You may arrive at the joining-point hotel at any time on Day 1 as no group activities are planned for today except for a group meeting in the early evening followed by an optional dinner. It is important that you arrive in time for this meeting as we will cover important aspects of the trek. Please check the entrance of the hotel for a notice from your CEO detailing the location of the meeting.
Today we have some time in Kathmandu as we need to process our Chinese visas to get into Tibet. This means there is plenty of time to wander around Kathmandu, where there is plenty to discover. Lord Pashupatinath Temple dating back to 400 AD is the Nepal's holiest Hindu shrine. With its astonishing architectural beauty, it stands as a symbol of faith, religion, culture and tradition. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to pay homage to this temple that is also known as 'The Temple of Living Beings'. The richly ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga or phallic symbol of Lord Shiva. You can mingle with the holy men or sadhus on the banks of Bagmati River, and see the daily chores of Nepalese people paying their homage to Lord Shiva. Often you can see the traditional cremation ceremony on the riverbank, which occurs all through the day at the shrine. On the other hand, Boudhanath, is one of the world's largest stupas (Buddhist shrine). Boudhanath (also called Bouddhanath, Bodhnath or Baudhanath or the Khasa Chaitya) is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Stupa is on the ancient trade route from Tibet which enters the Kathmandu Valley by the village of Sankhu in the northeast corner, passes by Bodhnath Stupa to the ancient and smaller stupa of Ca-bahi (often called 'Little Bodhnath'). Join the pilgrims who gather to circumnavigate the enormous dome, beneath the watchful eye of the Buddha which gazes out from the gilded central tower. Join the pilgrims in lighting butter lamps or candles on the shrines of the stupa, and send the prayer wheels spinning their prayers up into the heavens.
This historic city is situated in a small valley, 3700m above sea level. Lhasa rose to take an important role in the administration of the country over 1300 years ago. At this time, the grand temples of Ramoche and Jokhang were built to house the Buddha images and religious artifacts brought into Tibet as dowries from China and Nepal. Although little of the 7th-Century Lhasa survives, the 1600s saw a second stage of renovation and development, which included the building of the Potala Palace (included in our tour). Perched on Red Hill overlooking the town, this massive structure dominates the landscape with grace and dignity - a true architectural wonder. The Jokhang Temple is the spiritual heart of Tibet and also the most active. Prostrating pilgrims circle the temple endlessly, day and night, some of them traversing the extremes of the Tibetan landscape by foot to celebrate and express their faith. Nearby are the huge monastic universities of Drepung and Sera are still active institutions. We will begin our time here with a tour of the Jokhang and make a kora (circumambulation) of the Barkhor, the holiest devotional circuit, which surrounds the Jokhang and houses a market bazaar where people bargain for Buddha images, yak skulls with ruby eyes, woodcarvings, carpets, prayer wheels and the odd goat's head.
The first day out of Lhasa is the first test of our cycling skills, as we gradually begin our climb high up into the Himalaya. Today is also our first camp – a good night’s sleep before beginning the tough ascent of the Khamba La (4750m) – rewarded at the top by spectacular views of Yamdrok Lake against a backdrop of snow-topped Himalayan Peaks. Then it’s a winding descent to camp by the lake (4420m). From here it is a stunning ride below the towering glaciers of Mt Nojin Gangzang (7191m); alongside glacial streams, small villages and across the Karo La (5045m). Day 7 - Maximum Altitude: 3617m Sleeping Altitude: Around 3600 m Distance Cycling: 80 Kms Day 8 - Maximum Altitude: 4807m Sleeping Altitude: Around 4300 m Distance Cycling: 75 Kms Day 9 - Maximum Altitude: 5032m Sleeping Altitude: Around 4500 m Distance Cycling: 50 Kms
