Monday, May 31, 2010


Saw a lot of YAPs and YATs (yet another temple) ... the Potala palace this morning was spectacular. Haven't seen any yaks yet.
Did eat a few, though - on a yakburger, fried, as a steak - it's best in curry :)
3600m above sea level. it's hot, between 30 and 40 degrees. Perfect summer days. Air is very dry - i'm goin nowwhere without a bottle of water, lip-ice and some face cream! It's hot, i hope i get to use all the cold weather gear i brought! There's a lot of hiking shops here in Lhasa, but unfortunately i have everything i need :)
There's an incoming or outgoing mail stuck in the phone's in/outbox, so i can't use it for mail at the moment - so i can't post pictures from there at the moment.
Finally begin cycling tomorrow. The support team arrived, and are buying our food now. I think it's a flattish 85, haven't checked.

The box was badly damaged on the three flights, but bike arrived undamaged and with all the parts. The tubeless tube came off. There's a few bike shops in Lhasa, but bikes don't run on tubeless. Motorbikes don't run on tubeless either, so i'll put a tube in this afternoon, and then go test it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Was Buddha's 2554'th birthday yesterday. Big festivities around town.
Here's Boudhanath temple, a favourite pilgrimage destination for buddhists; somehow i didn't expect to see monks talking on cellphones & taking digital pictures - but how else would they talk to family & take home memories?
Saw Kumari, a living goddess, in Durbar square, about 5 yrs old. Monkey temple, where the monkeys were hiding from the heat. Lovely views of Kathmandu from there :)
A Hindu cremation site, where-after the remains just gets dumped in the almost stationary and very shallow river. Won't recommend swimming in that river.
Catchin a flight over the himalayas to Lhasa early tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


41 degrees outside. waiting for connection flight to kathmandu just after 12. haven't spotted any yaks yet, but wil keep my eyes open ad camera ready. need coffee to ensure that i'm awake & not miss the flight.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Geek Day

Star-wars fans and other geeks celebrate Geek Pride Day world-wide on 25 May - the date that the first Star Wars movie was released in 1977. 25 May also happen to be  International Towel Day (an indispensable item when you hitchhike through the galaxy), which was celebrated for the first time 2 weeks after Douglas Adams' death in 2001.

Excitement in our office started building quite a while ago when we all completed the geek test to find our geek scores. (Can't work in the IT department and NOT celebrate geek day!) We put up everyone's scores, nagged those who hasn't taken the test yet, watched star wars over weekends and then retook the test to beat someone else. Forgotten (and sometimes not so forgotten) cupboards were searched for working Light Sabres, Rubiks' cubes of every shape and size, Star Wars chess sets, cards and monopoly, working Atari consoles, the installation floppies for forgotten Dos text-based Hitchiker's Guide games, Dungeons & Dragons manuals, 20-year-old working Tetris consoles, and a complete collection of every Star Wars movie that was ever made. Invitations were made in green-on-black dos fonts, and instructions to the venue were coded in C# and in SQL.

Like true geeks, we turned to Google to find out what we're supposed to wear on Geek day. It turned out that it's business as usual - jeans and t-shirts - so we decided to up the game a bit. We had Superheroes, Harry Potters, Nutty Professors and Girl-geeks in every shape and size.

A very fun day at the office - it's cool to be a geek!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Playing bike-tetris

Finally managed to fit the unsquare bike in the sqaur-ish box. Hope i manage to build a complete bike-puzzle from all the pieces when i unpack it in Lhasa. Now to get the sleepingbag and tools in there ... But first it's teatime :)

whatever the weather

One of the reasons why i like touring by bicycle, is because you get to experience the environment - when there's a mountain, you get tired getting up it; when it rains, you get wet. You're a participant, inside the landscape - not a spectator.

Here's a few websites with what weather to expect when (with expected dates wehn I'll be there) (everest base camp; 10-12/6)

The higher above sea level, the colder it gets - the normal 'environmental lapse rate' (how much it gets colder as you go higher) is about 6.5°C for every 1000m climb. So if it's a pleasant 25°C on the beach in Capetown, then you can expect temperatures on Table Mountain 500m higher to be just over 21 °C (without any wind chill taken into account). At 5200 m above sea level (the altitude at the base camp) it would be well below 0°C.

