Posts tagged ‘Sports’

Into the mystical lands around Mt.Everest

When a life long dream is about to be filled, sleep the night before can be more than a little problematic. Add to that the hideously early departure and by the time we got to the airport we were dazed and confused but desperatley excited about going to the Khumbu region to see Everest and the Imja Glacier.

Getting on the plane -Harder than you might think.

The cause of Eri's fears

The cause of Eri's fears

Our first challenge though was not altitude or cold or isolation. It was getting Eri onto the tiny aircraft that was going to take us to Lukla. As we rode in the bus across the tarmac, we went past progressively smaller Yeti Airline( I lovethat name) planes and with each passing machine Eri’s excitement turned more and more to fear. When the bus finallypulled up next to the little 16 seater it took more than a little convincing that getting out of the safe bus and into the not so safe plane was actually a great idea.

Bless her she overcame her fears and finally got in, fear painted all over her face. we were lucky enough to secure a left hand seat which afforded us the most magnificant views of the snow capped Himalaya once we got airborne. With Eri sat behind me ( with the most sweat soaked palms i have ever seen) we weavedour way through the ever increasing peaks, skimming over small settlements and almost glancing sheer cliff faces.

Landing in Lukla and loads of photos

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September 22, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

The Great Climb. Tagalang La- 5330m, the world’s second ( some say) highest road.

Ode to a big hill – “Ahh Taglang La, you painful, frightening beast of a pass, Even now i can feel the pain you put through my legs and my head, but we beat you and it will always be one of the best things I ever do”.

On the climb up Taglang La

On the climb up Taglang La

Today was to turn out to be  not only one of the biggest challenges of the trip but of our lives. You could almost taste the trepidation as we broke camp and wandered over to the local 0.0005 star restaurant for the obligatory omlette and chipatti. Away by 7.30, we started at a slow pace but none of us could stop thinking about the enormity of the day ahead. Although the climb looked deceptively mundane on the map, when you think about it,  we had a 29 km climb, ascending through serious altitude nearly 1.2 km from 4200m up to 5330m. Even just thinking about those numbers still makes me shudder, but sitting here now supping a clod beer reminiscing, I can’t begin to tell you how proud i am to be able to say that we all did this beast of a climb unassisted, fully loaded and better than any of us thought possible.

The easy bit-

The first 5 km was relatively easy over a 200m climb,  but things started to get tough when we came across a sign saying ” You are only 24 km from the Tagalan La”. What a truly cruel sign. To not also tell us that it was to be another 8 hours of steep, steep, switchbacks with the last 15km on truly appalling gravel roads and landslides, was almost criminal. Add to that scorching heat, Tata trucks and army convoys. You know what- it really did turn out to be one of the greatest challenges and most satisfying days of my life.

The first 10 switchbacks-

As the switchbacks started, we all dropped into our own pace and it soon became apparent that the way to beat this monster was to go at your own pace, empty your mind of what was coming up and just start spinning the peddles for hour after hour. At times we managed to spread out over about a kilometre and that sometimes translates into two or three switchbacks, but by waiting for each other, drinking loads of water, occasionally looking back and using common sense we began to tick off the kms.

These were the easy ones

These were the easy ones

The hard bit-

No matter how hard we thought the first bit was, nothing could prepare us for what was coming next. Actually we were prepared a little bit by a  constant tide of cyclists coming the other way telling us just how crap the road was and how long we still had to go. Their departing cries of “good luck” and “your doing great” followed by a shake of the head and the “thank god i am not going that way” look really started to wear thin about 12 minutes  after lunch. Things really got hard when the road turned from passable blacktop, to bone jarring, teeth rattling, boulder sized gravel. Throw in more and more traffic, roadworks and roads turning to rivers from glaiciers melting and the afternoon became  quite interesting. Oh yeh and a landslide that held us up for about 45 mins we could ill afford to lose.

45 min Landslide - not today!!!!

45 min Landslide - not today!!!!

This might not seem like a problem but as the day wore on we were down to about 3 km an hour and getting back down to a reasonable altitude after climbing that far can be a life and death consideration. The shadows were sarting to get long and i couldnt  shake a growing sense of urgency as the pass seemed to be getting further away rather than closer. As we got into the last 3 kilometres it started to become real that we would make it over the top, but like xmas, you know it would come but it seemed to take for ever. It was astonishing to discover that after all that climbing the last 500 metres would be the toughest. Axle deep in black sand we had to dismount and push, but at last at 4.40 we finally reached the top to be greeted by a howling wind,  20 Royal Enfields and the realisation that we really couldnt stay long and needed to start the 20 km descent before it got dark.

