Sunday, September 19th, 2021

Day 7 – Gyantse – Shigatse


Distance – 100kms
Max Altitude – 4000m
Riding time – 4 hours

One of the most enjoyable days I have ever had on a bike. In stark contrast to yesterday, the road was paved, the terrain flat and the wind barely noticeable. The first 40kms in particular were a dream: people sifting barley in the fields, horses and carts the mode of transport and constant waves from villagers working the field.

Before the riding started I visited the amazing `Giant Kumbum’ (pictured right), a huge, circular structure that contains 75 individual chapels and is nine storeys high. I made my way to the top amongst the hordes of pilgrims and was truly amazed by the scale and detail of the place.

It was difficult to leave Gyantse, a town that had provided me with warmth, a great hotel, my first night’s sleep on the road and some spectacular buildings. About 10kms into the trip a jeep carrying a group of Dutch tourists that I’d met several times pulled over and cheered – made my day to be recognised in the middle of nowhere. I stopped several times to watch the locals working in the fields (pictured right) and shake hands with those that approached me. A truly magical travelling experience to be able to communicate with people without saying a word. One of the villagers noticed an army biscuit tucked into the side of the handlebar bag and asked if he could have it. I gave it to him and he was extremely grateful – not sure the gratitude will last after he tastes the congealed vomit that is the army biscuit. 

After making really good progress I stopped 10kms from Shigatse for a Sprite. Suddenly there were 10 guys around me inspecting the bike and me, obviously coming to grips with the purpose of gears, brakes, GPS and computer that are foreign to them. It was a scream watching them scratch their heads trying to figure out the purpose of these instruments.

Once in Shigatse I did a loop of the town to get my bearings and quickly found the Tenzin Hotel that had been recommended by other travellers. Best of all they allow me to bring my bike into the room which helps me sleep more easily. I did my laundry, watched some kids play pool and then headed out for a cut-throat shave. The cut-throat is one of the great Asian indulgences. Though I could get the job done in two minutes myself, I like the ceremony of the 45-minute shave that layers shaving foam, hot towels, more foam, more hot towels and then a close shave.
Went to the Tashi restaurant for a well-earned vegetable curry, garlic naan and biryani rice. I met two separate cycling couples there (two Swiss and two Dutch) who had travelled from Europe through Russia and a few of the `stans’ (Uzbek, Tajik, Kyrz, Kajik, Kazakh, etc). The all looked gaunt, malnourished, sunburned and happy.

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