Sunday, October 18, 2009
http://greggunther.photoshop.com. Click on Tibet Nepal 2009 and my photos should display.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The last days ride from Nyalam was a 35 km to the border descending over 3000 mts before crossing into Nepal then riding a further 15 km to our last resort aptly named as The Last Resort.
The plan was to get away early so we could avoid the likely road works known to be under way that could cause potential road closures. It had rained all night and was still raining so there was also concern about possible landslides on the road. We left at dawn and as daylight broke the most amazing scenery of green vegetation and waterfalls had us in awe, especially after the weeks now of dry barren countryside we had been riding through. As good as the descending on such a nice hot mix pavement was we just had to have a number of stops on the way down to take it all in. It was a very fitting finale to our long journey.
Crossing the border at Kodari is an interesting experience. It is where we got to say goodbye to our Tibetan guide and support crew as they are not permitted to cross. Our vehicles too remained in China so about 40 porters (99% women by the way!) came across on foot from Nepal and lined up behind our truck to carry our luggage, tents, gas bottles etc across the border over the Friendship Bridge to our waiting vehicle in Kodari. This stuff was heavy!!! One lady had a small baby strapped to her front breastfeeding whilst holding her hands behind her stabilising a gas bottle that she was carrying by a strap wrapped around it's base and over her head. We wanted to get a photo of it but the Chinese guards made it clear we were not permitted to take any photos.
Once you clear Chinese Customs at Kodari you cross the Friendship Bridge into Nepal. As you cross to your left and right are Chinese soldiers in full battle dress standing looking straight ahead, expressionless and to attention. At the halfway point there is a tiled line across the bridge whereupon you enter Nepal and are greeted again by soldiers, but this time Nepalese, smiling and shouting out 'namaste' as they welcome you to Nepal. What a contrast!
The ride to The Last Resort had a few kms at 7% as the final sting that a few of us got a final burst of energy and had a bit of a crack at which was a bit of fun. The scenery here remained stunning and was a rainforest. Our accommodation was upmarket tents and we had hot showers (even a European toilet)! The food was amazing and the alcohol flowed.....we all had plenty of stories and laughs. There were also many backpackers and visitors at this resort as it boasts the second highest bungy jump in Asia (or could be the world...not sure about that) at about 165 mts. You actually have to walk to the resort over a suspension bridge that spans 250-300 odd mts across the gorge that is used to for the jump. Daunting enough walking over it let alone jumping off it. Needless to say there was some peer pressure brought to bear on 3 of us, me being one, to do the jump. I'm here to tell you there was no way I was going to ever do it!
Our ride was officially finished at that point so next morning it was on to the bus to travel the last kms into Kathmandu. It is considered too dangerous with a group of 15 to ride all the way in due to traffic. To give you an indication the last 30 kms to our hotel took us over 2.5 hrs. Traffic in Kathmandu can't be described, it has to be experienced to be believed. Funny thing though is it seems to work. We did not see a serious accident the whole time we where there yet to look at it is total chaos.
We had virtually 2 days left in Kathmandu before departure where most of us took in some souvenir shopping or there was an option of a small guided MTB ride out to one of the villages. I chose to shop as I had done very little to date. Everything in these countries you haggle for and you do need to be prepared to walk away (the vendor will rarely let you do this without accepting your offer). Imitations are also rife and we were fortunate to have one of our guides take us to some authentic shops where we could buy genuine articles. I was very happy with my purchases and thankfully all seemed to have travelled well with no breakages.
All the trip I had been very pleased with myself that I had avoided any of the illness that had hit many of the group. That all came down around me at checking into the Kathmandu airport to come home where within minutes of standing in the waiting queue I found myself needing to leave it to find a seat to then on my back with a fever on the verge of passing out. Thankfully it was a group check in and we had a number of doctors on the trip so help was to hand and I was nursed back enough to get me on the plane. I am so thankful to all the group who were extremely kind to me letting me take priority with seating so I could spread out and making sure I was ok. It has taken me a few days since arriving home but I am feeling much better and now probably needing some rest to recuperate properly.
All in all the trip was everything I expected it to be, challenging and rewarding. I was stretched personally on several occasions but the reward of achieving what I set out to do is ever so satisfying. Riding into Everest Base Camp is just an awesome sight.
Even more satisfying is that it appears we have successfully raised over $80k for the Oncology Childrens Foundation which is going to help enormously towards funding much needed research into this insidious disease.
