Lhasa to Kathmandu, 5/ 5, Cycling Day 16: 9,100’ of continuous downhill… wheeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The descent was from 13,600’ to 4,500’ over the course of 47 miles.  We started our morning on the cold arid plain of the Tibetan Plateau surrounded by snow-covered peaks.  By lunchtime we were in a lush, humid jungle overgrown with vegetation and a cacophony of tropical forest sounds.  The contrast from this morning is astounding, and welcome.

Follow the road with your eyes, it’s the most unbelievable downhill ever.  Great road, serene canyon, no cars, and down, down, down.

Our drop was through a steep river canyon, the base of which remained in shadows for most of the morning.  Every 1,000’ of decent brought with it a change in climate zone.  First we started seeing low shrubs and wildflowers.  Then we saw trees (our first trees in almost three weeks).  The sounds of birds became more and more pronounced as my altimeter spun lower.

The road just goes and goes and goes.  The road looks like it’s bottoming out, but it’s not.  It just keeps going down more and more.

Broad leaf ferns were growing at 9,500’.  The air became more humid, and for the first time in weeks my throat was not sore from breathing in the bone-dry air of the high Himalayas.  A layer of clothing was shed every 3,000’.

Further down we went; the smells of the damp jungle was a welcome change from the no-smell of the plateau.  The smooth road surface was free of traffic, so we could fly to our hearts content, only stopping to take in the surrounding remote beauty of the shear canyon and boiling rapids below.

Staying focused on the road, the canyon, and the newly changing sensations made for a perfect cycling experience. The fact that my fingers were cold at the beginning of the decent was only noticeable for a few seconds, then staying intensely focused on the experience made that become a minor feeling that would fade away to insignificance.

Porters carrying the contents of trucks across the border to Nepal.  Most trucks are not allowed to make the crossing.

Then, as we were ready to enter Nepal, we were woken from our cycling nirvana to the harsh contrast of the quiet canyon to a quintessentially awful Chinese boarder town.  Crowded, smelly, dirty, and an architectural nightmare.  There was a line of about 50 trucks queued up at the border, which took up one lane.  The other lane was a long line of women porters hauling the contents of the trucks over the border to another truck on the Nepalese side.  Certain vehicles are not allowed (ours was one such type, and I have no idea how it’s defined) to leave China, so porters are hired to ferry the contents across the border.

We had to go through Chinese customs to leave and consequently to show our passport yet again.  Then we had to show it again just before we stepped off Chinese soil just in the event that we turned into someone else in the previous 5 minutes.  Then, we had to get a Nepalese Visa, more showing of passports, and voila, we were across!

The Nepalese side of the border was worse.   More poverty, strikingly worse roads, but I have to say, and maybe I’m imagining it, the Nepalese seem one hell of a lot friendlier than the Chinese.  The Tibetans are very friendly as well, but there are precious few of them relative to the huge influx of Chinese into Tibet.

Notice the suspension bridge.   Our resort is on the other side.

We’re spending the night at The Last Resort.  It’s a fixed tent complex with hot showers, a bar, and restaurant, and the very famous Bungy Jumping off the 550’ high foot-bridge that spans 300’ across the raging river below.   I cycled across the bouncy and wobbly bridge, and can say that under no circumstances would I even consider for one nanosecond jumping off it.   Insanity is a perquisite as far as I’m concerned.

I will NOT be jumping off this bridge!


Looking down.  People actually bungy jump off this????

My afternoon will be spent sitting in this chaise lounge overlooking the lush canyon in front of me, feeling the breeze, listening to the cicadas, and keeping my feet firmly planted on the ground.

The jungle came more alive when the sun dropped below the canyon walls.  Noises from the banana trees that I could not identify, praying mantises flitting about, and a wall of noise “out there” that grew louder as the sun set further.  Then came the rain.  This environment does not get green by fertilizer.  It rains, and when it does, it comes down in solid sheets.  Our tent structures had metal roofs, and the roar was deafening, and fantastic.  Then, in the morning, it was sunny, clear, crisp, and the leaves were dripping from the evenings deluge.

~ by Robert on June 9, 2011.

5 Responses to “Lhasa to Kathmandu, 5/ 5, Cycling Day 16: 9,100’ of continuous downhill… wheeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

  1. what a great trip, have really enjoyed following your journey!


  2. oh, that was me…


  3. Robert: You assembled a truly magnificent travelogue and photo-documentary! The Everest ‘evening’ & ‘sunrise’ shots were stars among many favorites. What a great trip – and you captured it like no one else could have. Well done. Thanks for allowing us to ‘come along’

    – Sky


  4. Rob
    Heartfelt thanks for the privilege of being part of your “over the top” Tibetan bicycle adventure! You are an excellent travel writer… as well as a superb photographer.
    Continue to travel safely… and to post regularly!
    PS. You’ll definitely be in shape for climbing a few Colorado fourteeners later this summer!


  5. What an awesome experience – happy to know your are enjoying yourself!!!
    Ange Cavese


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