Though the mountain was crowded with lots of construction workers, it was somehow comforting to have some of the road crew trying to beckon us over to their fire to warm up. They didn’t seem to understand that our lightweight clothing was plenty for as hard as we were working but that we would cool down if we stopped. Much as we would have liked to have tea and a visit, we had to keep moving. We got many cheers, thumbs up, much misinformation and even a push from two road monitors.
Yesterday we rode Zippy to the highest elevation ever for us. We started at 8,500 feet in Kangding and topped Zheduo Pass at 13,900 feet in 35 kilometers, or 21.7 miles, all under construction/repair. For our Olympic Peninsula friends, that’s like taking the Hurricane Ridge Road, raising the sea level start to 3,000 feet above the Ridge, loading 80 pounds on your tandem before beginning. Oh, I forgot, put 1,000 people and hundreds of trucks and equipment on the now gravel/dirt/broken concrete road.
We are getting into Tibetan prefectures and seeing the dress and features of the minority population. After a 13,000 plus pass tomorrow, they will no longer be the minority. We are already seeing prayer flags flying, and old women turning prayer wheels as they walk, men dressed in huge leather cloaks with cowboy style hats and daggers. Everyone is friendly, and the air is finally clear!
We caught them 1,000 vertical meters later at the entrance to the summit tunnel to great exclamations of pleasure and another round of picture taking, with Zippy at the center. Lucky was busy flirting with one of the girls and got left out of the picture, again!
There were police and army personnel all over the place, protecting the tunnel no doubt, and we had to show our passports to be allowed through. We had heard horror stories about the tunnel, but found it reasonably well lit and smooth. As usual, when you worry, it is always unnecessary.