We made it - Taglang La 5330m, What a feeling!

We made it - Taglang La 5330m, What a feeling!

The descent and the arrival of an Angel

As we started our descent the fatigue kicked in and in many ways the ride down was shaping up to be as challenging as the ride up. Ten minutes in though we had an almost crash worthy surprise when around the corner came Tashi from WWF on a motorbike. I can’t even tell you how happy we were and our joy turned to elation when he said he had food and hot tea in his bag. A boiled egg has never tasted so good.  I cant remember being as revitalised by anything so much as that brief 20 min break by the side of the road, with Tashi’s little stash of gold.

From then on it was all down hill ( in a good way) but with Tashi as a guide and the promise of a warm welcome and hot food ahead of us  with the WWF team, an unscheduled extra 15km’s in the dark seemed  a small price to pay. Little did we know just how great our time would be at Tso Kar.

More photos from the taming of the Taglang la beast

September 5, 2009 at 10:22 pm 4 comments

Cycle for Change back in Kathmandu

Just a quick update to let you know that we are back in Kathmandu after a fantastic trip through northern India and southern Nepal.

Now as we have been told in no uncertain terms by some of you, we have been behind in our posting. In our defence we were away from anything remotely resembling a working computer with an internet connection for most of the time. Since back here we have been spending most of our time in interviews with the Nepali media with one appearance in the Kathmandu post last Thursday and plenty more to come. We also did a radio interview with a freelance journo for NPR in the States, so we have been non stop.

The big news and sad news it is, Amanda my dear little sister, was on the plane back to Sydney yesterday. Alas work calls but I must say we are very appreciative to her boss’ for giving her the time off to come for as long as she did.Thanks kiddo it was absolutely fantastic having you along for the ride and we look forward to the films when you can get them done. It’s weird not having you here.

Upcoming plans

1. Blog as much as possible.

2. Go trekking in the Imja region to look at Glacier lakes in the Everest area.

3. Get ready for the ride out of Nepal and into new adventures in Sikkim, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

4. Continue to lose weight – I have lost about 10kg so far and more to go. Can’t tell you how good riding over the worlds highest roads on a fully loaded bike is for wiehg loss. Stay away from fad diets, get yourself on a bike.

Anyway am off to write a newspaper article for one of the local papers, so keep checking back for updates over the next few weeks.

Stay tuned i promise we will be posting more often when things slow down a bit.

Read Kathmandu Post article here

September 5, 2009 at 7:39 pm Leave a comment

More cycling, creaky bearings and ‘open’ toilets with cows.

Thikse to Rhumsie.

Leaving Thikse

Leaving Thikse

After leaving Thikse I had just one question… is repetitive creaking a bad thing when you’re setting out on riding over the second highest road in the world?’

Naturally my first reaction was to panic, the sound suggested to me that something was wrong with my bottom bracket bearings. I don’t know a whole lot about bike mechanics but I do know that, like in life, if my bearings disappeared then that was the end of my adventure. I tried to twist and turn my feet, hoping that the sound would stop. How could my bike do this to me now? Gavin and Eri had ridden ahead and I cursed them for having perfectly new bikes. Within a couple of moments, the tool set was out and the pedals were off my bike. I was imagining myself having to throw it away and sit out the trip on a bumpy, crowded bus. Gavin interrupted my thoughts by discovering that it was just a dodgey pedal, not the bottom bracket.

Creak or no creak, Manali here we come

Creak or no creak, Manali here we come

Relief is an understatement. We rode on, my consistent creak letting everyone know that we were coming well before we were in sight.

The heat was rising very quickly, and we were hoping to get as many kms under the belt before the sun really kicked in. It was very dry, dusty and bare. I half expected Mad Max to coming driving by. The mountains around us were becoming higher and it felt like we were entering a completely different world.

Our next port of call was breakfast in a small town. Eri and I went in search of a bathroom and we were directed down a little side street. The only building that we could find was a tiny shack. Unfortunately the front door was obstructed by a whole lot of wood and mess. We went back to the ladies who had helped us before to tell them it wasn’t open. One of them looked at us as if we were the most stupid people in the world. She quickly led us down the street again, and stopped at a paddock that had a small brick wall and cows lazily standing around. On the ground were little mounds of surprises. The toilet was indeed open. We took it in turns to keep watch for people, but it wasn’t people that were the problem. After speedily doing my business I turned to find that the cows had blocked me in and the only way out was through a minefield of pooh. The smell of the paddock was making me wretch and the huge cows just stared as I danced around the mounds. It was the quickest toilet escape ever.

