Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Day 45 - A Bridge Too Far

The Chinese road building programme has reached Tibet big time. The road from Mazar was perfect blacktop and it looked like we would make tonight's destination by lunchtime. We had not reckoned with The Pass.

The construction crew are half way through building this part of the road, a succession of switchbacks up to 4980m. Half done means they have destroyed the old road by driving their diggers up it but have not started to stabilise the rocks for the new.

The result is like a sandy beach. Dry, dusty sand lies up to 20cm deep with tempting paths through where the last truck went. It is a question of weight off the back and go for it!

The theory is that keeping the back wheel turning gives you stability and, however much it moves sideways it will always follow the front one. Getting the weight off the front wheel allows you to point it where you want to go and Bob's your uncle. Nice in theory, terrifying in practice.

At this sort of altitude the effort required gas you breathing hard and lungs, mouth and nose are soon full of dust. By the time we were at the top and had run down to the first village, it was time for lunch.

After an excellent noodle and stir fry we set off with hope in our hearts only to find that at the next river crossing the new bridge wasn't finished and the temporary crossing had subsidence. The bikes made it. Snowy couldn't.

We all set too with shovels to improve the track but the Chinese foreman said No! We left it to them to create a new river, block the old one and fill in the missing section. Five hours after the bikes, Snowy crossed and we met up at tonight's stop.

Reed Willow Beach has no reeds, no willows and no beach. It is a windy, dusty, dirty scrapyard of a town with a communal bedroom, truck drivers playing cards and smoking. The dinner however is excellent. Definitely one for Trip Advisor.

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