After a magnificent feast at the stunning Hilton Linzhi resort and indulging in its finely stocked bar, there were a few sore heads in the breakfast room this morning. Thankfully, they were all woken up by Paddy Walker’s fabulous Bermuda shorts. Cream with pink and peach flowers, Paddy certainly won the award for best legs of the day.
Our route this morning took us along the left-hand side of the river bank, the terrain gradually changing from lush green trees to vast sand dunes.
Many crews took the opportunity to stop at a small village just outside of Oran town where the locals were going about their business. They all gave us a very warm welcome and we handed out rally round badges to the children, who were quite confused by all the visitors asking for pictures.
This area was very traditional of Tibet and showed less of the Chinese influences we had seen previously. The houses, while simple, were all brightly painted with a variety of coloured prayer flags blowing in the breeze. It is actually quite humbling to see how much they do with so little and we could all learn a few life lessons from these gentle people.
It was then through the Gongse forest to Langshi, heading over the river on a bridge that runs parallel to the new bullet train rail bridge currently under construction. Whilst the scenery today was equal to what had been observed previously, for those with an interest in engineering, it was a delight. New dams, new bridges, new roads – in five years’ time the landscape will look so different, making us all even more lucky that we get to see it now.
We weren’t lucky when it came to visiting the birthplace of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama (1876-1933) at Trongkhang. Although we had arranged for the crews to visit there, when the advance car of Kim and Nikki Bannister arrived the whole monastery was surrounded with hoarding and scaffolding meaning we could not visit. We hope the repairs are for some sympathetic restoration and not for vast changes to this historical building.
With a hefty lunch bag from last night’s hotel to enjoy, an impromptu rally picnic occurred at the viewing point of the Rocky Mountains. The sun beat down on the crews as they tucked into their packed lunch before a spot of sun worshipping before getting back out on the road.
Everyone was out of their cars again though just down the road at a Police checkpoint, where we had to ‘shuffle’ our shoed feet on a disinfectant carpet before an office doused your hands in sanitiser.
Historic walnut trees and quirky villages popped up along the route in between the building sites including a new Hydro-power station and dam as well as more tunnels through the mountains.
At the Zangdu viewing area, you could see a new suspension bridge being built but what was most fascinating here was the two enthusiastic monkeys who were fed the rest of our packed lunch against doctor’s orders.
We then started the winding climb to today’s pass at 3580m. Traffic was light, so some crews used the lack of traffic to find the racing line.
Even the retired crews were getting in on the action, taking a break from the fun bus to go with competitors. Xavier del Marmol got to have a blast in Car 4, the Porsche of David Royds and Sam Gill, while both Chris Evans and Mark Seymour have enjoyed a stint in Car 21, the Camel Range Rover of Tim Wilkinson and Steph Duckworth.
In terms of spanner work, it’s been another light day. Gary Pickard and Gary Oliver had to fix the corroded wire on the fuel pump of their Jaguar XK150, Car 17 belonging to Dougie and Kate Lawson.
Car 10, the Rolls Royce of Mark Robinson and Yvonne Fuller, ran out of fuel ten metres away from the hotel door in Tsetang, one of Tibet’s largest cities with a population of 1.2 million and the capital of the Lhoka Prefecture of the T.A.R.
Tomorrow is a short day as we’ll be in Lhasa by mid-afternoon for a couple of days to get cleaned, some tinkering and refuelling. And that’s just the competitors…