Today was going to be exciting… had to do 260 Km through partly mountainous terrain We were to cross the Kanola (Kharola) Glacier 16665 ft, to reach our destination- Lhasa.
Since we left Shigaze, there not only is a speed limit but to ensure that motorists stick to that there are check posts where you are issued a slip with time of crossing. If you reach the next post before time you are fined! I being on a bike was exempted from this regulation. Talking of regulation every mountain stream I have seen by the road, till now has a cemented path to run down on… no meandering rivulets or waterfalls!
The first point of interest was the Gyantse dam. This has been put across the Nyang river it mainly generates electricity. For pumping back the water into the Yamdrok lake… read on to know what I mean.
As we rode on, on a landscape that no longer overwhelmed me after 4 days, suddenly after a bend standing in the back row was the Kanola range covered with snow. Either it was very close or my sense of time has collapsed, before I knew it I was climbing up the slopes getting closer and closer to the snow. The Kanola Glacier earlier touched the road but of late, since the roads have been made of asphalt, they absorb heat and cause the glacier to melt. It hung now half way between the top of the mountain and the road. Riding on we crossed some mythical looking landscapes… valleys between mountains with serrated contours and at other places mountains that looked like huge piles of mud and ash. I was sure I would soon hear the whoop whoop whoop of the wings of some fantastic flying beast swooping down on me! The road then circumvented an unending lake of azure water. This I was told by Bian Ba was the Yamdrok lake literally- ‘Turquoise Colour’, sacred to the Tibetans. This lake is in the mountains…water from this is brought down by huge pipes on the other side of the Gambala Pass to turn the turbines and generate electricity much to the consternation of the indigenous populace. The waters after turning the turbines are let into the Yarlung river (Known to us as the Brahmaputra!). This way the lake would get depleted, so the (muddy) water from the river will be pumped back into the (fresh water) lake. This requires a separate power supply… generated by the Gyantse dam.
The Gambala pass is at a height of 15826 ft. On one side is the serene landscape with the Turquiose lake (just 1174ft below the pass… so that seems the ground level) nestling in the soft green folds of the mountains and on the other side is a harsh brown and purple rugged mountainscape that goes down three times more than the other side. The road that leads down from this pass is not a la-di-dah type of a road that passes you from the lap of one mountain to the other. It is a rather impatient road that zig-zags down for the most part on the face of one mountain. As I began the descent, I looked over my right shoulder and seriously froze to see the sheer drop of at least 3000 ft. I refused to look again and lest my eye balls wander- forced them (at the cost of going squint) to focus on the road in front of me for the next 30 minutes.
90 Km later,we were ushered into New Lhasa by a 6 lane road that had business houses and show rooms on either side. Lhasa looks like a really big city… will explore it tomorrow and day after.
Got a six pack of Lhasa beer and invited Bian Ba to come a little early to pick me up for dinner so we could chat a bit and have beer in the room.