With that in mind I must again thank my own very supportive sponsors who have helped make this possible. There have been many of you, too many to mention individually but I do have to make special mention of 3 very kind corporate sponsors who have backed me since I started this venture:
- The Vanriet team are an incredible bunch who have contributed enormously to this cause. I am overawed by their continued support and enthusiasm. If you ever have any commercial building that you ever need designed or project managed these guys are the ones to talk to;
- Fitzpatricks have been a supporter of OCF in the past and have many other worthwhile causes they also support. They have a wonderful philanthropic culture and I feel very fortunate they chose my cause as one to support in such a grand way. Fitzpatricks have been known to me for many years from my financial planning days and offer highly respected advice. They are my financial planners and I recently joined the Board of Fitzpatricks as a Non Executive Director;
- Mike Beachy Head Jnr and Snr operate their risk insurance and wealth protection brokerage from Springwood in Brisbane, they are my insurance brokers! I am extremely grateful to both Mikes for stepping up in such a big way to help me on this journey.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Tomorrow we say goodbye to Tibet..an amazing country struggling with its identity, a contrast between the new from China's influence since 1959 and old traditional Tibet that still exists in amongst it all. I suspect that with time the new will win out. All in all a great place to visit...I am so glad I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to do so.
I forgot to mention in my last update when at Tinguri we took the opportunity to go back and spend some time in the village before we rolled on..what an eye opener! Classic was the open butcher market where you can purchase your choice cut straight off the carcass. Meat was fresh as we witnessed just past the village where the goats were being slaughtered rather primitively..enough said.
We've now been in Nyalam near the Nepal border for 2 nights. Again a very poor community but at least there was a place downtown where I was able to enjoy my first shower in 4-5 days..boy that was nice. Most of the group did the same. Feel almost human again.
Apparently tomorrow we descend over 2.5 kms over 50 kms through some pretty spectacular scenery. We have a border crossing in the middle of all that and maybe some roadworks so it won't be a run straight through. The descent yesterday was amazing, 35 kms uninterrupted downhill, wide sweeping switchbacks and no brakes required! Beautiful hot mix surface...we all wished we had our road bikes...would have been incredible!
Scenery at this altitude and higher unspectacular, no vegetation to speak of..really barren rocky and dry. The Himalayas pretty much shadow any moisture crossing them so the Tibet we've seen has been in the main really desolate.
Still and all I'll be sad to say goodbye to it and the great bunch of guys who cannot cross the border with us who have supported us through this entire journey. Tonight we'll say our goodbyes over dinner as tomorrow they leave early to deliver our baggage to the border where we will only briefly see them as we cross.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
We're slowly descending our way down off Base Camp. Day before yesterday was a long tortuous ride over some of the worst corrugated gravel roads you could ever imagine. Really tested the bikes and the body.
We spent the night at a hot springs guest house and had a great get together in the restaurant there with all the crew. A few local beers and noodles for dinner. Not too late to bed but unfortunately the locals partied most of the night in the communal hot baths in the centre of the guest house so not a lot of sleep was had.
Yesterdays cycle was a leisurely flat ride on bitumen, pretty uneventful but a pleasant change to the rough gravel we've been on the past week.
Ride feels like its winding down. Just got a few days descending now as we progress back to Kathmandu by Thursday. Tomorrow we descend 1 km down to 3800 mts and below the snow line.
Temperature not getting into double digits where we are and the nights mostly below zero and windy. Rattles the tents through the night.
The talk in the group now is reflective of where we have been and what we are going to do when we get to Kathmandu. Most intend on doing a bit of shopping and finding a good restaurant.
May not be able to do too many more blog updates either as I will lose signal in the next days after leaving China and re-entering Nepal. Will try and get at least another update in before then.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I cried today.
Words cannot describe the feelings I felt as I peddled the last few kms into Base Camp this morning. Everest is such an imposing sight ahead of you. We were blessed with a glorious day with the whole mountain in view all the way in. I felt no pain.
A day I will remember for the rest of my life.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Wow what an awesome sight! It was supposed to be an easier day today but the roads are woeful. Corrugation on the gravel plays havoc with the mind. No respite km after km. Good news is we are here and what a sight to see. Takes your breath away.
Staying in a guest house just below base camp. Pretty basic dormitory accommodation but as an alternative to camping will be a welcome bed.
Tomorrow will be a short one and a late start. Apparently if weather is clear we can get some incredible shots of Mt Everest early.
Been a couple of hard days riding and everyone getting tired. Couple of easier days will be nice.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Was a really tough day today. Rolled out around 9 in very cool conditions on our way to Everest. Climb was 1100 mts over 23 kms on gravel finishing at 5200 mts! Not a lot of air at that altitude so needless to say quite a few didn't make it. Took a photo of my Garmin as my evidence of conquering the beast! Good view of Mt Everest at the top. Gradient not much the issue, just lack of oxygen. I rate it up there with d'Angrilu in Spain in terms of toughness.. Descent was 35 kms but badly corrugated and far from pleasant. Couple of stacks but no injury to speak of thank goodness.
Tomorrow we venture to Base Camp which is another 900 mts climbing but more gentle I'm told.