Enough Geography - I have to go Box the Bike. 3 Cheers to Wolfgang from Linden Cycles who removed the peddles today with his oversized peddle-tool after i struggled for more than an hour to get them loose last night.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

An emergency brake transplant

The Hardtail had an emergency brake transplant today - and the Trance was the donor ... at least NOW i understand why the Mankele downhill a few weeks ago was so fast.

The good part about this is that i now can justify getting the extremely cool pink hope brakes for the Trance - how sexy is this:

More bad news from the bike shop was that this will be the hardtail's last expedition - it's swan song. The frame is moeg, and need to be replaced. That frame did far more than what is was designed for - i think the warning sticker on the bike mentioned something about not abusing the bike - i promptly removed it when i noticed. I might be able to squeeze the last bit of value out of it with commuting when I'm back - at least till I'm able to afford fixing it. Wolfie (my friendly bike mechanic from Linden Cycles) left a few cm at the top of the shock-thingy to enable me to reuse it on a different frame.

The good news from the bike shop was that the 'shock' diet worked for the hardtail - it now weighs in at 12.5 kg, and the total boxed bike, sleepingbag, tools and other non-hand-luggagable stuff weighs in at marginally less than 20 kgs. I might have to add a shock pump, though (i'm still researching the effects of altitude on shocks - more about that later.)

Now all i have to do is stay at home for a few weeks (AFTER Himalayas, of course) so that the credit card can recover so that I can get the brakeless Trance on the road again. And then start looking for a (preferably pink, but white will do) XTC frame for the hardtail. Which makes me wonder - when does 'the hardtail' stop being 'the hardtail' and become a hardtail - or at least 'another hardtail'? when you replace the wheels cos you need to go tubeless? when you replace the brakes cos the v-brakes just couldn't manage sabie's mud? the shock? the drivetrain? the saddle? the frame? what part of a bike defines the bike?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Typhoid, Giardiasis, Hepatitis ...

Lonely Planet's guide on Tibet warns of all kinds of horrors: travellers' diarrhea, cholera, giardiasis, amoebic dysentry - and then maladies associated with altitude: acute mountain sickness, different types of respiratory issues - and then the 'normal' warnings like rabies and hepatitis. I didn't quite understand how bleak the picture is that it's painting, until i started googling some of the words.

cat-i: define: Typhoid
google: Typhoid fever is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by Salmonella typhi bacteria. It is usually carried via water or by food contaminated with sewage.

cat-i: define: Giardiasis
google: infection of the intestines with protozoa found in contaminated food and water; characterized by diarrhea and nausea and flatulence and abdominal ...

This went on until I got really scared. So I made an appointment at a travel clinic.

Tetanus: sorted till 2020
Typhoid: fine till 2013
Hepatitis A: have to go get a booster before the end of the year, and I'm sorted for life.

For all the different types of diarrhea, the easiest (and probably most difficult to implement) precaution is to always wash my hands before i touch any food. Bottled water are not recommended (the plastic bottles causes a waste problem in rural Tibet) - but boiling water (even at lower temperatures due to altitude) will kill anything that needs to be killed - teahouses generally have boiled water available. For all other types of fluid, iodine-base water purification tablets should work. I haven't found those yet, but have a small bottle of iodine that i'll take with if i can't find tablets.

Oh, and in my next life i'll be a travel doctor. You inject people with all kinds of things, and listen to their tales of things they have done, and what they are planning next. The only thing better than to hear travel stories all day, is collecting them yourselves!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nokia E72: The Coolest Toy Ever

(other than a mountain bike, of course)

I work for a cellphone company. Well, sort of.

My own cell phone is pretty basic: way back when i got it, i wanted to make and receive calls and SMSes. For everything else there'd always be Internet Cafes. So i went for the cheapest phone on the list and bought a cool pair of trail running shoes as reward.

Anyway .... so I have this basic phone that can't blog. Or take pictures. Or calculate total check-in luggage weights. Or check email. Or check if the bike's seat is level. Or even make sound clips.

