Tingri County to Saga (339km). Start Alt 4315m, Highest 5214m, Overnight 4505m.
The Spirit of Rally Round
Once again, the rally awoke to beautiful blue skies after a chilly evening in the Everest Hotel, with a slightly more conservative departure time of 9.30am on offer after yesterday’s early start.
It had been a cold night so Car 16, the Collins’ mk2 Jaguar and Car 17, the Lawson’s XK150 struggled to start but with some pushing from the sweeps soon everyone was on their way for what was billed as a relaxed day.
As we left Tingri County, we retraced our tulip map, past the gates to the nature reserve and followed the main road until we came to a town that was being redeveloped. Whilst traditional Tibetan shops lined the main roads, new housing and more tourist friendly attractions were being added.
Up a very dusty track, into what appeared to be a building site, the makeshift road veered round to the left to reveal a gold encrusted ‘Temple’ which was a viewing point for the Himalayan range with the sky perfectly clear against Everest.
It also turned into a great photo shoot location for all the crews, who moved their cars around to get the perfect shot one after the other.
Back on the road, and while the smooth black Tarmac predominantly remained, the many electric pylons were exchanged for old school telegraph poles as we drove deeper into old Tibet.
New small blocks of housing stood proud in front of old ruins. The fields being worked by the farmers of all ages turned to almost desert like but with glorious snowy mountains in the background, including the Shishapangma mountainthat looked like a face.
It was here, at around 12noon, we got the news that the main road we needed to get into Saga was closed until 7pm.
With the field spread over 50km, half of the pack gathered off the highway and soon everyone had coffee on the go while snacking on their lunch items. Pretty soon we were joined by an army of locals wanting pictures, and one was even taken for a quick joyride up towards the sand dunes by David Little in the Bentley Super Sports.
While a lovely time was being had roadside, event director Liz Wenman set up mission control in her 4×4 and soon had the team calling all the cars that were unaccounted for to determine their location.
Picking up crews as we went along the route, five cars had set up camp at the viewing point for the bright turquoise sacred lake of Pai Ku Lake, which is the largest inland lake of the Himalayas at 4600m. The lake is fed by the Shishapnagnu mountain – half fresh water, half salt water – with lots of fish.
Our local agents had gone ahead to see if we could be granted a window to get through the closed road and soon, we discovered they had worked their magic and we could be on our way.
At the top of the pass, the crews formed a convoy, headed by X-Ray, Rally Round’s trusty support vehicle. The convoy was designed to support those who may struggle through the tougher terrain as we got nearer to the roadworks.
There was something quite emotional to see the convoy work its way up and down the mountain, a procession of marques with crews from all over the world supporting one another. It was the spirit of rally round at its best.
When we came to the road works, the terrain was soft sand in areas with ruts and steep dips and climbs but everyone made it through, not a tow rope in sight, and as the crews headed into Saga, they were euphoric that we’d all made it through and were at tonight’s hotel by 5.30pm.
Tomorrow starts the most challenging section of the entire Trans-Himalayan Adventure as we cross the highest passes and spend three nights camping under the stars.