The night before we were scheduled to ride the final 60km to Rongbu Temple, the highest monastery in the world and also our base for trekking up to Everest base camp, the weather was not looking promising. Wild dark clouds were constantly circling, causing the prayer flags to flutter violently and our hope of actually seeing the mountain that we’d come so far to catch a glimpse of, dissipate with every gust.
After a fitful night of sleep we were up and rearing to go, clouds be damned, we weren’t missing this one. But then, as we rode out of that nights accommodation, a couple of friendly locals came bearing some not so friendly news, or at least we thought so at the time.
The short ride of 60km we’d planned to do in an hour had been washed out the night before.. So instead we had to take the long route round doubling the distance and time to get there. Seriously cutting into our chances of a cloud free view of that mystical giant. Everest, it seems, was playing hard to get.
It was about 70km into our new detour that the unfriendly news from the friendly locals turned into rather friendly news after all (That made sense to me, I hope it did to you to…). You can say what you like about the havoc China is causing in Tibet but one thing they can do is build a road!
It was, I can categorically say, the best road I’ve ridden and more than likely ever will ride! Brand spanking new tarmac graces switch back after switchback as you slowly approach then ride through the hanging cloud bank, only to finally burst through it and be graced with mountain vistas all around. All the while still switchbacking like you’ve never switched before. And Drew said our twisty days were over when we were back in Istanbul….
The best part was. Once we reached the top we got to go down the other side. Which had more turns in it than something that has a lot of turns in it, bear with me whilst I find a sufficient metaphor here… More turns in it than a colour blind Bruce using a colour coded GPS in any major city.. It was phenomenal. So good we almost forgot that we were here for a reason, one rather large reason and it was only 50km or so away.
When we finally did arrive at the monastery guesthouse, Everest or Chomolungma to the locals, was well and truly hiding in the clouds. Trying not to be too distraught we parked the bikes and thawed out the fingers around a lovely cup of milky tea. Then off we set.
Unlike the southern face the hike to base camp is almost a cheat, instead of the several day hike in Nepal it’s a cheeky 4km up a gravelly path. Granted its at 5200m and so tying your shoelaces is hard work but it wasn’t long before we were sitting under the canopy of vibrant prayer flags and trying to entice a very coy mountain from behind her clouds.
She must have realised how far we’d actually come to sit at her feet however. And so, phenomenally, inch by painful inch she began to shed her shroud of cloud and reveal herself. unfortunately it was only a very tentative effort at best with scraps of the mountain appearing and then disappearing.
After a few magical hours of watching her dance amongst the clouds we finally resigned ourselves to the fact that we’d have to resign ourselves to those few flirtatious glimpses and we’d not get to see her in all her unexposed glory.
We walked back down with light hearts as although we hadn’t seen all of her, apparently due to the fact it being smack bang middle of monsoon season (great planning on our part I know) what we had seen was incredibly lucky.
But she wasn’t done with us yet. With the setting sun and the fading light we happened to glance back for one final look and there she stood. Bathed in the light of the setting sun reflecting off her snow-covered peaks unclouded and unashamed. It’s a view that will stick with me forever.