Lunch at Lato

Lunch at Lato

Soon we were back on the bikes and getting through our first big day of riding. The hills started to appear and they didn’t seem to end. By the time we reached Lato for lunch we had done about 60km and climbed about 800m and we were really feeling it. Maybe we had enjoyed the cuisine of Leh a little too much over the past few days. A little man in a parachute tent cooked us up some delicious dahl baht, and we sat in the heat amazed at the riding we had done. The nutritional value of lunch and in particular dahl baht was really proven. Within an hour we all felt human again and jumped back on the bikes to find that we had the energy that we needed to keep climbing.

Kids waiting for Eri

Kids waiting for Eri

We didn’t see many people while riding today. The obligatory trucks rolled by as well as some army trucks and tourist jeeps. Most people honked their horns and the truck drivers waved while laughing insanely at us. We came across a couple of schools and the kids came running out to meet us after hearing my creaking bike.

When we reached Rhumsie, our home for the night, the Leh WWF team were there waiting for us. They were on their way to Thsokar, on the other side of the mountain for their research. It was so nice to see familiar faces after a big day of riding. As soon as we stopped they plied us with milk tea and helped us set up camp. They had great fun in figuring out the engineering of our tents, and laughing at our sighs of exhaustion.

We were camping at 4200m above sea level, and that made us very slow while moving around and concentrating on putting up tents. We had to take it easy and be aware of altitude sickness, particularly as the next day would require us to climb to 5330m above sea level over the Taglong La pass.

After bidding farewell to the WWF team we snuggled up in our tents and I think all of us lay awake for a little while, conetmplating our first and highest pass crossing tomorrow.

Tents successfully up

September 2, 2009 at 6:12 pm Leave a comment

CYCLING!!! Leaving Leh. Stupas, gompas and temporary perfection.

After spending the morning  with the WWF Leh team, (otherwise known as the some of the freindliest people in the world) we finally rolled through the gates of Leh and started our way to Manali.

478kms to go

470kms to go

The locals were busy doing their business and those that noticed us were surprised to see 3 fully laden bikes go by. They all yelled out ‘Jollay’ and although we were excited to start the next leg, there was a tinge of saddness about leaving.

The first few kms of riding were windy, dusty and full of nerves. We were acutely aware of any strange noises or groans coming from our bikes. After hauling them all the way from Japan and Australia, we were now leaving the security of Leh and had to rely on our (basic) bike maintenaince skills.

Todays ride was relatively short. Just a few hours of riding to get the trip started and shorten the climb on the coming days. We had a chance to test our packing and learn how to navigate pot holes, trucks, kids and cows with a full load on the bike.

Field of Stupas

Field of Stupas

At one point we came across a field of Stupas. The large white monuments sat serenely across the a huge area of land. As we rounded the next corner we could see Thikse and its spectacular Gompa sat staring at us from the top of the hill. This is where we chose to spend the night. We had enough daylight hours left to scramble up the hill and check out the Gompa.

Monks at work

Monks at work

In one of the temple rooms we were lucky enough to come across four or so monks working together to create a mandala. An artpiece that took a lot of concerntration, discussion and frequent referencing of a printed picture, only to then be blown away for another mandala to be created on the same space. It was heartening to see that even these guys had spirited conversations with each other, disagreeing during the process of working together. It seemed to us such a shame to destroy the beautiful piece they created after all that hard work.

I guess it was like our ride. We were learning to work together with each other, the locals and even our bikes. After all our preperations, the first day of our Leh-Manali adventure was already over and we had to prepare for new discoveries tomorrow.

Thikse Gompa

Thikse Gompa

August 31, 2009 at 10:18 pm Leave a comment

Cycling down the mtn with landslides and traffic

After making it to the top of the hill, we were treated to a delicious local meal of dahl baht. We were relaxed and chatted to our hosts, who rarely saw foreigners roll up on bicycles. All was well until we asked how far it was to Bataar, our destination. “45 km” easy we thought, we’ll be enjoying a shower in no time. “All down hill”, oh, that made it a bit different. Eri was especially none too pleased. Lesson #2, what goes down must come back up.

