Saturday, 27th June: On Friday, we rode from Lhasa to Linzhi, a ride of around 400 kms or 250 miles in old money! It was a nice warm day and the ride was a nice gentle one with beautiful scenery. For the first time in China I actually got stopped at a standard Police checkpoint and asked for my Driving Licence, Passport and vehicle Registration documents, the Chinese ones! It was all very friendly and having seen the documents the next question was “How much is the bike worth?”, in not so good English. The next one was, “Can we have a photo with you?” We do seem to be a bit of an attraction, as they don’t get too many European tourists in the this part of China.
The formalities dealt with, the ride into Linzhi was completed without problems. We had the usual meeting regarding tomorrow’s ride and then it was out for dinner, after which we saw a public Line Dance, Chinese style, before retiring to bed.
Linzhi itself is a pretty town nestled in the mountains which surround it on all sides. The route out on Saturday was therefore an uphill one and, despite Kevin’s comments about a mix of dirt and tarmac sections of road, it started off with nice tarmac and afforded an opportunity to get a photo of Linzhi from the mountains above. After that things took a downhill turn!
The sections of gravel were ok and good progress was made. However, the road then turned to mud. Now I had said that it was inevitable that I would at some point drop the bike. In fact, I am surprised that it took this long but, sure enough, quite suddenly, the thick mud that passed for mountain road, caught me out and I fell off – the bike falling towards me. Fortunately, the Trax panniers came to my aid and stopped the bike falling on my leg. I picked myself up and Andre, a South African, who happened to be riding behind me, had virtually picked up my bike before I had put my camera away. I remounted and carried on with nothing worse than a bruised ego.
However, I wasn’t having a good day of it and a further “off” provided one of the trip’s standout comedy moments. I rode down a short slope toward a huge pool of liquid mud which was at least ankle deep. I took it carefully going down the slope and started across the pool, but had the misfortune to hit a hidden rock which again threw me off to the right. Again the panniers saved me and prevented any physical injury – apart from a stomach ache from laughing so much.
I was covered from head to foot in a grey / brownish clinging mud which even covered my helmet. This time Wayne was behind me and once we finished laughing we picked up the bike and Wayne took a photo, for posterity, and we carrried on, after using the last of my water in an attempt to clear my visor so I could see where I was going. At the next viewpoint, a number of the riders were already waiting there and I was greeted to howls of laughter, lots of pictures and general good natured mickey taking, after which there was a general inspection of my bike, which was now coated in a dried muddy brown mixture.
That said, it was clear that one of my panniers had suffered a split to the bottom, and an inspection revealed that the octane booster I had bought, in case of very poor fuel in remote areas, had suffered a puncture and the liquid had spilt inside the pannier. Murphy’s law dictated that it would be the same pannier that the oil had leaked in earlier in the ride ….. Bugger! With the help of a few baby wipes from Chris. I cleaned my visor sufficiently well to see where I was going.
Having got to Bomi, our destination for the day, we re-fuelled and whilst the others went to the hotel, I went back out of town the way we came in to get the bike jet washed to try and get the mud off. Later, back in the hotel, I came to the conclusion, too late in the day, that I should have been jet washed as well. The next best thing was to get into the shower with my jacket and trousers on and get the mud off as best as I could. It was far from perfect, but better than nothing. The cleaners will certainly have a full cleaning job on their hands when I vacate the room, the mud was drying and falling off everything, my boots, the tank bag, the zips of my jacket and trousers, and as for my merino T shirt base layer, it was caked. I have always believed that if you do something you should do it properly, well, I got properly muddy and didn’t get hurt.