Then, for some or other reason some people at work, including my boss, thought it was really cool that i go on this adventure to go herd yaks. So he organised THE COOLEST cellphone for me to allow me to access the Internet while i'm away - a Nokia E72.

So I inserted my Sim card, switched it on - and i'm connected to the world. Yes, sure it can make calls and send smses - all the boring stuff that you'd want a phone to do.

  • Internet was SO easy! I used the built-in application, but then downloaded OperaMini, and it is so intuitive! Gmail, Facebook, my blog, the hub - everything available right there! (Yes Yes i know - other phones can do this too, and has been doing it for years - but this is so cool!) ... and it's using so little interwebs packets!
  • It has Outlook-functions like meetings and work-stuff ... or play-stuffs - i've listed flight details and times on there, just in case i forget. And the to-do-list ... which currently tells me that i have to go get a vit B injection (to try get rid of the cold), see a travel clinic for a typhoid injection, arrange passport photos, organise how i get to the airport next wednesday, and go fetch the hardtail from the bikeshop tomorrow. I haven't set up the mail function yet - don't want work-mail to be spamming me when i'm cycling in snow, and haven't tried connecting it to gmail yet.
  • It has a mini-Office, with a word processor and a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet navigation is very intuitive. I've compiled my packing list, logged the weights of all the items, and calculated the total weight on there. Haven't figured out how to copy that spreadsheet over to my machine yet.
  • GPS. I've downloaded Sportstracker, which gives me an accurate summary of my workout.
  • Other non-cellphone-related stuff, like a dictionary (check spelling, hear pronunciation, and translates, once you've downloaded the foreign languages). There's a unit converter to convert US Dollars to Chinese yuan, but also feet to meters and Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius. There's a pdf reader so I can load all my travel docs up here. There's even a 'scanner' (the camera) with OCR software - Am gonna 'scan' my passport in, then i don't have to carry paper photocopies around.
  • Oh, yes, it's got a camera - as a backup for the big camera that i'm taking - and also if there's some really cool stuff that i want to blog right away :) A pretty good lens, i've experimented ant the pictures are much better than those taken by the waterproof adventure-panasonic. Can't use it where i can use the panasonic, though.
  • The battery life is a cool 12 days, so i should be able to go through the whole trip without recharging - if i use it only for emails and interwebs, and switch it off while i cycle. The GPS chows batteries, though.
  • The coolest thing on this phone is the alarm - you turn the phone around to snooze it.
It probably does what all smartphones do .... but i'm very impressed and will certainly get my own smartphone when i'm back.

It doesn't have a spirit level.
I'm serious - a previous phone (the one that was stolen at a Sabie Xperience years ago) had a miniature spirit level in - you were supposed to callibrate the compass with it, but i've never used the compass - it was very handy to check if the bike's seat is level, though.

Mohan (who organises the tour) says i'd be able to buy pay-as-you-go simcards in Nepal and in Lhasa. Reception is not great, but it works.

 ..... now i just need to start working on stories of how a yak ate the phone in Kathmandu just before our flight back to South Africa ...

the packing list

Qatar allows 20 kg check-in baggage, and 7 kg hand-luggage for economy class. And a whole lot of pounds for any overweight.

Spent most of the weekend weighing stuff with the kitchen scale.

Here's the packing list so far:

Check-in baggage:
This will be the bike box with bike and sleeping bag, and other things that I most likely won't be allowed to take on board as hand luggage.

  • Bicycle - 13.5 kg - it's in the shop at the moment to have the (lighter) shock fitted, and the trance's wheel are lighter (300g) - so I'm hoping this would weigh in at less than 13 kg
  • Bike Box & Sleeping bag - 5 kg
  • Salomon bag & 3l bladder - 700g (it's 200g ligher than the pretty green camelback)
  • Bike-tools - 850g (2 spare tubes, tyre levers, drop-out, multitool, knife, brake pads, pump, chainlinks. Lube not included yet, and no chain tool.)
  • Medication - 420g (pain killers, vits, nausea, diarrhea, sore throat, rehydrate, med-lemon, plasters. Water purification tablets/fluid not included yet.)
  • Toiletries - 400g (this one i'm proud of - it includes a towel, the toiletry bag, shampoo, laundry soap, toothpaste, wet-wipes AND make-up! waterless hand cleaner not included yet.)

