Wednesday, June 9, 2010

42 hairpin bends - and the sweetest downhill singletrack

It was a beautiful day when we left Shegar. More tar, then the first signs of a big mountain waiting for us - here we finally left the tar - the bike now much happier 'cos it was on familiar surface :)

Lots of town have 'gates' at the entrance - here's the town gate just before Pang La. 

Tibettan houses all look the same - a flat roof and painted square windows like this one. Often more symmetrical, though.

Pang La has 42 hairpin bends. I counted them. It's about 1000m's worth of vertical ascent. It took a while to get up there. On the way up, I thought it would be cool to come down that bends - but that was before I saw the singletrack on the other side :)

The view from the top was just stunning - the first time we saw the Himalayas. Wow. Was windy and cold, so I retreated to the lunch-spot about 200m back.

After lunch, we crested the hill again - and then, when everyone wanted to go on the motorway, the guide pointed to a hiking trail. 'The road's too bumpy', was his excuse. And man, was that singletrack fun! I'm used to let the faster people go first on singletrack ... but I soon realised that the 2 South Africans are much more comfortable on this than any of the faster climbers or tar-riders ... so we asked some track and bombed down the trail with large grins ... there were some steep turns, and a jumpie here and there - and every time you look up, Everest is in front of you.

THIS was why I came to Tibet.

The thrill lasted for a long time - at the bottom, we joined the dirtroad again, but it was horribly corrugated - and there were lots of yak-tracks and donkey-cart-tracks next to the road, which made for excellent mountainbiking on what was generally downhill and with a tailwind. I stopped too often to take pictures, so lost contact with the front guys - but those behind me couldn't catch me - so this made for some solitary riding in a desert - this day easily counts as one of my best days of riding yet.

When the downhill finally ended in a small town, we waited for the whole group while the truck tried to source some drinking water for the night. the last 5 kms was into a gale force headwind on a false flat - uphill on badly corrugated road. Was hard cycling, but luckily not too far. Arriving at the campsite, the truck's crew (who arrived just before us) had difficulty putting up the tents in that wind - so we all jumped in to help. It took about 6 people per tent to pitch it in that wind.

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