We left Lhasa in glorious sunshine, pottering up for a team shot outside the Potala Palace where we became a tourist attraction ourselves as the Chinese tourists joining us for pictures! Then came our first full day of cycling (90km) up to the bottom of the Khamba La pass. It was interesting cycling lots to see and lots of traffic to keep an eye on. There were several large Buddhas painted on the side of the rocks and the river rushed by threatening to burst its banks. We camped in what looked like a farmers field but right next to the road, so when the lorries laboured by in the night they made a lot of noisy. It was sunny til about 6 and then there was an almighty thunderstorm, and this pattern has been followed every afternoon. It stopped in the night (except last night!) and then was gloomy in the morning. We started early to climb 1200m over 35km (or in 30 km as I thought!). I struggled for breath from the start and at 29km got off my bike wanting to lie down and catch my breath but I struggled on on foot for another 2 km til the minivan found me and very thankfully scooped me up and took me to the top of the pass. All the others had made it! the view down to Scorpion Lake was spectacular - turquoise waters and green mountains. We raced down the other side, with a splitting headache from the altitude that made its presence known over every little bump. After a few kms we stopped for lunch and I opted to take the minivan the last 30km to the campsite where I happily had a lie down and a diamox.
The following day we set off again to cycle over Karo La - a shorter ascent but to over 5000m, this time I got really close to the top (2km) before the minivan found me. The top was decorated with prayer flags and was strangely warm, we must have been sheltered from the wind. Then we whizzed down the mountain to have lunch looking along a valley bordered by snow capped mountains. It was another 40km to the campsite as the normal one had been washed away by the excessive rains. We camped next to a turquoise reservoir, a beautiful waterfall and an abandoned village. There were even belemnites on the ground! During the day we saw men spinning yak wool and lots of birds including choughs with red beaks.
Today we set off in the rain and went over Simi La (I got right to the top!) and then it was all down hill to Gyatse. The fields here are still full of barley and there are people pottering about in their horse drawn carts. The streets are filthy but somehow feel a lot more authentic than Lhasa. We walked up to the Pachu Monastery which has one of the last chortens left untouched in Tibet but there are no monks and very few pilgrims. The chorten is beautifully decorated and has a great view over the town towards the Dzong (fortress). Tonight we're in a hotel (with showers!!) and tomorrow we cycle to Shigatse for two nights in a hotel and our rest day, but its 90km away on the flat so some effort is required to get there. Its also another 150m below where we are now so hopefully that will be good!