This adds up to almost 21 kg, and i still have to add a few grams for the tape to tape the box up. I might split the toiletries to take stuff out that would be allowed to fly, and possibly take the tubes as hand-luggage too. I will re-assess when i got the bike back from the bikeshop and see what the final verdict is.

Hand luggage:
  • Camera bag with camera, tiny headlight, cellphone, passport, other travel docs and book - this i'm not planning on giving to anyone to weigh :)
  • I'm wearing softshell pants, shortsleeved cycling shirt, thermal (my new yellow soccer-friday puffadder), down jacket, cycling shoes and buff. thermal windbloc gloves goes in the pocket of the down jacket.
  • All the clothes (that i'm not wearing) will go as hand luggage. I wonder what the immigration official will say if he orders me to pack out, and there's 3 set of cycling shorts in the bag. Anyway - here's the list:

  • cyclingshort * 3 = 450g (capestorm is slightly lighter than first ascent, so capestorm it will be)
  • rain pants = 250g
  • shortsleeve t = 110g (the favourite fox-shirt is 30g heavier than the capestorm shirt. am wondering if i need another one - apart from the one i'm wearing?)
  • longsleeve t = 150g (t-shirt means those nice wicking running shirts from capestorm that i use for cycling.)
  • thermal longsleeve top = 150g (the capestorm version of helly hansen)
  • wind jammer = 100g (the red helium jacket, and not my favourite dayglo cirrus jacket, which is 200g heavier)
  • ear muff = 10g
  • fleece pants * 1 = 300g (capestorm hotrod)
  • arm warmers = 50g
  • rain jacket = 420g
  • waterproof overmittens = 80g
  • hair beanie = 150g (capestorm freak - my license to never comb my hair when i'm touring)
  • sleeping bag liner = 150g
  • leg warmers (windproof) = 180g
  • underwear & socks * 2 each = 300g (one website suggests 5 pairs, so i might up this - and possibly buy a pair or 2 of socks in kathmandu)
  • bag to put it all in = 700g

Hand luggage weighs in at less than 4 kg at this stage - lots of space for pocket espressos and south african flags :D

Being a 'base' for lots of trekkers to the Himalayas, there's a few hiking shops in Kathmandu - so i'm planning to buy a few things in Kathmandu, among other things a sarong of some sorts to put on over cycling pants when off the bike, thermal long johns, and maybe a pair or 2 of socks.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

the airbus crash this morning

When I heard the news about the airbus crash, the first thing that went through my mind is that I have to do the things that I still wanted to do, now - before it's too late. It happens so quickly. One moment you are alive and have plans to conquer the world. In a second everything changes.

I received a phone call from Leticia this evening. Her husband Hans Wolfaardt was on that plane.

He took me under his wing when I was a D&D newbie, and was my Transbaviaans team captain (and team mechanic) 2 years ago.

He wanted to do Transbaviaans in 14 hours this year. And he was gonna do Lionman this weekend. None of these will now happen.

My thoughts are with Letisia and the kids. May you find peace.

Monday, May 10, 2010

2 weeklets (and a bit) to take-off: the itinerary

Impeccable timing for a cold/flu (if the cold simply had to be had, that is). After Joberg2C, but with enough time to recover for the Himalayan adventure. The Mnweni Marathon, however, will have to wait till next year - doc said not with this cold in that temperatures and altitude.

Got a mail from Mohan this morning; he's organising the 'alien permit' for Tibet and had some questions. Suddenly the trip is a reality.

My mom always wanted to know the exact itinerary, even if i was backpacking in a post-war African country with no plan at all, except a date that i had to be back at work - so here goes:

26 May
Check in. drink airport coffee, shop that the duty-free Cape Union Mart shoppie, and then fly to Doha and on to Kathmandu.

27 May
Arrive in Kathmandu, hope that the riots cleared up, and shop for stuff that you forgot at home. There should be lots of outdoor shops, with it being the gateway to some big mountains.

