Across The Himalayas
Engulfed in a black grey toxic cloud I cough so hard I fear something very important from deep within my person is going to make a break for liberty through my bronchial tracts. I pull myself upright from the prone position I have assumed for my violent hacking and spluttering and look at the thick cloud of unburned diesel following the truck uphill.
In Lhasa I managed to contract some sort of a chest infection, with a dodgy throat to keep it company. Not what one wants when about to lead a group of cyclist across the Himalayas. Sickness has a tendency to linger at altitude, the body has to prioritise and making extra red blood cells takes top spot. After all, not much point in curing a cough if you can’t breath.
Fortunately the further we head from Lhasa the less trucks there are spewing out unburned diesel and once we descend our first major pass of the journey the tourist traffic from Lhasa has thinned to a trickle.The air is now fresh and clean and, praise be to god, the late monsoon seems to have come to an end. The sky is clear with just enough wisps of white to add an interesting contrast to the deep blue of infinity. The nights are cold, that is only to be expected at this time of year, but the days are gorgeous. Imagine the cool air of a crisp clear October day in the UK with the strongest warmth of a mid-August sun beating down upon you, that is the closest you will get to imagining the bitter sweet warmth of high altitude autumn.
As we ride by the farming folk are busy harvesting the barley before the harsh cold of winter strikes. Wrapped up in thick layers of clothes the small children look almost square, like living characters from a Constable painting. Yak dung – the only fuel the peasants will have for cooking and warmth throughout the winter – dries on the walls of houses.The farming here is a communal affair. The fields are dotted with folks working the land, it is like riding through a scene from days gone by, only just as you drift off into the past a Land Cruiser will rudely awaken you worth a blast of its horn.
As we head further west the population will thin further.
We have five more passes to cross above 5000 metres, plus a night or two at the 5000 metre high Everest Base Camp. Ahead lay some challenges, but if the snow holds off (which if it plays with a straight bat it will) and the group remain healthy I for one will be a happy chappy.