Looking forward to a good sleep tonight. Reckon we earned our money today.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Just pulled into Shigatse where we'll spend our last night in a hotel before our next stint out camping. Great days riding today, very flat 95 k's and a glorious day. We've come down again to just under 4000 mts after climbing over 5000 mts on our last pass. Air pretty thin up at that level but lungs coped quite ok. Photo is of Cormac Troy and I at the top of the pass we did yesterday just a tick under 5000 mts.
Cross another small pass tomorrow but we won't climb up too high again for a couple days as we edge closer to Base Camp. We're due in there on 1st but there is talk it may be closed for Chinese 60th Anniversary celebrations so we be adjusting itinerary to get in earlier. Been a good break to get in a hot shower these last couple nights. We camp now for about the next 5 nights. Trip is really well supported by a team of 10 Tibetans and Nepalese. Every break they have our food organised and in camp tents all erected. Great bunch of people and very friendly even though they cannot understand us or we them!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I lied...it was 23 kms and a climb to nearly 4800 mts! All went well with everyone over the top ok. The Toowoomba boys were all up in the first few and was an hour or so for the last of our crew to reach the top. Was a cold wait as it started to snow and our warm gear was in the van back with the main bunch. The local Tibetans at the top took pity on us and herded us into their shelter. Everyone really friendly but you do have to keep a bit of an eye on your gear as we've been warned it can walk.
We're camped down a bit lower at 4500 mts. Couple of the crew are having some altitude issues so doctors have been dishing out medication. Touch wood I've been good with only some mild headaches. Maybe the altitude training back home is paying off. The climb today felt quite good with no real issues on the way up.
Just in the mess tent and sleet starting to fall...must be cold! Seems to rain of a night and days holding off for us making for good riding.
Got a great bunch of people with plenty of laughs. Next couple days reasonably flat apparently so will be a bit easier. One more night of camping after tonight before we bunk down in hotels for the next couple nights. Everyone looking forward to a hot shower and charge up all the phones and nav gear.
Really enjoying the experience. Already getting glimpses of the Himalayas and is truly spectacular.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Arrived safely to camp 1..ride of 80 odd kms out of Lhasa along the Friendship Hwy. Nice site beside a stream where we all took the chance to hop in have a very very cool wash!
Nice flat ride but road had a lot of glass and bindiis off road. We all suffered punctures...11 in all! A record for this tour company apparently.
Travelled through quite a few villages today and had time to get to know the locals while punctures were being fixed. Kids flocked to us from everywhere which was a bit of fun...very cute.
Weather is kind. A bit showery out of Lhasa but fined up to a brilliant day...quite a contrast to the dust storms back home in Aus. So far temps been in the 20's. This is our first night outdoors so will be interesting to see how cool it gets in the tent.
Tomorrows ride only about 60 kms but a pretty significant pass to cross first up. About 1000 mts climb over 17 km I'm told so we'll see.
Looking forward to a good nights sleep tonight so don't think it'll be too late before I hit the hay.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Here we are on our last day in Lhasa before we head out tomorrow morning towards Mt Everest. First day will be 90 kms of reasonable riding.
This photo is taken in front of the Potala Palace which was built in the 7th century. It is 115 mts and 13 stories high. The 5th Dalai Lama extended it to its present size and became his and successors main residence. It's an amazing piece of architecture. The tombs of many of the Dalai Lama are also housed here.
We have been here 4 days now and everyone has acclimatised well. Some slight headaches is about the worst we've had.
Food here is really good. Quite spicy and heavy on yak meat but nice. The locals are a really friendly happy bunch and quite intrigued by us. Looking forward to getting out in to the villages from here to meet a few more. Lhasa is full of pilgrims who come here to pray. Some really interesting customs and dress of all the different people from various parts.
Tomorrow we start on the serious stuff of doing what we came here to do. Moving out of 4 star luxury to 18 days on the road and climbing to some pretty incredible altitudes.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Getting all set up for our final sell out fund raising dinner tonight. Hope to raise enough tonight to crack the $30k mark for the 3 Toowoomba trekkers.
Support has been amazing...thanks to all.
(P) PO Box 1222 Toowoomba Qld 4350
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Only 1 more altitude session left and tapering for the final week. This Wednesday night we celebrate with 80 friends at a fundraising dinner where we hope to add a few more valuable $'s to our charity. It's not too late to help..go to www.everydayhero.com.au/greg_gunther. All donations gratefully accepted.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
The fund raising has exceeded all expectations. Special thanks must go to the Vanriet team and their friends who have just been awesome with their enthusiasm for the cause, Fitzpatrick Financial Planning and Beachy-Head Insurance Brokers. Between them and the many others who have donated we have raised in excess of $15k which is by far the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with....thank you everyone for your kind support. Together we will make a difference in the way we treat children's cancer.
While I am away I will be regularly updating my blog with hopefully some pictures as well if I am up to the technology! Please note the site and check in when you get a chance to see how we are going.