28 May
Sighteeing in Kathmandu

29 May
Fly over arguably the world's prettiest mountains to Lhasa.

30 May sightseeing Lhasa
(this is mainly to acclimatise; Lhasa is amost 4000m amsl)

31 May - more sightseeing in Lhasa. Find a place to drink Yak Butter Tea.

1 June Start the Bike Tour![85km]
Finally, your trans-Himalayan biking adventure begins. We leave Lhasa and cycle along the Tsangpo River to the foot of the Kamba Pass (3700 m). When you arrive you will find tents,latrines, shower tent and facilities ready. Overnight accommodation in tents.

2 June Kamba Pass [55km]
Your first mountain pass. A strong uphill climb reaches a summit lavishly adorned with prayer flags (4794m). After descending we continue alongside Lake Yamdruk, at the far side of which we set camp (4490m). Overnight accommodation in tents.

3 June Karo Pass [54km]
Leaving the beautiful lake behind, we cycle through a ravine and up to the foot of the Karo Pass (4750m), where our tented village will be prepared for the night. Overnight accommodation in tents.

4 June Gyantse [79km]
A significant day on the tour, as we have to get up early to climb the high Karo Pass (5010m). By now you will be feeling in good physical condition. Around us we can see glaciers of 6000m and beautiful lakes. You are rewarded for your effort with a night in a top hotel in the city of Gyantse (3980m). Overnight accommodation at Hotel Gyantse.

5 June Shigatse [85km]
First we will take an hour to visit the Palkhor Monastery and the old part of Gyantse town.Although today involves a longer distance, the highway is paved and flat. In the afternoon we will arrive in Tibet's second largest city, Shigatse (3860m). Overnight accommodation at Hotel Shigatse.

6 June Gyachung Monastery [75km]
We leave Shigatse and ride over two small passes and through several small Tibetan villages. We will cycle past the isolated Gyachung Monastery and camp. Overnight accommodation in tents at around 4100m.

7 June Lhatse [95km]
The route lead us through picturesque valleys. Then the long ramp begins which leads over the Yulong pass (4520m). After lunch we head towards Lhatse (3860m). Just before this town there is a hot springs. We will camp approx. 10 km after Lhatse. Accommodation in tents.

8 June Shegar [75km]

Today we have to contemplate the stunning canyon of the 5220m Lakpa Pass. On a clear day you will be rewarded for your effort with your first view of Mount Everest. After a 40 km ride through flat prairie towns you will arrive in the town of Pelbar, often refered to as Shegar. This town is a popular stopover for anyone heading to the Everest region. Overnight accommodation in a hotel Quomolongma.

9 June Pang Pass [67km]
It's now time to divert from the Lhasa-Kathmandu highway and head towards the world's highest peak. First you are faced with 20km of uphill switchbacks (42 hairpin bends in total!) before you reach the summit of the Pang Pass (5150m). Enjoy lunch as you gaze over Makalu (8463m), Shishapangma (8012m), Cho Oyu (8210m), Lhotse (8516m), Everest (8850m) and several other breathtaking peaks. Then a 20-kilometer downhill follows to the Rongbuk Valley (4200m), where we camp. Overnight accommodation in tents.

10 June Rongbuk Monastery [35km]
Now you should be at peak fitness and very excited about the approach of Everest Base Camp. A bumpy road winds up through the Rongbuk valley until the majestic Mount Everest appears before you. We will camp beside the monastery with the unforgettable sight of the 8850m peak in front of your eyes.. We will stay here for two days. Overnight accommodation in tents (5150m).

11 June Everest Base Camp [8km * 2]
A day to relax. However, you will definitely want to get as close as you can to Everest. You can walk, cycle or even take a donkey and cart ride to the base camp which is 8km from the campsite. Overnight accommodation in tents.

12 June Tingri [76km]
Leaving Rongbuk, we head back down the bumpy road then take a "short-cut" into the mountains. Another bumpy trail takes us over a canyon and down into Tingri (4340m). Overnight accommodation in tents.

13 June Lalung Pass [75km]
This day begins with a 40 to 50km flat ride before lunch. Then we tackle the gradual incline of the Lalung Pass (4990m). From here you will feel like you are as high as the peaks around you, including Shishapangma (8012m). Overnight accommodation in tents in the valley between two passes.

