Let’s see, 500km through speed corridors, 3 mountain passes, 4,000m high water reservoir, 100km night ride. Not a bad way to cap off our nearly 2 week run across Tibet to Lhasa.
Managing Speed ControlWe didn’t get as far as planned yesterday due to the rough roads so we wanted to make up the time today and push all the way to Lhasa. It was great being on well paved, open roads. The only down side is that we had “speed control” sections to deal with. What these are are basically at each military/police security checkpoint (which are quite frequent throughout Tibet though relatively painless) they check what time you crossed the previous checkpoint and make sure you were following the speed limit. This means that you have to be averaging 45 km/h on each 40-90km stretch between checkpoints. This can be quite a burden as you can easily go 100km/h for most sections. So at each checkpoint we would go ahead while the guide kept to the appropriate average in the support vehicle and we would wait at the next checkpoint until it was time to pass through.
Long Day And High Passes
This low average severely hurt our progress for the day meaning that by about 5 or 5:30 we still had over 200km left to do. There was some really stunning scenery though going over 3 relatively high passes for the day which was only spoiled by the cold brought on by the sun going down behind the snow (and one glacier) capped mountains. Our first pass when the sun was still relatively high in the sky had a massive water reservoir and dam at the top which we were weaving around for quite some time as well as the lake on the other side. The second pass had us surrounded by a snow capped mountain on one side and a large glacier on the other.
Bring On The Night Ride
Our third pass we only just started climbing as the sun was fully setting and by the time we started going down the other side with 100km left to Lhasa it was already dark.
Night riding can be quite a surreal experience and I actually quite enjoy it. You are brought much closer to the road itself and the act of driving, mainly by the simple fact that you have to focus so closely on the road ahead. Switchbacking down over 1,000 meters in the dark made the experience particularly intense as out of the corner of my eye I could see the headlights disappear off the side into nothingness. We passed the occasional truck and passenger car but for the most part we were alone on the mountain, rock on one side and darkness on the other.
After getting down from the mountain we still had about an hour and a half into Lhasa. It was a long ride and a hard day. We still had some villages to go through before getting to the city outskirts. The last 30km were quick on the airport expressway. We were all exhausted when we finally pulled into Lhasa at 10:30pm, 13 hours after setting out in the morning. We were extremely fortunate though that Amy’s mom, having business barter in Lhasa, had managed to get a hotel room reserved for us at the 4 Points in the center of the city. So we checked in for our first hot shower and comfortable bed in 2 weeks!
A Little Pat On The Back To Ourselves
Lhasa was a particularly rewarding milestone as it marks not only one of the hardest sections of our journey but also just about the mid-point of The Great Ride of China, both in distance and time!