Sunday, September 19th, 2021

Day 2 – Lhasa


Distance – 20kms
Max Alt – 3600m
Riding Time – 1 hour

Lhasa is spectacular, including the flight in where you weave through massive valleys. In the three or four hours I had been in Lhasa I managed to get the bike box on to a rickshaw (didn’t thrill the driver but I was coming here to cycle so he didn’t get a lot of sympathy from me), strolled around the Barkhor – or old town – and caught a glimpse of the Potala Palace which was home to the Dalai Lama before his exile.

The first full day in Lhasa was spent on `housekeeping’ and chores. The housekeeping consisted of applying for my Nepalese visa and ended up more of a circus than anticipated. First, they needed a photograph which I didn’t have. The only photographer I could find was one who takes pictures of tourists standing in front of the Potala Palace (pictured below). As part of the deal they dress you up in ceremonial clothes to make it look like you are a high monk, and were offended when I said I wanted to remain in my humble clothes. The guy rigged up a velvet backdrop for me and said it would be ready by 11.20am – the consulate shuts at midday… The other problem was that the money for the photo ate into my cash reserves, and I had to find a bank (quickly) to change my US dollars while I waited for the photo to be developed.

At 11.58am I was still standing in line about 20 people from the front of the queue. To my shock, the guy on the door pointed at a monk and I and called us to the front before dragging us in the door that was locked behind us. The Chinese and Tibetans I had to push through were understandably pissed off that the white man and man of the cloth got preferential treatment. First time I’d felt like a pro footballer at a nightclub., and the gesture saved me another day in Lhasa…

The chores were less complicated: unpack the bike (nothing broken) and take a shower (a disaster because I grabbed my sleepsheet not chamois and so had to put my clothes on while wringing wet in a freezing outdoor shower).

Aside from all that had a great day, much of it subconsciously spent acclimatising to altitude. The effects so far have been a strong desire to sleep, shallow breathing and the slightest nausea. The effects were heightened by a 20km bike ride around the Barkhor, taking in the smell of incense and whirring of prayer wheels while people watching (one of those people pictured above). Had dinner at Spinn Café – a restaurant set up by a cyclist from Hong Kong – where I had a Lhasa Beer and Tom Yum soup.

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