The next morning I woke up and I still had my arms and legs, and the food was still in the tent porch. I had not slept well but I had slept warm despite the sub zero temperatures and the frozen water I was melting to make breakfast with. The weather outside the tent did not look that nice, There was a storm at the top of the valley and it was coming my way. I opted to stay in the tent and see what would happen.
When I left Dege I was told that this mountain pass called QueEr was covered in snow and I would not be able cycle over it. Fortunately there was no snow and despite the higher altitude it seemed easier going, as the climbs were gentle and the road pretty good. The snow passed over and left a light dusting on the ground so I packed up and set off. I was feeling remarkably good about things, despite the bad night. I think knowing that I was going to make it to the top was a good feeling. It only looked like there were three more bends to go but the driver who had offered me a lift the day before had said that the road bent around and that what I could see was not the summit.
The first few hours went really well and I made it to the last visible bend from the road below and started to disappear around the back of the peak I had camped under. I stopped for short break and had a brief encounter with a couple on a bike and a police man in his car. I continued round the corner and saw that there was two or three very long bends to go. I got to the end of the first one and had a quick lunch, the weather was too good to stop, if I took a long lunch I might end up getting caught out in the snow and having to push to the top again. Fortunately the weather held out and I got to the last bend, negotiated a pack of dogs that seemed to be protecting an abandoned building and rode up the last bend.
I was ecstatic, 5050m the QueEr Pass, the highest point so far on the trip and all by bike this time, no pushing.
The top was a little narrow and there seemed to be a reasonable amount of traffic. I managed to get some summit photos and then pointed the bike downhill. As I started to descend I saw a line of traffic coming up the hill, only it was stationary.
There was patches of snow and ice on this side of the mountain so I was having to take things slowly. Eventually I reached the vehicles that were stuck. A few of the trucks were struggling to get past a particularly icy section. I weaved my way in and out the trucks and cars, turned another bend and found myself on an ice free bumpy road. I let the brakes go and zoomed down the hill as fast as I dared. Half way down I spotted a tent in the valley.
I paused to see who it was. Rather than another cyclist is was some Chinese or Tibetans people who were camping out. They had a small cart with them, so were probably walking to Lhasa, a pilgrimage some hardy Tibetans will make from their home town. I continued to bounce down the hill until I met an old lady who was rounding up her cattle.
I was due another break so stopped and offered to share some food with her. She seemed reluctant at first but then took an orange from the pile of food I had put between us. She did not say much and it was a strange interaction, but I felt nice to be in a position to be able to share. I was certain I would make it to Maniganga today and I would be able to resupply on food there. I waved goodbye to the lady and carried on, I passed a couple who were walking to Lhasa but praying all the way there.
This involves walking three paces kneeling down putting hour hands on the floor so you’ree sliding your hands forward until you are lying down. Then you bring your knees to your hands, stand up, walk three paces then do it all over again. Most people wear a leather aprons and have blocks of wood attached to their hand. I thought cycling was hard, but this is extreme. Next I passed a very young couple who asked for a lift into town, I tried to explain the bike was heavy enough as it was, but they seemed disappointed. I wished them well pointed the bike down hill again. An hour later I arrived into a small town. Maniganga.
Maniganga was small, with one main street and not much else, but the people were friendly enough. I checked into what seemed to be the only hotel hoping for a shower. Unfortunately the water was all off due to frozen pipes, so no toilet or shower. The toilets were across the road behind another building, but you had to go before 10pm otherwise the dogs would get you. Despite all this I had a nice room and there was a restaurant attached to the hotel, I was very hungry and surprised the staff by polishing of four bowls of rice as well as my meat dish. I chatted with the owner of the hotel for a while who had a great money collection of international currency. I donated some English coins I still had and then retired to bed. It was Tibetan New Years Eve, but for me it was time to sleep.
The next day I had a relaxing morning and was invited to the hotel owners family house for tea and meat. They had a nice house a short ride from the hostel and I did my best to communicate with his parents whilst chopping bits of meat from the hunk and sipping tea.
By midday it was time to start moving again, so I loaded up the bike once more, pointed the bike north and started cycling. The road although unsealed was pretty good and progress went well, I found a great camp spot by a river and had a peaceful night. The family I had had meat and tea with had assured me that there were no bears in this area and I would be perfectly safe.
I woke up to a light dusting of snow and slowly started to pack up, the day progressed with good roads and a mixture of snow, sleet and ice. It was quite cold but as long as I kept cycling I was happy. The good road climbed short hills and made for good progress. I was certain of making it to Ganze, a big town were there was sure to be water and comfy bed to sleep in.
Early afternoon I was cycling along in my own world, as light snow fell from the sky and melted on my waterproof jacket, when a motorbike pulled up along side me. The woman on the back started speaking fluent English but with an Indian accent. We continued moving and cycling, well they were motoring and chatting. It turned out her village was a few kms away, she lived in India now but was back visiting family. We stopped at the village shop for tea and I was invited to the village. The woman reckoned she could find me a place to stay for the night and asked if I was free tomorrow, she and others in the village were walking up the local holy mountain for Tibetan New Year and then there was horse racing in the afternoon. It is a travellers dream to be invited to do all this, so I followed her up the side road that lead to a large cluster of houses, that was her village.