(18.9.2012) Today we left the last high pass behind us. In front of us are now only passes below 4000 meters.
We left the place at the river at the17th of September as early as possible for we wanted to have the daily pass done before noon. On our way we passed a huge monastery and were allowed to turn the golden prayer wheels at its entrance. I’ve seen those things many times before on TV or on pictures, but now I felt them in my hands and it was a very intense moment, this holy cyclinders made from gold and brass, covered in (for me) unreadable letters and figures, turning in front of a background that couldn’t have been more of a postcard-picture. Snowy mountains, a golden-wine-red Monastery at their feet, monks running around in colorful clothes and Yaks, Sheep and wild dogs here and there filling the little streets of the mud-brick monastery-village which lay right next to a crystal clear river.
It was one of the most spectacular passes we have done so far. Serpentine roads that steep that it nearly crossed itself and when we reached the top we had a amazing view on rocky, snowy mountains. I have missed that view to long for all the other passes where part of a high-plateau which is consisting of round hills only. The view on this sharp and icy mountains payed for the damage the other passes had done.
The descent was a long ride of over 60 km. The first 10 km we took a shortcut through the mountains, which was more of an cross-adventure than we had assumed. In the end it didn’t save us any time but was a superior experience of how far we can take our heavy loaded bikes.
In between, in a little village, we did the most necessary food shopping with the help of a very kind guesthouse owner, who showed us where to find what.
As we drove on a group of Chinese cyclists came across our way. They seemed to have problems and so we stopped. One of them had problems breathing and panicked a little at the thought that he would have to sleep at this height(3800m). He repeated the words ” to high, we can’t sleep here”. I was wondering what they were doing here then, riding up a nearly 5000 meter high pass that would obviously take them at least a week to complete.
They asked us if there is a guesthouse near and I answered about 10 km from here. Now another one started panicking for he thought it was only 5 km to the guesthouse. Paul looked up at his navi how far it was for real:”it is only 5 km to the town”, he corrected me and the panicking chinese guy relaxed a little. ” cha, hyou hscared me”, he said with sweat dripping if his forehead. A very strange group I think, having problems with ten kilometers cycling and a height of 3800 meters, but choosing the Himalayas to cycle.
We drove another 15 km into the night, which was much wormer than the nights before. The first night in a long time in which I didn’t wake up freezing.
The place we camped at was quite unspectacular in comparison to the ones before. It was so unspectacular that we even forgot taking the daily picture of the tent at the place we slept at.
We got going quite early although it was raining hard. The streets were muddy and braked us down to walking speed.
This time the daily pass would be 4050 meters only but starting the ascend from 3500 it was quite a job. The streets up the pass were terrible for a new street was just about to be build and the provisory street we had to take was going right up the hill without serpentines, steep as a ladder and covered by a mixture of rocks big as a fist and mud sticky as chewing-gum.
After reaching the top, the weather was so fine and warm that we decided the time was right to change the oil of our in-hub gear, what needs to be done every 5000 km at a temperature around 20 *C.
Yes in deed, we have now already done more than 10000 km. It is that much, that my tachometer couldn’t manage and crashed to a total reset. It obviously can’t display more than 10000km.
We already knew from the last oil-change how to proceed and so we planned half an hour for it.
It was a mistake trying to be quick, I took the wrong oil and filled it in the hub. To do it right I should first have filled a kind if cleaning oil into the hub, then let all the oil flow out of the hub and afterwards fill in the new oil. I mixed up the cleaning oil with the new oil and now have instead of an oil change an oilmix in the hub. This is actually not too much of a problem, but at the Moment I noticed, I was quite pissed. It means I have to do the same work in chengdu again. This was a “release-button” for a fight with Paul.
The weirdest thing was that three Tibetans, which had noticed that Paul and I have an argument, against our friendly signs that we want to be alone right now, sat down on a rock right next to us and watched our every steps. They for sure meant all their hints and offers for help in a positive way, but Paul and me, we got even more upset about them showing no distance to us and our problems.
They first invited us to have lunch with them, probably their way of dealing with a problem, first food, then solution. Then they offered us to use oil from their motorcycle to fill my hub, they wanted to help packing our wide spread tools, began singing- probably to calm us down, and offered us cigarets. None of their good deeds helped us and so we left them with an icy “good by”. I now regret being so unfriendly, but at that moment I could not hold my self back.
We cycled another 50 km and entered a landscape that we both haven’t seen for long. Trees and Forrest’s, agriculture, high green grass, and all at a summery temperature. The smell of warm hay in the sun mixed with barbecues in Tibetan backyards filled our noses. We had come back from the roof of the world to the garden, I was so happy about being back down and knowing that we have nearly completed the physically most exhausting part of our tour.