14 June Cross Thang Pass and The Ultimate Downhill [117km]
Now get ready for one last kick uphill. You will climb Thang Pass (5050m). You will be treated to breathtaking views of the Himalayan chain as you freewheel down.
Stop and pat yourselves on the back because from here on down to the Nepalese border it's all downhill.. From the town of Nyalam you will notice that the scenery is starting to turn green again. Spiral on down past countless waterfalls to the border town of Zhangmu (2300m). This will be our last day in Tibet. Overnight accommodation in a hotel Zhangmu.

15 June Back to Nepal [97km]
From Zhangmu we have to pass through customs and into Nepal. Once you are in the Nepali town of Kodari the downhill continues for the next 50 km. Suddenly it is tropical and humid and green again. After you reach the town of Dolalghat you must climb up to Dhulikhel (1600m). Accommodation in Dhulikhel Lodge Resort.

16 June Bhaktapur and Kathmandu. [35km]
What a wonderful way to end this trip – a big breakfast at sunrise and the spectacular panorama of the Himalayas. You will certainly enjoy the last few kilometers as we freewheel down to Bhaktapur. Here you will stop to see some of the town's several century old famous temples before riding into busy Kathmandu again.
On the remaining time you can relax, shop or go sightseeing. Evening we invite you on a farewell dinner at Rum Doodle Bar.Stay overnight at Hotel De L' Annapurna.

17 June
Flight from Kathmandu to Doha and on to Joberg International.

18-19 June

Rest of the Year
bore everyone with pictures and stories :D

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

21 days before take-off to Tibet

The new shock that i ordered for the hardtail is still on Heathrow airport. Been stuck there since 23 April, possibly due to the volcano. Hope it arrives in time to be fitted and tested before i have to pack the bike to fly to Kathmandu.

The hardtail was booked for a full service (and shock-fitting) on Friday, but I'll use that slot to have the Trance looked over. It served me well on Joberg2C - there was not one mechanical, not even a puncture -
(only the shock and headset that rattled loose from the juicy downhills) - so it deserves to be thoroughly looked over and the mud, sand and beachride-salt cleared.

I rebooked the hardtail for a week later, hoping that the shock will arrive in time. The back brake also need attention, but if all else fails, i can just use the Trance's back brake. Bike is still on the other side of the Boereword-gordyn, with Donald - will go fetch it Thursday night at the Dark&Dirty - any excuse to go through to Pretoria for the ride :)

Other things on the list:
- find out what documentation needs to go with, and print and make copies
- passport photos for visas and permits
- travel insurance - should be covered by discovery and the credit card, but need to get confirmation and docs
- the packing list - what to take and what to leave
- what tyres to take, and what wheels (possibly the trance's wheels?)
- what spares to take and what to leave
- foreign currency
- postal addresses of people who might need postcards - e.g. the office :D
- get hold of a phone that can send sms & mms
- find out, and get plug-adapters for charging camera and cellphone

Monday, May 3, 2010

joberg2c day 9: fast & furious

Jolivet to Scottburgh
75 km; 1235 m vertical ascent
(that's what they claim, but i only measured 60-something kays and about 900m vertical ascent)
3:23, with the customary hour penalty

here's the film crew before the start:

it was a most stunning morning. i felt much better than on yesterday's long climbs. the day started fast with lots of downhills through sugar plantations. A climb or two (steep at stages).

then on to vernon crookes and those rocky climbs which i almost managed - cycled the whole thing, but had to put feet down a few times. oh, well, there's always next time.

the singletrack started very fast, but we caught up with a baby zebra and 3 big zebras always running between the baby and the cyclists. the zebra were rattled, so we cycled slower and slower - after a few long kilometers, it realised that it could get off the tracks, and the mad racing continued.

caught up with the tandem, got a push (from the black trek) up the last 20 metres of one particularly steep hill (just before the last waterpoint) ... then some district road, short sweet climbs followed by longer sweeter downhills ... and too soon i reached the concrete pipe, the last bit of forest singletrack and the last bridge towards the beach.

too soon it's over.

wow what a ride!