Thursday, August 18, 2005
Biking the Himalayas: Lhasa - Kathmandu
In October 2002 I did a Bike Trip Lhasa - Kathmandu. This has been a dream for a long time and it was the experience of a lifetime --- well worth all the physical exhaustion! Recently many people have been asking questions on my experiences and recommendations for repeating such an adventure. I've collected a few of the answers in the hope that they're useful to others.
- How hard was the trip (how good does one's physical condition need to be)?
It's hard but absolutely feasible if you are trained and physically fit. Factors to take into account are the altitude, wind, dust in the air (be prepared to wear a dust mask for severeal sections), sun impact, lack of humidity. All these can be compensated for, but you feel what you've been missing on the 4000-m descent back to Nepal!
- Did group members experience severe signs of altitude sickness?
No, just minor
-Over a longer period?
The response is very individual. For some people the symptoms come back with every 500-m climb, for others it's just one/two days upon arrival in Lhasa. I've heard that sometimes people need to fly back again, but it's very rare. I've complemented my diet with iron and vitamin tablets and found this useful.
- What month did you do the trip and how were weather conditions?
October - fine weather - cold at nights (-15 degree Celsius on everest base camp), comfortable temperatures during the day. The support team were fantastic - on the coldest night they even brought us hot-water-bottles into the tent and every morning we were awoken with freshly brewed tea delivered straight to the tent.
- Would you recommend Makalu trekking for this trip?
Absolutely! They were fantastic and I'm still in touch with some of their staff. They are very competent and efficient.
- If you have any knowledge of other organisations offering this tour, how would you compare Makalu to them?
DAV Summit Club is offering a similar trip but I don't know the details.
- Would you travel with Makalu again for similar trips?
- How would you rate the accommodation and the food?
Superb - given the circumstances.
- How would you rate the logistical support?
Excellent - we had one truck and one jeep with us over the whole distance. Food and all supplies were brought in from Nepal in advance to our arrival in lhasa.
- Did you have many problems with your bike? Could the guides help you to fix your problems? What spare parts should we bring?
Bike problems were minor: a few flat tyres and loose bottom bracket. I carried standard replacement parts (inner tubes, tyres, brake and gear cables, plastic click-on pedals for SPD, lube, oil, spokes) and tools (pump, all allen keys for my bike, spoke key, chain tool, etc.) with me. In Tibet it's impossible to get spares! If something breaks en route the only chance is to find a good/creative mechanic/welder in one of the few towns.
- Did you find your bike guide useful or is it also possible to do it without bike guide (only land cruiser support)?
By chance we joined a group led by a bikealpin guide. This was useful, especially since we had fantastic mueslis and sausage flown in from Germany as well as the more bulky tools (e.g., sprocket remover, crank puller) and extra spare parts available.