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The Endless Sky Trip -- Cycling the Himalaya cycling in western Tibet

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Domar, Tibet, China
6/9/98

Domar, Tibet China June 9 1998

We reached Tibet just a couple days ago. Upon our arrival we have been greeted with typical Tibetan weather. That means you get blasted with all four seasons in a single day. Mornings are icy, the water bottles on the bike are frozen most of the way through. When the bright morning sun hits our camping area things warm up a bit. By the time we start riding we still have most all of our heavy clothes on. An hour or two down the road and maybe we have shed our Gortex parkas, pile hat and ski gloves. Another hour
and the sun goes behind the clouds and the dark clouds of a snow storm chase us up the valley, we stop to get our warmer clothes back on and the snow starts to blow in at a nearly horizontal angle. Five minutes later and it is getting hard to see more than 50 feet down the road and the snow is freezing into my beard. We are climbing a nearly 18,000 foot pass, as the road transitions into mostly mud. Mud to thick to ride through, we push the bikes up hill through the streamlets of snow melt and thick orange mud that sticks to the tires, to the spokes, to the bikes itself. And ten minutes later it has all stopped. We bask in the intense sunlight of the high altitude plateau. Once again we stow our winter clothes. The climb continues we stop at the top to share a Snickers bar carried from Pakistan and a chocolate PowerBar brought from the USA. We point the bikes downhill, the washboard road endlessly hammers our bodies and our bikes. After an hour of decent we stop to filter drinking water from an icy clear stream. Within minutes a hail storm dumps pea size ice pellets on us, nearly covering the ground in a fresh white blanket, and ten minutes later the sun beams down to remove any trace of the hail. We pack up out bottles of sweet tasting water and move on to look for a campsite for the evening.

Update from John:
The nine days we spent riding across the Askin Chin were physically demanding, but that only underlined the almost ethereal beauty of the terrain. It is an austere, hard, simple and pure landscape. The Askin Chin is also high- around 5000 meters (16,500 feet). The altitude makes every action a slow, deliberate effort of will, and seems to make the muted yellows, reds and browns of the mountains shimmer against a violet sky.

Domar, where we are resting and stocking up for the next leg of our journey, is a strange place. Half of the buildings are in ruins, and it seems that only about twenty people live here. We've been staying in a hotel run by a very friendly Tibetan family- they helped us to no end to get supplies and they make sure that our cups of butter tea are always full. It's a real luxury to sleep in a bed and have our food cooked for us. You never appreciate a bare cement floor until you're slept on dirt every night for a week! We're stocked up for the next ten days- today we bough 30 packs of noodles, 35 boiled eggs, about 5 kilos of bread, 1 kilo of raisins, and so on. Tomorrow we'll go on a pilgrimage site for the full moon, and then we'll set off again. Next stop:- the ancient Guge Kingdom.

-John


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