10.31.09

Arrived in Lhasa !

Posted in China at 12:53 pm by Administrator

Email received this morning – Oc 31,2009

Ahhhh, relaxation in Lhasa after some monumental passes and lots of remote ks ridden. We made the mistake of climbing too fast and as a result we all had some nasty head aches and really struggled with the first 4 to 5 days of riding. After I started to feel worse we rushed down to an elevation of around 4000 masl (haha). From then on things started to feel loads better and we’ve started to get much stronger. The view up at Rongbuk monastary of everest is undescribable. I grogily made my way to the loo one morning and nearly fell over when up and realised through the sleep fog where I was. WOW. The sky here has been so amazingly cloud free for the whole trip. That explains the painfully cold nights and the beautiful afternoons. The mornings riding starts out at about 830 or 9 am when the temp has got up to minus 5 or so and with all the layers of clothing appropriate. By the afternoon we’ve lost at least 4 layers each and are riding comfortably in shorts.
The western part of our journey was in some really out of the way places. Most tourists that come through fly through the country in 4wds and miss all of the little towns but on a bike we can’t get further and so we’ve found ourselves staying in some “rustic” situations. dirt floors aren’t uncommon and we’ve been eating in the communal kitchens with the families that own the guest house. The western part of tibet is extremely undeveloped. The only power in any of the towns is for 3 hours a night from solar batteries and plumbing is non existent. The toilet facilities available have been the most horrific that I’ve ever experienced and so we’ve often waited until a few km down the road to relieve ourselves. That tibet is the real tibet though and its been fantastic to see. Once we crossed teh 5240m Thong La pass we came into the other tibet. The tibet that the chinese have developed. The people living there have living standards that are amazingly higher than the rest of teh place but their culture is not anywhere near the same. Its a trade that I suppose is being made all over teh world. I still like the idea of keeping the culture but I’m feel that I’m a lonely soul in that when it comes to a global picture. How many people really want to leave someone in squalor if thats the way that the person has always lived? One disappointing thing is that all of the kids in the remote villages have at some time learned that foriegners are a source of money and so the first reaction of most of them is to stick out a grimey hand and ask for money. The closer to Lhasa that we get the less that happens but the whole thing spoils the interactions with those people. The ones that hadn’t learned that we meant money were great to joke and laugh with and we learned loads from them. We stayed a night in one monastary that was founded around 600 ad and had some awesome fun with the monks trying to learn about the place and swap stories (language barriers included).
I’ve also said a lot about riding up the passes and while we spent some days gaining more than 1600 vertical metres we’ve also dropped the same amounts. The friendship highway (so propaganderously named) is brand new for most of teh way and so dropping down the far side of a pass on perfect new road way is SOOOOOOOOO good. Cam and I hit 85 km/h the other day and have touched 80 a few other times. Nic likes to take it a little more sensibly and so has only been getting into the 60s but the first big drop of 15km and 1.2 vert km put smiles on that lasted days.
Anyway I’d better leave things at that. We’ve got a few more days here before saying goodbye to Cam and hitting eastern tibet so I’ll write some more soon.

I figure that I should also add that we’ve come to a bit of a hard decision but we are also going to have to call the journey to an end at Hanoi. Consistant niggling injuries are starting to take their toll on us and because of the fact that we’ve already had to miss a large section due to politics its no longer about riding the whole way. We’d probably try to push through if it was about finishing the whole thing but instead we have decided to save ourselves the anguish and to come back and do the sections that we can’t do now in the years to come. As a result we’ll be back in Aus for Christmas and resting up for the New Year.

Well I’ll write again soon.

Tc

10.26.09

Tibet border to Everest Base Camp

Posted in China, The journey journal at 11:10 pm by Administrator

Emails from TC … also sent Oct 26, 2009
Second blog to go up.

Cheers

Ahhh mountains. Nic loves them and gets a huge smile everytime she sees one of them and thats lucky because riding up them at amazingly stupid altitudes needs something to make you smile. The border is at 1500masl and by the third day of riding we crested a pass at 5130masl. That was waaaaay too fast and as a result the 3 of us were smashed by the altitude. Not to the point of having to be airlifted out like the aussie guy that we met at the border hospital but it was painful. To the point that the last 300 horizontal m (50 vertical m) hurt so much more than anything did during the ironman in april.
It has been great though. We have a guide and a driver that follow along with us. They usually drive 5 to 10 km in front of us and then wait for us to catch up and then pull out the thermos of tea while we catch our breath. The 4wd also has a rack on teh roof for those occassions in the first few days when the altitude became too great and we had to blouse it and put the bikes on the roof. Those guys have been really good at looking after us and I have no idea why I didn’t get a car from the start. They even manage to hide their bordom at taking 8 hours to drive 60 km.
Our guide has been doing this kind of thing for 8 years and we’re only the 3rd group that he has taken in this direction. All the other groups think that the lhasa to kathmandu direction is down hill. Apart from the first 3 days they’re wrong. Each pass is balanced once you’re at this height and they seem steeper going the other way. Also so far teh wind has been fantastically behind us. The only thing that I’d suggest is a day or 2 more acclimatisation at arround 4000 or 4500 m. After we made it to the top of the first pass we had to get in the car and drive the last 30 km because I couldn’t see for the tears and we were all so dizzy from teh lack of oxygen that we didn’t want to risk trying to speed down a pass.
Also once we got off of the main highway to head into Everest base camp from Tingri the road was really rocky and the wind was so strong in our faces that we took the car again until we were close enough to the mountains that the wind was blocked a little. At everst base camp I started to switch into stage 2 of altitude sickness (not fun I can tell you) and so we got in the car and rushed down from the 5200 to a more sane 4300.
Anywya time for the internet time to be over so have to go but have many many more tibet stories so I’ll be back when we get to Lhasa (4 days) and tell them then.

