Roof of the World

It’s Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009, and I’m lying in a hammock looking out at the lush green Nepalese hills in the distance. Just a few hours ago, China closed Tibet to foreigners on the anniversary of the Dali Lama’s exile. I mention it, only because just a few hours before that I cycled accross the Nepal border from Tibet. Good thing I got out on time…

The lush jungle surrounding me is evidence of how far we’ve come. 16 days ago, we were just setting off from Lhasa, Tibet. A dry, arid city, 3490 meters above sea level. The altitude meant that we had to spend 3 days acclimatising before attempting any strenuous exercise, and even with acclimatising, I could still feel the effects of the thinner air as I rode out.

But the altitude was not the only thing that left me short of breath.  The route from Lhasa to Khatmandu traversed the high Tibetan Plateau. 1200km over the Himalayas, reaching a maximum height of 5250 meters above sea level before dropping back down the longest downhill in the world to 1400 meters in Khatmandu. Passing through monastery towns of Gyantse and Shigatse, up the many hairpin bends on Pang La, and along the ‘Jeep track’ — read ‘No track’ — to Mount Everest Base Camp, the tour was an unbelievable introduction to the Himalayan kingdoms of Tibet and Nepal.

So here I am in my hammock, cold beer in hand, clean, rested and well-fed. And all I can think is…where to next?




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