Cross the Simi La (4330m), then it’s a relatively gentle descent into Gyantse – in some seasons they valley floor is a blaze of brilliant yellow rape flowers. In Gyantse and Shigatse we take a break from camping to indulge in hot showers, beds and the local restaurants. Once of major importance as a wool trading centre on the routes between India, Sikkim, Bhutan, Tibet and China, Gyantse retain the feel of old Tibet. The imposing hill fortress, Gyantse Dzong, dominates views of the town and is a great place for sunset views over the town. In the morning of Day 10 we will visit Pelkor Chode Monastery, founded in 1418, and the unique Gyantse Kumbum (meaning 100,000 images) which forms a 3-dimensional mandala containing a seemingly endless series of tiny chapels full of Buddhist images – Buddhas, demons, protectors and saints. Maximum Altitude: 4516m Sleeping Altitude: Around 4048 m Distance Cycling: 59 Kms
It is a relatively easy ride to Shigatse, Tibet's second-largest town, and the seat of the Panchen Lama who ranks second in importance to the Dalai Lama. The huge complex of Tashilunpo is visited daily by hundreds of devotees, armed with yak butter to feed the lamps, who prostrate themselves around the stupas or walk up to the chapel that houses the 26m-high, gold-plated statue of the future Buddha. We will tour the monastery in the afternoon. Then perhaps join the pilgrims on their evening kora (circumambulation) around the perimeter of the monastery. Shigatse bazaar also buzzes with life. Stalls, selling everything from slabs of yak butter to yak wool, prayer wheels and rosaries, line the streets and Tibetans vie with each other to win a sale. Be tempted by the antiques, jewelry and fur hats with elaborate gold brocade designs or perhaps visit the carpet factory where hand-woven carpets are made to traditional designs. Day 11 - Maximum Altitude: 4048m Sleeping Altitude: Around 3852 m Distance Cycling: 90 Kms Day 12 - Maximum Altitude: Around 4200m Sleeping Altitude: Around 4200 m Distance Cycling: 95 Kms
Back on the road, the route leads across the Yulung La (4950m) and the Gyatso La (5220m), the highest point of the ride. Day 13 - Maximum Altitude: 4533m Sleeping Altitude: Around 4100 m Distance Cycling: 90 Kms Day 14 - Maximum Altitude: 5253m Sleeping Altitude: Around 4408 m Distance Cycling: 65 Kms
Turn off the Friendship Highway for a stunning ride through Qomolangma Nature Preserve to the top of the 5200m Pang-La (pass) for a superb panoramic view from Manaklu to Shishapangma. Then its a downhill stretch to Tashidzom. As you climb barley fields give way to barren valleys of glacial debris. Finally reach the tiny Rombuk Gompa at 5000m. The view from here is utterly spectacular! It is then 7 kilometers to Base Camp at 5200m. Day 15 - Maximum Altitude: 5205m Sleeping Altitude: Around 4213 m Distance Cycling: 65 Kms Day 16 - Maximum Altitude: 5009m Sleeping Altitude: Around 5000 m Distance Cycling: 35 Kms
The route down from Rombuk is a rough, but scenic one. There are a couple of short, but steep descents. The guest house in Lao Tingri is basic, but hot showers are available. Day 18 - Maximum Altitude: 5101m Sleeping Altitude: Around 4350 m Distance Cycling: 60 Kms
Back to the Friendship Highway where another two high passes give a last, spectacular view of the Himalaya before leaving the Tibetan Plateau - Lalung La (5124m) and the Yarle Shung La (5100m). Our last night in Tibet is at Nyalum – right on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Day 19 - Maximum Altitude: 4563m Sleeping Altitude: Around 4500 m Distance Cycling: 75 Kms Day 20 - Maximum Altitude: 5149m Sleeping Altitude: Around 3775 m Distance Cycling: 50 Kms
From Nyalum the road descends sharply towards the Nepal border, some 40kms and 2000 meters below. Moisture returns to the air, the colors change, trees appear, lush green vegetation and the Bote Khose river thunders below. After completing border formalities, transferring luggage to the Nepalese vehicle and saying goodbye to our Tibetan drivers and guides, it is a short ride down to the Last Resort, a luxury tented camp and relax in the beautiful gardens, herbal steam bath or plunge pool. Day 21 - Maximum Altitude: 3776m Sleeping Altitude: Around 1065 m Distance Cycling: 80 Kms
The road continues its winding descent, hopefully unhindered by landslides, towards Kathmandu. Rich in cultural and artistic heritage blending the traditional and the modern, Kathmandu is a vibrant, chaotic, colorful city - one not to be missed. You may depart at any time on Day 23