Feeling confident, at the top of the mountain

Amanda feeling confident, at the top of the mountain

So off we went, down the hill. With an extra 20-30kgs we quickly gained momentum. Pot holes took some clever work to get around, but they were nothing compared to the rivers that flowed across the road in some sections. Our bikes got a clean and our feet were soaked. The recent rain had also created another challenge for us, landslides. In some sections the tarmac disappeared underneath us and we were riding across a muddy path of freshly fallen dirt. We did our best to ignore the rocks and boulders sitting precariously on the hill above and below us.

Huge landslide put some of the dangers of the road into perspective

Huge landslide put some of the dangers of the road into perspective

This was all tricky enough, but we were still sharing the road with trucks, motorbikes, kids, cows and buses. We soon figured out that communication would keep us safe, so our conversation for the next few hours consisted of us yelling out “bus”, “truck” and “motorbike”. All those that passed us seem to find the three foreigners scrambling to the edge of the road with bike and bags hilarious. It was rare if a bus went by and we received less than 15 “Namaste” greetings followed by insane giggling.

Unlike the melodic air horns on the buses and trucks, we had no way of warning any oncoming traffic of our existence. It took careful concentration to maintain a safe position on the road, particularly when coming around the blind corners on the switchbacks.  As the day went on, our energy levels began to drop as did our concentration. I would gasp every now and then because  I could see Gavin choosing to sit in the middle of the road when coming to one of these scary corners. That’s when one of us would suggest we rest, which was usually happily agreed to because it gave us a chance to look around and see where we were.

The scenery was amazing. The edges of the mountains were carved into hundreds of rice paddies. Below us we could make out farmers in their fields, they looked like ants in the distance.

Terraced rice paddies on our descent

Terraced rice paddies on our descent

Finally we came to the bottom of the hill. We were relived to see the land flatten out and town we were heading to sitting before us. We stopped and took pictures of a little valley, and admired the river flowing below us.  What we didn’t realise was that the road we were on would drop down to the river and then climb back up the hill to our destination. By this time we had been descending for nearly four hours. Our hands were almost melded to our brakes, our bodies were frozen into shape for going down hill. The climb out of the valley to the town felt like the most excruciating 20 kms we had ever ridden. We were exhausted, hot, smelly and hungry.The short climb was so steep that even the buses coming towards us were creeping down bit by bit.

Our final destination, the one horse and three bike town of Bataar

Our final destination, the one horse and three bike town of Bataar

After some quiet cursing and walking our bikes up the hill, we rode into town.  We felt like freaks riding in to the one street town. Every man, woman and child stopped what they were doing and stared as we slowly rolled by. Finally we found a hotel. We congratulated each other on surviving the day. Noticeably, none of us mentioned the fact that we would have to climb that 45kms to get back to Kathmandu. That was a challenge for another day. Right now, we needed a shower, food and a whole lot of sleep.

August 6, 2009 at 2:03 pm Leave a comment

Cycling out of Kathmandu.

Saturday brought an early start and finally the chance to get on the road. After a week of meetings and organising we decided to get our fill of culture and cycled off to the Swayamohunatha Stupa. Our first stop before heading into the mountains for a shake out ride.

Amanda and the bikes at the Stupa

Amanda and the bikes at the Stupa

The noise and bustle of the city waking up, the stench of rotting garbage, and the smell of the funeral fires as we crossed the river welcomed us to Kathmandu proper and the beginning of what was to be an eventful day. We were grateful  after a few wrong turns and our first encounter with a cranky dog, to find the right place, even if it meant climbing the many, many steep steps (in our cleats) up a crowded hill.

The stupa, famous for its iconic staring eyes (although now not so staring because of major restoration work) is one of Kathmandu’s many world heritage sites. It was great to clear our minds  wandering  through the ancient monastery. I think we were all feeling a little nervous before heading  into the Himalayan hills for the first time. What better place to relax and gain a sense of perspective than in this beautiful spot surrounded by incense, praying locals, spinning prayer wheels and cheeky monkeys (a nice change to the cycling cheeky monkeys known as Eri and Amanda).

Eri getting to meet the locals

Eri getting to meet the locals

Bikes all bagged up and ready to go next to a prayer stone

Bikes all bagged up and ready to go next to a prayer stone

August 4, 2009 at 8:47 pm 1 comment

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