Despite it being Monday morning, traffic was light as the cars departed from the comfort of the Shangri-La Lhasa. Many thanks to general manager Claudia and her team for looking after us all.
It was then on the motorway to move us away from the city and back towards the mountains and the scenic route following the banks of the Pramabutra.
We then started the first ascent of the day to the Kamala pass which reaches 4700m with its winding roads. At its peak, it gives incredible views of the crystal clear waters of the sacred Yamdrok Yutso Lake, one of three sacred lakes in Tibet.
Yamdrok is shaped like a fan coral, with many bays and inlets on its mountainous shores. It is visited by pilgrims all year long. It is seen as a talisman supporting the spirit of the Tibetan Nation. It is said that should its waters dry; Tibet will no longer be habitable.
At the top of the pass, we got word that Car 10, the Rolls Royce of Mark Robinson and Yvonne Fuller was having fuel vaporisation problems, something that would plaque them all day. Car 2, David and Julia Little’s Bentley Super Sports, had also suffered a fuel leak but sweep Gary Pickard had soon had that fixed and the car back on the road. Car 17, the Lawson’s Jaguar XK150 was also nursing a fuel problem which the sweeps got under control.
The road down from the peak took you through traditional Tibetan villages with cows, sheep and yaks roamed freely. The lake changed through different shades of blue as we got closer to the shore.
It was then into the town of Nagarze for a lovely lunch at Chongqing Restaurant. Nagarze (4475m) has for centuries been a vital trading link between Lhasa and Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal and West Tibet.
This afternoon we headed back into the mountains and to the Khari La Glacier (5045m). The glacier is beautiful and seemed to spill towards the road.
Our descent was through the historic town of Gyantse, a small village and home to the Kumbum Monastery and Pelkhor Chode Temple. Gyantse Dzong, a fortress which dominates the city’s skyline, was built in the 14th and 15th century and once served as the city’s administrative and government centre.
As the day wore on, the terrain changed from the blues of the morning to sandy coloured mountains and pale green fields. We passed dried up river beds and farmers ploughing their fields in the baking sunshine.
Tonight, we’re in the Qomo Langzong Hotel in Shigatse, home to the Tashilhunpo Monastery which is the seat and residence of the Panchen Lama, the second most important spiritual figure in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama.
Just 10km from the hotel, we got word Dominic and Rosie Collins’ Mk2 Jaguar had broken down with a fuel issue. Soon sweep Karim De Mynn, Gary Oliver and Gary Pickard were all on hand to change the fuel pump that had become clogged with dirty fuel and soon had them on their way to the hotel where they would check it all over.
Fuel had been the problem of the day for many. In the hotel car park, Richard Cunningham of the Mercedes 280SL, Car 20, was under the car cleaning his fuel filters whilst co-driver Paddy Walker was passing the tools.
As everyone went to dinner, the organisers were still waiting for the sweep crew of Richard Last and Simon Clooney to arrive with the crew of Car 10, who had broken down several times with fuel problems throughout the day. The rest of the sweeps were fed, watered and ready to help can any problems fixed as soon as they all arrived.
Let’s hope it is not a late night as we all have a very early start tomorrow as Event Director Liz Wenman has organised a very special treat for the whole rally…