Tc

Kathmandu to Tibet Border

Posted in Nepal, The journey journal at 11:06 pm by Administrator

Email from TC…sent Monday, Oct 26, 2009
Hi Carole,
Here is the first blog message to go up on the site. hopefully I have enough time to get another one down about the journey here in the mountains.
Thanks very much
Tc

Blog 1

I’m now in Tibet an our website is blocked by the great firewall of China and so I can’t check where I left off in Kathmandu and so sorry if I repeat myself or leave stuff out.
We were in Kathmandu for 3 days before the intrepid Cam joined us from his annual travels around europe or whichever place takes his fancy. After that Nic, Cam and myself had great fun wandering around the kathmandu valley.
We hung out in the tourist district, wandered the streets beyond which were much less colourful in a ‘things to buy’ sense but much more colourful in a ‘people’ sense and we hiked and biked on the steep sides of the valley that the city sits in. Once out of the city you see the nepalese light up with smiles and hellos and they showed themselves to be a great and friendly bunch of people. Their looks vary from looking Indian to looking chinese and every variation of a mixture between. There was a much more western diet available in Kathmandu and so we filled up on some of the things that we missed.
One great thing that happened in Kathmandu is that we became really friendly with the hotel staff and manager. To the point that he gave us gifts of tshirts and traditional scarves when we left and he definitely had a mist in his eye when we left. So our recommendation is to stay at the Florid Nepal Hotel in Z street, Thamel
From Kathmandu we had to take a truck to the border because that is how things are organised for the trips to tibet. The company that arranged the tibet leg for us got the visas with no troubles which was a huge relief. There were some worries and mucking around with the organisation of it all but on the whole it seems to have worked out well. That is good as the kathmandu to lhasa leg is costing $1500 US each and the eastern part of tibet is costing a little more. You’d want good service for that.
The truck ride to the border was pretty cool. I rode in the back with the bikes for the whole trip (114km in 7.5 hours) because the front could only fit Nic and Cam. The views were spectacular on the journey and I recomend Nepal to anyone who craves a sumtuous visual feast.
From the point of view of a geotechnical engineer, the road trip to the border was scary as hell. So many sections of the road had given way or were about to that I had to try very hard not to look close to the road and only at distant scenery. The only advice that I can give is that if it is raining or has rained in the previous 24hours “DO NOT drive teh Kathmandu to Kodari road!” It gave me the serious heebie jeebies.
Also just near the border we were passing a tourist resort that boasted a 160m high bungy jump. As Cam had never done it before we called for a quick stop and he threw himself off of a nice a sturdy bridge above a spectacular canyon. I’d already done it before and Nic figured that surviving the drive was enough so we settled for taking video from various angles.
The delay was ok though because just ahead of where we stopped a bus driver going the other way had decided to fit around a truck that he had no business in trying to fit around and the bus ended up hanging by a very small margin over teh edge of the 160 metre deep canyon that cam jumped into. The bus hung there and ‘almost’ blocked teh road off. The kind driver did refund the money of the passengers and then the banked up traffic began the painful task of edging around the back of the bus.
Anyway we made it to the border in the end and spent our last night in Nepal in the town of kodari before a walk across the border and into the forbidden country of tibet.
Tc

10.23.09

Starting the Tibet Journey

Posted in China, Nepal, The journey journal at 1:35 pm by Administrator

Posting email received from TC on Wed, 21 Oct 2009

Hey Carole,

Nic is just sending you a few pics of our trip in tibet so far. Its pretty cool. We have a small problem in that China has blocked both facebook and our website. In that way we can’t update people on how we’re going. I was wondering if you could leave a quick message on teh blog to let everyone know that things are fine here. My friend Cam joined us in Kathmandu and we’ve been on the road ever since. There is very little electricity in Tibet let alone phone and internet so getting more info out will be pretty time consuming. I’m going to write a few blog entries over the next few days and I was hoping that if I emailed them to you that you’d be able to post them.

