Top of the world

In my mind, I always thought I would be able to see Everest from days away. Always on the horizon, like a pointer to follow. Sticking up out the earth and touching the sky. But it’s not. Here we are, a couple of days away and there isn’t a bloody sign of it. We’re adapting to the altitude now and I can take maybe 3 steps between deep breaths. It’s beginning to feel normal. The usual. Kick the beasts into life the freezing cold morning air, throw a leg over an icy saddle and take the bikes for breakfast.


Just another day?  If this feels normal, then there is something very wrong.   A scrubbed blue sky, pure filtered air, and the KTM twins playing at max volume.  Fuck – kill me now.


Wait, give me a minute… maybe now…


Nooo… ok… just give me a little longer please…


OK – cancel that… I’m not finished just yet..


This is mental.  The place is just … fuck…  Anyway.  Apart from being one of the most outrageously attractive places I’ve ever been, it’s also cock shrinkingly cold.  The sun is low and we’re riding straight into it.  All the others plugged themselves in this morning but I couldn’t be arsed.  My vest is in the bottom of the pannier.  I’ll be fine.  I meet up with another rider at the top of a pass.  I’ve been riding with my visor open and I find I have to move my head to look at him as my eyeballs seem to have frozen in their sockets.  It’s over 5000m and minus something stupid, perhaps I can justify the 30 seconds to get my vest out and plug it in… that’s if I can get my fingers to work…

We come to a small community of huts, see smoke coming out a chimney, all dive in through the door and cuddle the big iron fire in the middle of the room to resuscitate ourselves whilst a lovely young lady warms her dumplings…

I’ve just noticed something on my bike and I’m trying not to think about it… putting my fingers in my ears to ignore a problem works for funny noises but closing my eyes seems to have a negative effect on my riding .. so I go take another look.  I saw something on the forks the other day but convinced myself it was sweat where I’d been working The Bitch too hard.  It’s not going to be sweat out here at minus stupid though.  The buggering seals are leaking.   It’s running down and dripping on the ground, and it’s going on the brakes.  That is all I fucking need.  BITCH!

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Give it a wipe .. get on ..  go… brakes are for girls anyway.  It’s not as if I’m going to need them in the near future or anything..

I often find myself wandering the globe completely oblivious to what is around me.  Just heading for the big lumps, like Everest, and ignoring all the rest.  Today we’re going past Mt Kailash.  “Are we?  And…”

Well, according to Hinduism, Shiva, the god of gods, resides at the summit of Mt Kailash, where he sits in a state of perpetual meditation along with his wife Pārvatī. He is at once the Lord of Yoga and therefore the ultimate renunciate ascetic, yet he is also the divine master of Tantra.

In Jainism, Kailash is also known as Mount Meru.  Ashtapada, the mountain next to Mt. Kailash, is the site where the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabhanatha, attained liberation.

However,  Vajrayana Buddhists believe that Mount Kailash is the home of the buddha Cakrasaṃvara (also known as Demchok),who represents supreme bliss.

So…. it’s a busy place then, and a pilgrim magnet.   That’ll be why I’ve never heard of it.  I’m not a pilgrim. I’m a Pisces.


Then from one place I’d never heard of, we head off to another one Lake Manasarova, the highest freshwater lake in the world at just over 15000ft.  Where the all the gods come to do their ablutions.   If the gods go there, there must be a good hotel.  I’m looking forward to a bath in warm milk. I’m going to be extremely unhappy if I have to peel my own grapes.

One day my daydreams will come true.  But not today.  I’m really disappointed .. for about 10 seconds.

web-0288 web-0289The bedroom is another cold concrete cell with no electric until after dark but nobody cares.

Just take a few steps down to the lake, stop, and stare.


We all migrate to the only warm room in the building for something to eat.  When ‘something’ comes it’s unidentifiable but at least it gives my teeth some exercise and stops my stomach growling.

A couple of us drop the dust seals down the forks.  It will just be a bit of dust.  It’ll be fine if we clean it up.  I cut 2 thin slithers of leather and jam them in the seals then push them back in.  That’ll fix it.  No problem…

web-0293The next morning the gods are sleeping in and haven’t had time to get up and arrange the clouds.  It’s freezing again.  It’s bleak.  It’s deserted.  It’s beautiful.


I say deserted.. I did see one lone biker on his hong-sing-wing-wan-wong-whatever making his pilgrimage to Mt Kailash.


