June 1-4, Cycling Days 12-15: Everest Base Camp, A Town of Dogs, and Two Passes over 16,400’

June 1: It was a short ride today of only 24 miles, and our maximum elevation was 16,750’ at the checkpoint to Everest Base Camp.

For some unknown reason, we had to hand over our passports, yet again, to go pass the checkpoint to the Everest Base Camp.  This was the second checkpoint along the short and remote road from Rongbuk.

Then, the Chinese Military, in another example of their arbitrary, on the spot rule making, told us we couldn’t go more than 100 ft. beyond the checkpoint, and no, we could not walk beyond two large mounds about 30 feet tall and 200 feet wide with a small building atop that is just in front of us that would have allowed us to actually SEE the Base Camp.   No, not today.

The Chinese Police deleting images and confiscating a flag.

The other thing we were warned about is bringing any flag to pose with at the small monument for the Base Camp.  Apparently it’s a thing to do, and the Chinese Military don’t like it, for reasons that no one fully understands.   Well, as I stood there, a Chinese woman walked up to the small monument and posed with a red flag that had a bunch of Chinese writing on it.  Someone else photographed her.  Not good.

A military guard bolted from his tent and ran up to her, yanked the flag from her hands and grabbed the camera.  After much back and forth, the photographer was forced to delete the offending images.

As I stood there, watching this display and thinking about all the controls on our movements, I couldn’t help but think about all the Chinese who come to America and have free reign of the place.  No checkpoints (once in), no restrictions on holding a flag of their choice, no mindless and arbitrary controls over simple movements.  And most importantly, no sense of fear that if you mistakenly do the wrong thing that you’ll be incarcerated.

After leaving Base Camp, we then rode down to our campsite, the best one yet:  elevation 15,162’, but it feels like we dropped thousands of feet from the environment at Rongbuk.  The camp is along a stream, on a very small quite dirt road, and has a grassy flat area for us to settle for the night.   We got into camp early, so it’s a good laundry day.  There are clothes everywhere.

A long gradual climb.

June 2: Today we “only” rode 42 miles; however it was a real mixed bag.   The first portion was a fantastic 8 mile climb of about 2000’ topping out at 16,750’ on nicely packed dirt road with amazing views of the snow capped Himalaya’s.   I could have ridden that portion over again.  After that we had a rapid undulating downhill that taxed everyone’s bike handling skills.   I loved it.

Piles of rocks with meditation mantras carved into them appear in the most remote of places.


However, after lunch, we slogged down a “road” for 20 miles that followed – no was IN – the massive riverbed.  The surface was made of large worn river rocks and sand, resulting in 20 miles of rock pounding torture that followed the excellent first portion.  The only good thing was that we had a screaming tailwind.  At one point I stood up on my pedals and acted like a spinnaker letting the wind push me along, and it did at a pace that without the wind I would have been hard-pressed to match.  My arms felt like two pieces of overdone spaghetti from all the pounding.  I’m not sure I can lift a beer; though, I will certainly give it a try.

A lone stretch of road out of Tingri.

The rocky-riverbed road ended in the town of Tingri, where we rode on a paved surface for 8 miles to camp.   Tingri is known for it’s large quantity of mangy dogs.   Now THAT’S something to be known for!  There were dogs everywhere.  Before I left on this trip I read several resources that said the dogs in Tibet are wild, rabid, and mean.  Well, I can say – and not a great lover of dogs – that they may be wild, and they may be rabid, but they certainly are not mean.  On the contrary, they are afraid of their own shadow.  They skulk away from you way before you think you might need to make one get out of your way.   The only difference in Tingri is yes, they are mangy, and they are everywhere.  I never saw so many nasty looking dogs on one street.

June 3: The ride today was short (40 miles), and flat (as in dead).   However, I didn’t ride it.  Me and one other rider developed a case of “travelers tummy” in the night.  We ended going with the truck directly to camp where, once the tents were up, I immediately laid down.  I spent the morning and afternoon napping and running to the toilet tent.  Fortunately my bug was isolated to the lower intestine.

The women in Nepal are always dressed very nicely, wear jewelry, and look very smart.  Even if they are working in the gravel pits.  It’s quite a remarkable thing.   The men, however, don’t put the same effort in their appearance.



June 4:  Unfortunately I only rode one climb, and the one downhill.  Yesterday surviving on a half bowl of rice and some water did not give me the strength to do the second pass, and more importantly, did not give me what I needed for a 25 mile finish with a grueling headwind.

~ by Robert on June 8, 2011.

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