Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Day 3 – Lhasa – Ganden Monastery – Ganden

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Distance – 110kms
Max Altutide – 4300m
Riding Time – 4.5 hours

Wanted to have a solid hit out today before starting the trip proper and certainly achieved that. I chose Ganden Monastery for three reasons:

  1. It looked spectacular, set high on the side of a mountain
  2. It was about the right distance
  3. It has a nasty climb and rose to 4300m – enough to test the extent of my acclimatisation

The day started frustratingly – no one was in reception to open the room where my bike was being stored, which meant I had to cool my heels for 45 minutes. I did manage to do some laundry so the time wasn’t completely wasted and was on the road by 8.45am. The trip to the base of the final climb felt very much like Vietnam with people working in the fields, some ugly little villages dotted along the road and lots of smoky farming equipment on the road. The most interesting site was a guy prostrating his way down the road – a ritual that signifies his religious commitment. In essence, people believe that prostrating increases your connection to Buddha and some people will travel hundreds of kilometres in this fashion to make the point.

The climb to Ganden was spectacular but tough – 9.5kms at 10% in places. The altitude made life even more difficult and every time I took a sip of water it would take 30 seconds for my breathing to return to normal. I made it to the top OK and left my bike with a monk on the front gate before setting off for some thin-air exploration. The monastery was spectacular and real `working’ monastery – unlike the Potala Palace which is more of a museum piece – which meant there were monks to-ing and fro-ing everywhere.
Met a French girl – Karine – who had cycled solo from Pakistan to Lhasa on her maiden bicycle ride. An incredible effort, which I was to hear about over dinner later that day. She was also able to provide me with some good tips about the road ahead, including advice on the current situation with regards permits. Her words were encouraging.

The ride back to Lhasa was difficult as I battled a headwind and dehydration. I stopped for two litres of water and two bananas about 30kms from home, but couldn’t really linger as I had to get to the Nepali consulate before closing. I got there with a few minutes to spare, and turned my attention to packing.

 

Spent most of the night at the Barkhor, which was now subject to a much heavier police presence. I was to learn later that the reason for this was that the Dalai Lama had been given an international award and the Chinese Government were worried that a `Free Tibet’ protest might erupt. The irony is that the police presence only drew more attention to the achievement, as most people would not have even heard about the award. I couldn’t help but think that with all these police around and mass anxiety that tomorrow might not be the best day to head off….

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