Travel Story "My trike on the roof of the world"

Was it possible for two disabled people to cycle the 1100km Friendship Highway? To ride all the way from Lhasa to Kathmandu over the Himalaya mountain range? To ride the dirt road to Qomolongma Base Camp? To tackle the rarified air above 5000m and to film the journey? Carol Hurst and myself were going to find out. Neither Carol nor myself can ride traditional bicycles, we just don't have the balance, so the two of us ride recumbent tricycles. We were joined by film makers Sharyn and Chris Jones of Griffon Expeditions and physiotherapist Mel Weber.

The first week of the trip found us riding up the impressive Yarling Sangpo gorge to Xigatse. This was a gentle introduction. Whereas able-bodied cyclists take the more scenic Gampa La, which would have taken us to nearly 5000m on day two, we opted for steady acclimatisation. Lhasa is at 3680m and Xigatse 3890m so altitude sickness is a very real possibility especially once we got above 4500m.   

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West of Xigatse is where the Tibetan plateau really begins. Vast areas of wild alpine moorland dotted with yaks. The Friendship Highway was surfaced in 2008 and is easier to ride on than most Australian roads (we are from Australia). But the 8 day dogleg up to Mount Everest was most definitely the toughest part. A whole week of pot holes, gravel, sand land bowling ball sized rocks. But, once there what a sight! Mere words cannot do justice to this holy mountain - the sheer size, the light, the beauty. For me it was a long held dream come true. And deservedly difficult to approach. 

We only had three or four flats and I suffered a sheared quick release pin due to the rough descent of the Everest road. That problem was easily remedied with the judicious use of a tyre inner-tube! 

The whole ride took us 26 days and thanks to Samdrup our Tibetan guide, Dawa our cook and Tsering our driver, went swimmingly well. The ride was accident free and we had minimal illness due to altitude - just the usual groginess and some Cheyne/Stokes breathing (waking up gasping for air). 

The biggest downhill in the world - 4600m from the summit of the Thang La down to the Kathmandu valley, was as much fun as we expected and dangerous too once we had crossed into Nepal with crazy Tata truck drivers bear down on you.

Our most heartfelt thanks go out to Jamphel at Explore Tibet for making this journey such an insightful and joyful experience.
Paul Pritchard
From Australia 



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