The bright blue sky reflected the mood of the crews this morning as they woke from a warm slumber instead of dusting the ice from their sleeping bag.
Our route away from Geji took us to the main road of new black tarmac that glided through the valley floor, with what appeared to be wet lands housing various kinds of bird life including Eider birds and ducks to name a few.
We followed the Indus River to the bustling town of Shiquanhe, which is the centre of Western Tibet. A very busy main street lead to huge parks of heavy plant machinery, all used to create the new roads, villages, bridges and power stations we’ve seen along our route over the past 16 days.
This was the furthest we would head west, before the route start taking us back to the east, and the landscape gave us the most amazing send off.
The crews driving this central route are believed to be the first westerners to have ever driven these roads in their own cars, never mind that some of the cars are over 90 years-old.
Red mountains contrasted against the white snow peaks as we had our first view of Mount Kailash, a dome shaped mountain standing at 6656m, before we began an ascent that would give crews the views of a lifetime.
At 5162m, this pass was by no means the highest we had tackled on this amazing journey, yet it certainly felt the steepest and, with some rough stretches of road and narrow sections where two vehicles could barely pass, it brought you to what felt like the ‘roof of the world’.
With the entire range of the Himalayas stretched out before us, the pass opened up into a huge valley with winding roads and switchbacks before you were presented with what is best described as the Tibetan version of the Grand Canyon.
The view from the plateau was exceptional – the white snow-capped Himalayas standing proud against the beautiful blue sky with this vast green canyon below. This is what the Trans-Himalayan Adventure had been building up to and oh how it succeeded.
But the day wasn’t over yet, because however amazing the drive to the canyon was, the descent through the network of rocks and gorges on the way down was equally as mesmerising.
Over dinner at the Tulin Castle in Zhada, all agreed that the route from Chengdu to Zhada had to be one of the greatest drives in the world – and talk of a second visit started to take shape…
Outside of the hotel, Car 4 – the Porsche 911 of David Royds and Sam Gill had debris at the base of one of its spark plugs that was stopping the spark plug socket from locating. Sweep crew Gary Pickard and Gary Oliver made a tool to remove the offending item and fix the problem.
The Bentley of David and Julia Little had also received some attention earlier in the day when its oil feed banjo bolt came lose, and Car 10, Mark Robinson and Yvonne Fuller’s Rolls Royce also had some minor assistance from sweeps Richard Last and Simon Clooney.
Big news of the day also came from sweep mechanic Karim De Mynn who had departed the hotel early this morning with the Haslam’s Jaguar XK120 and a translator for company. Arriving in Shiquanhe, Karim found a workshop but sadly they didn’t have the welding equipment he needed. However, soon enough a lorry turned up with all the equipment needed and, there on the roadside, Karim with the help of a local, set about seeing if he could get the Haslam’s car back on the road.
After some serious welding, cutting new pieces of metal, rebuilding the suspension and all the other elements he’d had to remove to get to the offending areas, Karim got the car going again and arrived in Zhada to a hero’s welcome. After asking the other sweeps to give the car the once over, and fixing an existing problem with the fuel system, tomorrow morning Phillip and Yvonne Haslam will rejoin us on the road in their own car.
What a great way to end a marvellous day!