(25.8.2012) I am right there where I wanted to be all the time. The fact that we weren’t able to go to Lhasa, to go to Tibet, is non of my worries any more. We are at a much better place right now, far away from any tourism, far away from any Chinese laws, free like the wind.
I sit in a valley surrounded by six to seven thousand meters high mountains.
There is nothing in my sight that could be a trace of humans, the last housing we have seen was before we crossed the glaciers rivers, about 15 km ago, and that already was only a shelter for people coming to see the glacier.
I have never in my live been that far away from civilization.
“wow, what a huge bird”, Paul says to me looking up to the sky. And in deed, another superlative. The biggest bird I have ever seen, his shadow crosses our tent and completely covers it. It must be about 3 meters or more in size.
It easily glides against the strong wind and it seems like a eternity until it disappears behind the snowy mountains.
We had left the sheltering bridge in the afternoon and in deed found the small path that would lead us deep into the mountains, about 200 km riding of road some parts we will have to cycle in riverbeds and some parts climb steep passes.
For we had saved a day riding the last pass on one day, we didn’t cycle far. Just far enough to find a lonely place.
While coking our dinner two Tibetans came crossing along through the wide valley on their shopper. It was a really funny picture, I would never have thought that a motorcycle like this could go off road.
They sat with us for a while, we didn’t speak much, and after on of them got a telephone call on his proudly presented stone-age mobile phone, they left and disappeared somewhere in the valley. We took our chance and showered in the warm rays of the evening sunlight. Although temperatures were already around zero an the wind was getting stronger, the night was a warm and quiet niet.
We slept long again, a luxury that we had missed so much in the desert and that we now wanted to make use of to adjust our body’s to the coming heights. When we left it was already midday. We planned to make a little detour to see a glacier that is famous for its scenic view. About two hours later we got there. At the “basecamp” of the glacier, at about 5100 m, a group of tourists came over us like a swarm of bees, taking pictures an nearly forgetting about the scenic view they came for. Annoyed from the “photoshoots” we just sat down and didn’t response to any questions any more. The bus driver must have noticed our Situation and as an excuse for the behavior of his group he gave us water and “Tibetan-hamburgers”, which tasted just like Yaks smell. Then they took of for the weather changed from sunshine so snowfall. Temperatures dropped to zero and we decided that moving on to the viewpoint of the glacier would be best to keep us warm.
It was the most exhausting ascent ever. We had to push our bikes about two kilometers for it was way to steep to ride. Every 50 meters we had to rest and refill our oxygen resources by hyperventilating and sitting down on the ground. Imagine pushing a heavy bike up the hill with someone holding a pillow in front of your face, then you get close to the way we felt.
As we arrived at the glacier a beautiful view on the icy walls an the valley underneath us opened to our eyes.
It had been worth the exhaust.
In the valley between two mountains we could literally see the snow being compressed to a 50 Meyer high ice wall. At half the height of this blue-grey wall ice cold rivers came shooting to form a wide riverbed. We suddenly we both didn’t want to go back the same way and since we had seen a beautiful mountain on the other side of the glaciers valley, we decided to go for what was to become the biggest adventure of our tour so far.
The route we wanted to do now would be without any road or path, would lead us through the glaciers valley, through icecold rivers, up a very steep rocky mountainside and to the mountain top at the height of 5250 meters which was marked with a enormous Tibetan prayer flag post.
I must say I was a little afraid that it might be to much with our bikes, but we went for it any way and it turned out to be a possible plan.
We descended to the glaciers valley and managed to cross a few little rivers quite easy. The last river though was far to wide and deep to cross it with shoes on. For there was no turning back any more I took my shows off and tested the current. The water was so cold that after seconds I could hardly feel my feet any more. “I t might be possible” , I said to Paul and took all electronic stuff of my bike, just in case.
I took my bike to the rocky edge the, which river had washed into the ground and “jumped” in. I clearly had underestimated the power which the current would develop on my bike and the bags. The river just washed away my bike sidewards and I had to tumble after it to get it out of the current. I felt sharp stones scratching my feet and I hit my toes a few times against the rocks, luckily the water was so cold that I could only feel part of the pain. I managed to push my bike to the other side. Only the side with the food and other water resistant gear got wet, my clothes and sleepingbag magically stayed dry. My feet were freezing of and the pain from tumbling through the riverbed got stronger as they got wormed up again.
To not run the risk of Paul’s bike falling as well, I had to go back and help him. Again, the sharp rocks under my feet, again the icy water around my ankles.
When we had both bikes on the other side I didn’t feel anything any more. I sat down an massaged my feet, looking for serious wounds or bruises. It was all in a relatively good state and so we began on the next challenge.
The glacier had washed huge stones to the side of the valley and accumulated them to a steep and rocky hill. We had to push out bikes up this hill, meter by meter managed to find ways through the at first impassable seeming landscape. It took us more than one hour to complete only 500 meters. It was more a climbing than a bike excursion. Totally exhausted we reached the top of the glaciers valley again. Now we still had to climb the last 150 meters to the tibetan flags. It seemed to be quite easy but turned out to be another challenge. The ground was covered in small rocks but against our assumption was so soft that our wheels sank deep into it. Riding again was not possible.
To complete our misery it began snowing again and the wind blew icecold air into our faces. It is hard already to breath cold air, but cold thin air is even harder.
My face started to get numb and talking to Paul was not possible any more.
As we got closer to the top the clouds were blown away, deep blue sky like I have never seen it before showed up behind them and the Tibetan flags, enlightened by the strong sun made the whole scene to a colorful spectacle.
I had to cry.
This moment was what we were waiting for all the tour. It was indescribable.
The noise of the flags in the wind, the sun on my ice-cold face, Paul, my best friend and beloved brother standing next to me, as high as I have never been before. High above the world, and high in my mind.
We fell in each others arms and stood there like this for a while, watching the landscape around us over the shoulder of the other. A perfect view, all clouds had disappeared, but still the air was full of this magically glitter, little ice crystals that were blown towards us from the snowy mountains. A moment that could not have had more magic and fantasy to it, THE moment of the tour.
We had to descend for it was getting far to cold up here and the sun was about to set. We pass another Tibetan flag post while riding down the mountain, still no road, no path that gives you a clew where to go.
We choose our way carefully for we don’t want to end up at a “dead” end. We can ride down to the valley all the way, over smooth rocky ground and grassy hills. “this is our dream”, Paul screams behind me. And it is true. It is like a dream, only the cold wind and my freezing fingers let me know that it is real.
On the way down we disturb a herd of Yaks. As this huge animals see us, they run away in a incredible speed.
It is kind of ridiculous that a herd of about 100 yaks, animals that are double the size of a cow and look more like mammoths to me, are afraid of two cyclists.
They steam away through a riverbed, the water and dust they throw up in the air gets enlightened by the last rays of the sun and look a little like fire. As they disappear behind a little hill, the landscape is all ours. We are all alone. Nothing is making a sound but the wind blowing through the grass.
We are where we wanted to be for so long.
We descend further to about 5000 meters height where we raise our tent next to the river coming from another glacier. We are too tired to cook and so we have some bread and the rest of the sausage we bought in Golmud. “what a day”, Paul says, turns around in his sleeping bag and we both fall asleep.
Now I sit here, it is all still reality but also a dream, coming true.
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