10.06.09

Ahhh Nepal

Posted in Nepal, The journey journal at 3:51 pm by Administrator

Wow. Its like someone has turned down the volume. Its quieter, cleaner, much less smelly and the most important part is that the people know how to smile and welcome a stranger. We’ve been a few days in Nepal are really like it. It may have been a shock if we had first come here but compared to india this is a paradise. Things changed from the border onwards. The 2 full days that we have had in Kathmandu have been great. We are staying in teh touristy area which is kinda cool. The novelty of seeing white people again is starting to wear off but to see them again was so strange. The are that we are in has bars and serves food that isn’t curry and has everything that you could want to buy. The food in india was one of teh highlights but 2 straight weeks of curry leaves you craving a change even if the curry is great. Yesterday we did a 50 m ride to get teh legs working again. It was 25 km uphill out of town and 25 back. The countryside and rural people here are really cool. Lots of green with rice paddies interspersed with stands of trees and the towns and fields are full of people with an easy smile and they are always quick to great you with teh standard Namaste. For a country that has a literacy rate below 50% there is an amazing amount of english here and even if the people don’t have any other languages, their ability to communicate makes life easy and cool. I refuse to believe that this country is poorer than india. In india the poor are retched, squalid and offensive. Here the people seem to care for their surroundings and have more pride in themselves (the indian woman took pride in their appearance but that was the only thing, everything else was covered in poo) and their surroundings. Here the children build swings and play things for themselves and seem to know how to have fun. The staff in the hotel that we are in are awesomely friendly and helpful (for $10 per day its a great deal) and they are typical of the Nepalese that we’ve met. Even the touts in the city are friendly about annoying you with their business. I’ve mever met more friendly guys trying to sell me hash on the street anywhere. Today we jumped on a local bus out to a temple for the ritual sacrifice day (we missed the goat being killed but aren’t too upset) and then went on a hike in the hills. All was fun and got some great photos looking down onto the city from the surrounding hills.
Cam joins us tomorrow and we’ll then spend some time around teh city waiting for our visas and doing a few hikes and bike rides of a few days. It should also be fun getting CAm upto the proper fitness to tackle the job of riding over teh worlds highest mountain range. We’re not even sure if we’re ready after 5 months on the road. It will all be fun and hopefully the visa comes through from the chinese embassy quickly so that we can start before it gets truly cold in the mountains. We’re expecting lows around -10 to -15 as it is.
Anyway bye for now

Tc

10.04.09

Out of india

Posted in The journey journal, Uncategorized, india at 5:40 pm by Administrator

Well I thought that I’d put a quick post up to say that we are out of india and are currently enjoying the relative calm of kathmandu.
The last while in india was typically fun. The package that we were waiting for was a massive problem as most things are in india. After 4 and a half hours in teh Kanpur post office and abusing the highest managers. I managed to find out that my package was in Delhi and it would take a further 4 days to reach Kanpur where I could then pick it up. After already waiting 6 days since it reached teh country I decided to get the 7 hour cattle class train to delhi and pick it up in person and then get the train back. The process there was a realtively simple 3 hours in the foreign post office to get the package but finally I did!!!!!!! WOOHOO. I nearly danced in the post office. I am still amazed at the complete incompetence of the indian postal staff and the lack of knowledge of their own system or care that they had no idea. They were on a par with the ethiopians, and that is saying something. But by doing that I freed us up to leave the god forsaken place and so after the usual hassle and crap we got an overnight train to gorakhpur and then the bus to the border.
My little adventure to delhi enabled me to have a few conversations with some indians about their country and their lives. It seems that I’ll never know all of india because the poor people can’t speak english and seem unable to communicate in even the most primative ways outside of their own spoken language. (even in the most rural parts of europe some form of communication was possible with no common words at all but that doesn’t seem possible in india) So I’ll never learn their point of view and the rich of india are completely oblivious to the fact that the country is full of disgustingly poor and reched people. They remind me of the world per columbus, they knew the world was flat because they refused to see the evidence. I could go on for hours how india is killing itself because the rich are convinced that the technology is the way forward and waste billions on sending probes to the moon when the poor can’t even afford paper to learn to read with let alone feed themselves. More than 350 million people in india live in extreme shit, beyond anything that I’ve seen anywhere else in teh 58 countries that I’ve been too and yet the rich classes are completely oblivious to any problem. They all need to do an AA course to get out of the denial stage.
But all that is behind us now. Also below is a photo of Nic in her indian outfit that we bought. It is typical of local cut and colour and looks pretty nice on her. The looks that she got once wearing it changed from teh drooling look on a sex object to looks of that on a novelty. that was an improvement but it was still intrusive and was too little too late.
I’ll blog about our entry to Nepal and post photos of Nci in her outfit soon.

Tc and Nic