Pumped to get out and do a little recon we awoke to a standard Chinese breakfast at the hotel. We scarfed it down alongside with a few cups of coffee we’d had mind to prepare and make on our own. (It’s impossible to get any coffee in these remote reaches). Running a tally on the state of our riding group we gave ourselves the go-ahead and set out. Within a kilometer Jacob flatted out in a rookie effort to follow the young champ. It’s good to get this sort of bad luck out of the way early, right? Patched up and ready to roll out we moved on.
Besides those of us who’d had the opportunity to ride this race the year before, no one was quite prepared what kind of trail would open up before us. The single track is single-handedly some of the best to be found in the world. Cut into a steep mountainside that rises above a pristine turquoise lake, the trail itself carves a fast circuit through silent forests of old scrub oak and high-altitude magnolia in full bloom. The surface was rich and loamy earth dotted with the occasional scree that broke free from the mountain above. Harsh sunlight cut through the trees and carpeted the ground with soft golden light. Tibetan prayer flags draped across the hillside catch the sweet breeze that wends its way through the trees. This is very easily some of the most magical mountain biking the world over. No shit.
The riding is fast and loose and before long everyone got caught up in the whooping and hollering of a good ol’ time. We tore through the single track before finding ourselves at the mouth of the lake. Here we crossed a broad grassland dotted with the occasional group of ambling yaks and pigs. We cut through old villages built of stone and mud and rough hewn timbers. We breathed deep (or tried to despite the 3600 meter altitude) the sweet smell of the forest and the rivers and the mountains around us. The ride had taken longer than we’d anticipated on account of the nonstop photo opportunities but we gradually found our way back at our hotel and ate our fill.
The night then wrapped up as everyone, stoned on the out-of-world nature of the day’s riding meandered over to a local tea house. There we sat around a wood stove and swap storieswhile sipping on yak butter tea and snacking on some tsampa (barley flour mixed with the tea to make a kind of dough). Fortunately for us the stars were out as we sauntered our way back to our warm beds.