30 km again across the flat valley bottom and thru several small villages. The last 30 km is again uphill and with some switchback and peek a boo views of Everest. There is a ticket check point and then about 3 km from the end of the road (to where tourist are allowed to drive) there is another Police passport checkpoint. Then its the last few km with a spectacular view of the mountain. The road ends at a gravel lot surrounded by small tent restaurants.
We had some noodle soup in one of the tents and then walked 200 m to the “monument” that marks the altitude for a group shot. The guides then headed slowly back now at 230 and we will meet them at the check point at Tingri.
We walked another 500 m to the Rongbuk monastery and SLOWLY up the stairs as we are at 5200m. Spectacular views!.
From here it was another 200 m to the monument that marks the elevation at the top of Everest. You can not walk the 500 m to the actual base camp unless you have a climbing permit. The climbers can actually drive to their tent site now. The river water here is slightly murky like glacial runoff and very soft. We enjoyed our time here, but but by 345 we were all tired and Sara had a bit of a headache.
We did not need to stop at any of the checks for 100 km until Tingri. On the way back we ran into a Vietnamese guy on a tour with ride Asia. His guides bike was in the back of the truck looking thrashed from a car crash. We had no issues at the check point and we passed our guides about 5 km before so they did not have to wait long for us. The line up coming the other direction was insane!
In town we went to the gas station and we are getting better at guessing the exact volume of gas we will need. Back at the hotel we put the bikes up on the stands and Dan did his daily one around check that all seems ok. NOT there is a serious issue with the shock on the 650 GS. Looking at it now it appears the shock has snapped off the bottom shaft and was now swinging free. It must have just let go with the force to get this low bike on the stand.
WTH do we do now in this tiny village. Well luckily the guides had already made inquires about a truck for Orvar’s bike as he says he will not ride it back over the pass at 5236m. They found a guy with a truck in Old Tingri 60 km away thru a fixer. We negotiated him down from 3200 RNB to 2500. This includes loading and securing 2 bikes, hotel tonight and tomorrow in Shigatze, fuel, and delivering the bikes 250 km away, and returning 310 km home. We still have the issue of the road closure and we loaded the bikes tonight as we need to pass the Tingri check point at 630 am.
We were up and out and at the check point at 630 and the truck with the bikes had gone earlier and was thru already. It is 3 degrees when we left town and minus 6 at the top of the pass. Dan said he had to stop and take his gloves off and put his hand down his pants just to get them warm enough to keep going.
Luckily it was soon 8 degrees on the down side as the sun was now up. We had 90 km to go of the construction zone and we met Trevor and Dan at the check point there at 8 am. They had been cruising, but only beat us by 10 min and the bikes arrived shortly after. It was all downhill 150 km to Shigatze and we met the guys at the edge of town.
We were at the same hotel and there was no good spot to unload the bikes, but luckily there is a construction site next door and a bunch of the men there helped to lift the bikes out. Then to get the shock out! Not as easy as it seems as the top bolt is bent. We could unscrew it and release the fitting, but could not thread the bolt thru. So brute force and repeated whacking with a pipe on the socket extender did the job. Lunch was a quick beef noodle soup across the street. Also for a well deserved beer.
Dan and Trevor, the driver, and the Tibet guide spend 3 hours driving around to find someone to weld for us and also to find a new top bolt. They wrapped the shock in wet towels during the weld, but we are worried about the seal.
Bathroom at the welders
The install was smooth a silk and we hope with the weld it will be better than the faulty factory work. The seal seems ok so far. We went back to the same place for dinner and Mr Tang came thru again. The owner gave us a huge discount as well (dinner is usually 35-50 each and tonight with this huge meal it was 25).
We only gave 93 km to go today to Gyangze (Me la) at 3977 m and so we got to sleep in and leave after breakfast at just after 9.
We came down to the bike and unfortunately there is a small pool of shock oil. The weld is good, but the shock was spewing oil one we got going. Not much we can do now. We will try the bicycle inner tube and tie down trick to try to get out of China. We will contact YSS and see what they can do for us. So far this shock has cost us 1400$ including purchase price, shipping, truck transport, and welding.
We set off and kept the speed to 90 km for the ride today. Arriving to the city the would not sell us gas at the first station at the edge of town. We were directed to THE station in the city center that motorcycles can buy gas at and told us we would need to register with the police to be able to get gas there. At the station there was a line of 10 guys at the pump and the side of the lots was full of bikes. The computer system was down and who knows when it will be back up. So to the hotel is and we will try in the morning.
We arrived to the Yeti hotel, which again looks like a disaster on the outside , but it is lovely inside.
We contacted Wolfgang in Germany who had purchased and shipped the shock to us. He contacted the distributor, who contacted YSS and explained the situation, and Tomas at Twowheel got back to us with the Bangkok head office contact within an hour. This is Friday afternoon of course. We contacted YSS and they got back to us within 3 hours that they would send us an express post new shock ANYWHERE and ASAP. Wow amazing service. The issue for us is we need to sort out whether we can have this shipped to China (not likely or long delay with duty involved) or more likely to northern Laos.
Gyantse is noted for its restored fort and the tiered stupah of the Palcho Monastery. We walked to a local place for some rice noodle soup and then about a km to the Palcho Monastery.
The Palcho Monastery is a bit unique as it houses three different sects of Buddhism. It was founded in the 1400’s. It boasts the largest Stupah in Tibet.
The fortress was nicely lit up at night.
And at sunrise!!
Well we are at a new low. Trevor is unable to even get out of bed this morning with the spasms and pain in his back. We loaded him up with Advil and Flexeril and after 2 hours he could walk to the van. The guides spent that 2 hours trying to find a truck for his bike with no luck. Mr Tang has agreed to ride it the 310 km to Shannan (Lhoka) he even fits into all of Trevor’s gear.
Mr Tong did buy his own helmet in Lhasa after the Orvar experience. This means we left the hotel at 1030 instead of 830 and we still had the 30 min to get gas.
We thought we had hit rock bottom as a team until 10 km from town the weld let go on the 650! To be honest Sara is totally demoralized right now sitting on a broken bike on the side of the road in Tibet.
OMG do we do now. With an un-rideable bike and 10 days from the Chinese border with Laos. It will be nearly impossible to get a driver who is willing to take the bike. Dan has an idea! Mr Tang to the rescue as he agreed if we measured the bike we could try to put it in the van. No issue with the windscreen off and the bars dropped. We siphoned off the fuel we had just put in and lifted Lulu into the van, started her on the side stand and packed all the other gear to support her.
That means 2 up for the WWR. The views today are stunning. The first pass is up to 4600 M and past the dam and reservoir. We are trying to put on a brave face, but with Trevor in agony and Lulu a disaster it is pretty hard right now.