quarta-feira, 20 de janeiro de 2010

Lhasa / Kathmandu - 7th Day

Lhatse (4030m) - Gyatsola Pass (5248m) - Camping (4390m)
Distance 110km

On my 7th day the sun woke up submerged in a deep blue "ocean" and the first streams were stronger enough to warm up our souls. The wind gusts, that almost made me fall off the bike on the day before, had disappeared before dawn as if by magic. After having another high energy breakfast, I started moving again towards the unknown!

For about 30km I pedalled through a vast and long valley with a strong human presence. The farm fields were the only green colours that my eyes could take from a landscape dominated by warm and arid colours. On the road, while I was riding, I overtaking several farm trucks that were pulling small wagons filled up with people, the human strength that was taken to the farm fields to start another working day.

The road I was riding couldn't be better: always flat, almost straigth and made of a fine paviment. My self-confidence was high enough to make me take off the hands from the steering wheel and to grab the camera. During 5/10km I rode the bike just like that, causing moments of fun every time I was overtaking the truks.

After 1:30 hour I left the flat road to start the way up towards Gyatsola Pass. This section would come quite harder compared to what I had imagined...Near the end I got the feeling that I overcome my own sense of mental and physic limits...first was the monotony that took upon me and then the mental and physic tiredness...at the end, each time I pedaled was like I was pulling a car with my mountain bike.

Again, I had a wonderful time in the place we choosed to set the tents. Children started to appear from everywhere and for one hour I almost forgot my tiredness just to be able to play a football game with them :-)

Workers extracting shale bords

5245m on my wristwatch

The team!

Da Wa :-)

sexta-feira, 15 de janeiro de 2010

Lhasa / Kathmandu - 6th Day

Shigatse (3840m) - Younongla Pass (4500m)
Distance - 130km

At the end of my 5th day of cycling I got really tired...my body finally gave up to exhaustion...I could only spend energy with simple and practical things. Fortunately there was a luxurious suite waiting for me in one of the best Hotels in town.

I was in Shigatse, one of the biggest towns in the south of Tibet. The name means “The fertile Land”. Is situated in a plain at the confluence of the Yarlong Tsangpo and Nyangchu Rivers where Tibet's most fertile land is to be found. Is a ancient holy city and the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, one of the spiritual leaders in Tibet.

After a very nice lunch, taken in a nepali restaurant, me and Da Wa went to see one of the most important monasteries in Tibet. In fact is one of the most important and holy places for the Tibetan Buddhism. Thousands of pilgrims come every year from everywhere to participate in the festival (Buddha Unveiling Festival). I was told that this festival was about to happened. It would start in a few days after my passage trough Shigatse…

I got really sad because I was not in the best shape to enjoy and to appreciate the wonderful architecture and the soul of this sacred place. But I had to put away these feelings and try to get the best of the moment. So I struggled in a very slow motion to the huge complex of the Ta Shi Lhun Po Monastery that is surrounded by big walls built at the bottom of a small and rocky hill that stands above Shigatse.

This majestic Monastery was founded by the First Dailai Lama, in 1447. Has a magnificent architectural style with a golden roof and resplendent buildings. Is one of the Six Big Monasteries of Gelugpa (or Yellow Hat Sect). Dozens of monasteries belonging to different sects enhance the atmosphere of this place.

Inside the Maitreya Chapel (the main one) stands the biggest statue of a sitting Maitreya Buddha. With his 26 meters high is decorated with gold, copper, pearl, amber, coral, diamond and other precious stones. Inside it’s also possible to see several stupa-tombs and one of them belongs to the tenth Panchen Lama. Was built in 1993 and is the most splendid and costly mausoleum in China, since the 1950s. I got astonished by the beauty of the place. In the end the extraordinary effort really worth it! :-)

Shigatse was the place where my entrance to the Qomolongma (Everest) National Park was paid and I had no more than two days of riding to reach the Qomolongma Base Camp. The purpose of my bike trip wasn't about visiting Everest, however the opportunity to be so close to this mountain and to be in the same valley where the first expeditions set their base camps, in the early 20's, had put me in a excited and anxious state.