We drove until dark. Because finding wood was quite difficult, I asked a truck driver with huge logs on his trailer, if I could have some rests lying in between the logs. This way I secured out dinner and we rose our tent in a mown cornfield. We cooked rice with vegetables. Before going to bed we set another pot of rice on the oven for our bread was empty and we didn’t have time to cook in the morning. Like this the rice would be ready for breakfast.
The next morning it was raining again.
We got up anyway and found the rice had cooked perfectly through the night.
A women, who was cutting of grass, for making brooms,came to us. She was very curious about our doings, but in such a nice and open way that I couldn’t resist but explain everything to her she was obviously wondering about. She was dressed in traditional Chinese (not Tibetan) clothes, and I must say, it was not very up to date but in every way a very elegant and beautiful dress. This women, I guess she was about 30 years, had something very special. I kept on thinking about her during the day, the way she worked her way through the grass all morning right next to us, asking question from time to time and smiling very kindly showed me that she was a very respectful and open minded person. When she was done with cutting grass, she loaded all of it onto her back and wished us a good travel (I guess, that’s what she meant).
We left the field a few minutes later and got to Ganzi, the town were we first planned to extend our visas but luckily decided to do it somewhere else. This town was way to provincial for being able to extend a visa. But it was also a very impressive town. Almost all of the houses build from large logs, painted in all kinds of different colors and patterns, with little dragons on the corners of the roofs spitting out the rainwater. Even the dogs in this town were decorated with pink and purple collars made from feathers tied around their necks.
I must say, I fell on love this day. The houses in this town and it’s suburbs are so impressive, that if I ever have the opportunity to build a house, it will probably be in this style.
We left town after refilling our bags with food but had to take a detour through the mountains for the street we wanted to take was closed that day, probably street works.
On the road to the daily pass we saw how they harvest wheat here, a very smart but also strange way. They cut the corn and lay it on the street. All cars that want to pass have to drive over it. This way they separate the wheat from the rest, the wind of the speeding cars blows away the thin hulls but the wheat itself stays. After they shovel the wheat in front of their houses and let it dry I the sun.
It is a strange thing to cycle kilometers over wheat plants, watching women harvesting the basis for their bread from under my wheels.
We find another good place to put a street sign. This time it is called Jana Grund (see picture)
The pass is dusty and bad roads make climbing even more exhausting. Luckily we are in a very good training from the higher areas and so we cycle the 700 meters to the top of the 4000 meter high pass in one turn, without pausing.
Again half of the way is under construction. A truck, that has obviously tried taking a shortcut, lies on it side, the white foam-stone he had loaded spread down to the bottom of the valley.
We took the shortcut as well and it turned out to be so steep that I could hardly drive it. My throat seems to be to small to transport enough air to my lungs, but pushed by the thought of being short before the top, I make it.
As a warm welcome a truck shoots passed me and instead of fresh air my lungs get to see the life from a vacuum cleaners view. Hard coughing and swearing about the dam truckers follows.
The descend from this pass is a long and bumpy ride. The street is that bad that for the first time on the whole trip, I get blisters on my hands from braking and holding the steer. In addition hurricane winds blow up the mountains and make getting further even harder.
We get to the muddiest village I’ve ever seen, buy toilet paper there and find ourselves a place to sleep between low bushes and yaks.
Bread and yak- butter for dinner.
Since we are a little behind in our time-schedule we get up early to make the most of the day. It doesn’t work out. Heavy rain all morning lets the streets, which are under construction again, turn into a 20 km long mud bath and our bike-chains start making noises like pigs in the same.
After 4 hours of cycling and 20 km later we reach the crossing at which we leave the worst road of the trip.
The next road is small but in perfect state and so now we are 80 km further.
We cycled along a river all the time, the mountains are now covered in black den-trees and make me think of “Schwarzwald” (black forrest in germany) and all the delicious food specialties they make there. The yaks standing at the side o the road seem to feel my hunger an avoid getting to close to me:0).
We set our tent on a little terrace like place at a mountain-side and cooked the same dinner as we did the last weeks. Rice, carrot, cucumber, peppers and soybean, this time mixed with yak-butter. It tastes delicious. As it begins raining we creep into our tent and that’s we’re I am now, ready to sleep.
-By the way, yak-butter does not taste like normal butter. It is very sour and has a strong cheese smell. But it is delicious, so delicious that we have bought two kilos at the last store to make sure we wont run out of butter-
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