We woke up to a sunny day. We had breakfast (scrambled eggs and bread. Eating oats every day can get stale) and then hit the road. The old road that is, the new road ran almost in parallel to the old except 80m above along the face of the hill, rather than next to the river itself.
We passed through a small police checkpost, the police more interested in collecting photos with us than our details. Then then we proceeded along this green valley, picturesque and serene. After a while we got it into our heads that we may as well ride on the new road since it seemed, for all intents and purposes, complete. Just not fully open to the public yet. We kept our eyes open for some way to get up onto it.
The first on road ran right through someone’s house, so that wasn’t really an option. A couple of kilometres down the road though the new road dipped a bit and a dirt track led up to it. We hauled the bikes along the track up to the road, a difficult feat in the thin air that required a lot of breath-catching breaks. But it was worth the effort, we were up on the new road with fresh Tarmac all to ourselves.
As it turned out we needn’t have bothered exerting ourselves like that as not long after we got onto the road the old road merged with the new. From here we climbed out of the valley and up into a wide expanse of plains. A town lay on a river nestled up against the foothills of some mountains, we could have lunch there.
The town was another one of these newly renovated towns. We had lunch in a small noodle place next to a mani wall opposite a basketball court. The kids playing basketball found our presence much more amusing than their game and ogled us from the windows of the noodle place. They were a happy and excitable lot and accompanied us as we went to look at the mani wall after lunch, shouting out the Buhddist mantra ‘om mani padme hum’ as we walked around the wall to peals of laughter from their comrades. It would be the equivalent, I suppose, of a group of Chinese tourists out in some small village in Ireland looking at the local church while the local youths followed them shouting ‘our father who art in heaven’.
As we were leaving town a car driven by a monk pulled up and a young Tibetan guy in skinny jeans got out and started speaking to us in perfect, unaccented English. This was Tashi. He invited us to stay with him in his place tonight, ‘just for kindness’. Not to turn down such kindness we agreed. He had to go teach for a coupe of hours, so we had some time to kill. There’s only so much unfiltered attention from locals a person can take at a time, so we rode out of town and hid under a bridge on the dried up river bed and watched a movie on Finns laptop.
We went back to town and met Tashi at the appointed time, 7 o’clock. He took us back to his place where we spoke to his uncle and aunt and said hello to his old grandmother who sat spinning her handheld prayer wheel. Tashi’s parent s were away as it was a holiday period in the region. Tashi explained that now was the time the locals went out into the hills to pick the catapult fungus, a rare fungus with medical properties that would be the sold on to China proper. We didn’t really understand exactly what he meant by ‘harvesting’, ‘medicinal properties’ or even ‘catapilar fungus’ but this is Tibet, there are some things we can’t fully understand.
Tashi showed us the spare room where we got to sleep indoors in a bed.