Despite the size of Shigatse no more than 3km were ridden to get again that feeling of being lost in the wide landscapes of Tibet and far away from civilization. :-)

This was one of the hardest day of the entire journey...During the day I made the decision to make the distance that was planned for the next two days. The purpose of this madness was save time and stay longer in the Everest Base Camp.

The first landscape after Shigatse

terça-feira, 12 de janeiro de 2010

Lhasa / Kathmandu - 5th day

Gyantse (4020m) - Shigatse (3840m)
Distance - 95km
On the day before I had plenty of time…I had time enough to visit and enjoy the small town of Gyantse…It is one of the few places in Tibet that have not changed much since 1950.

This village is known mainly because of his fortress, called Dzong, a very special building, the Kumbum, and a big monastery, the Pelkor Chode.

When I arrived I gazed at that fascinating fortress-monastery, perched on a mountain. It looked impossible to reach and no doubt is meant to look that way. Down below, at the foothill, stands the Pelkor Chode Monastery and the amazing Kumbum stupa, both with more than 500 years old. The Kumbum it´s like a pyramid, has six levels and tens of shrines. Each shrine room contained at least one large, colorful statue, and the walls were painted with murals of mandalas or bodhisattvas.

Surrounding the monastery there are some streets that looked really old. Walking among them I got the feeling that I was somewhere in the middle age…small houses with two floors, where the ground floor is used to keep the animals and the first floor is where the people live. Most of the houses have no canalization and the sewage is still thrown into sewers that were built by the road, like the system that was used long ago, in the towns of the old Europe.

My fifth day started at 9:30 and I spent nearly 3:30 hours to make 95km to Shigatse. The road was flat most of the time and the surroundings were not as interesting as the landscapes of the prior days. So, I focused myself to push really hard :-)
Nearly after 30km from Gyantse I stopped to visit a mill where tsampa (the most famous food in Tibet) is made.

When I arrived Shigatse my legs couldn't walk straight without trembling...:-)
The mill

The mill's owner. He wanted to make business with me - his mill for my bike...I was temptedShigatse

sexta-feira, 8 de janeiro de 2010

Lhasa / Kathmandu - 4th day

Longma (4200m) - Gyantse (4020m)

Distance - 60km

I woke up very early in the morning and the first picture I had from the surroundings was some small piles of dry Yak shit that were meticulously stacked by our “one-day-neighbors”…a laugh came out immediately…what a wonderful feeling...eheheh..no picture could be better to make me remember that I was in the incredible and wide lands of Tibet.

On the day before, after crossing a heavy and thick curtain of rain and hail, the best site we found to set our tents was beside a small factory where the core business was a big scale manufactured dry Yak shit!...despite the narrowness of the valley there were plenty of flat places where we could set the tent…but, in the end, I didn’t know why, there was something cozy about the place we had chosen.

The day started as usual. Even though the fact that this was a totally different, new and intense reality for me, I was feeling like I was completely adapted. On that moment every single task was natural and straightforward for me and I was spending less time to start riding the bike.

I jumped to the road and I started moving at 8 a.m. without knowing the distance to Gyantse. The feeling of the unknown helped me to be more calm and to enjoy more of the journey. In the end a nice surprise was given to me. I stopped many times to get pleasure from the landscapes and to meet some local people but, even so, I arrived at Gyantse quite before noon and with some new friends. A few km from Gyantse I met a group of foreigners cycling towards Kathmandu. A Spanish, three Italians, one English and one German…empathy between us came out instantly J


terça-feira, 5 de janeiro de 2010

Lhasa / Kathmandu - 3rd Day

Baidi (4300m) - Karola Pass (5039m) - Longma (4200m)
Distance - 90 km

I woke up with a mist above my head...the weather wasn't inviting for a ride but the landscape was still wonderful!

This was the day I would defeat my altitude record! I was just a few hours away from the passage that would take me to an altitude of 5039m! I was about to jump to harder level of breathless caused by thin air.

I started to pedal through a curtain of rain but in that moment I couldn't feel in a better mood for what I was about to face.

My tent...

Windows and dry yak shit

In the very moment I was waiting for the shot a bus stopped and nearly 20 chinese jumped out and started to walk towards me. After this picture I was invited to pose with every one of them to take a picture...

Finally...at 5039m!....after a long....long....long and freezing way....

My first view of a mountain with an altitude of 7000m

At our camp