Then out into the heaving traffic once more…

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Ok… you can definitely kill me now..


And him too…


Oh hang on, hang on a minute … Jesus … will this never end..


Get to hotel and prepare to celebrate the 100% success of my Heath Robinson leather repair to my forks.. Ktm will be adding it to their overland catelogue.. Touratwat will be on the phone offering me millions for the rights…. or possibly not


It’s proper pissing out.  It all over the engine guard too now.  Fucky titty wank, knob bollocks and arse hairs.  I go out to binge on pig body parts to try and forget…


Wake up excited… today’s the day… E-Day.  We need to prepare properly.  Go for breakfast.. sit down… look at a bowl of warm snot glooping about in front of you.. ignore … stand up and leave.  A perfect start.  The guide tells us the main road is closed for construction, we’re going to have to take a diversion.  Well that’s fine, as long as the diversion isn’t a 60 mile deep loose gravel track that you would have to ride blind, directly into the low morning sun.  As long as it’s not steep and sandy and rocky.  As long as it doesn’t have a 30 mile section where someone has painstakingly produced 10 million perfect corrugations with a 12 inch thick Toblerone.  As long as it’s not all that.  That would be bad.

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By the time we get to the end of it my forks are totally fucked.  The whole front of the bike is covered in oil.  Even my boots are covered.  The brakes too.  I watch a drip come down the fork and fall on to the ground.  I think it’s crying.  I feel like doing the same.

Still, a beautiful place for a breakdown…

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Get to Tingri for lunch.  We’re close now… you can feel it… you can see it… just a glimpse of the peak on the horizon.. bloody hell.  I hardly dare look.  We dive into a lovely warm womb cafe to thaw out, fill up and prepare for our ascent.

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Leaving the warmth of the womb is difficult, even with an Everest sized carrot dangling in front of me.  I could sit in these places all day, watching life go in and out, crossing paths with travelers, listening to wood cracking in the fire.  Ignoring the sound of fork oil dripping on the ground…

Take the road out of Tingri.  Do these look like the foothills of the biggest mountain on earth?  It still all feels like a bit of an illusion.


Surprisingly for China, there isn’t an expressway up to Everest .. yet.  There is a brand new tarmac road though.  I’m really not sure how I feel about that.   I expected a dusty turning with a dilapidated wooden sign pointing pointing into the clouds.  I expected to be scared and worried.  I expected it to be blowing a 100 mph gale, snowing and grey.  But it’s not.  It’s lovely and sunny and dry and still.  It just looks like any road anywhere.

Still, I might as well go up …  now that I’m here..

web-0319I’m going up to Everest… I’ll just check the bike over.  Fucked forks… ✓… oil on the brakes … ✓ …. oil over the front tyre … ✓… OK, let’s go… shit or glory…
web-0320Go through the gate, immediately come to a mountain, and the start of the most ridiculous road in the world.  It looks just like someone has dropped a massive bowl or tarmac spaghetti.  web-0321

The KTM doesn’t like roads like these.  It absolutely hates them.  All it wants to do is just get them over with as quickly as possible… and who am I to stop it..

Get to the top of the first pass and stop at the viewing point.  Up over 5000m.  Should get a good view of Everest from here.. can you see it?  No – me neither.  Just sticky sinuous tarmac as far as I can see.  Oh well, never mind eh.

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Scraping round the bends, thumping down the straights, popping and farting on the overrun, I’m just having the time of my life.  A simply incredible ride.  A treat for all my senses.   A hearty meal for my mojo.  But still no Everest…

I come to a wide plain with some small scruffy villages, rice being harvested in the fields, feral kids running in and out of dark doorways, eyes staring out of nutty brown faces.  Have I taken a wrong turn somewhere?


Then the road starts to climb, just gently, and twist, just gently.  You start getting glimpses of snow caps, like watching at a window with a curtain blowing in the wind. It’s there.. it’s gone..

Sweep left, sweep right … sweep FUCK….

web-0330Emotion is a strange thing.  I like to think I can control it but being suddenly smacked in the retinas by this view just brings a massive lump to my throat,  water to my eyes, and expletives to my mouth.  I just stop.  I can feel the Ktm’s heartbeat.  1000bpm.  “Yes my little metal mate…. mine too…  amazing isn’t it”  That’s Everest.  Jeeeeeesus.

I roll on up the road, past the monastery,  unable to resist the magnetic pull of the view.  I fell like the bloke in close encounters when he sees the ship.  I’m just drawn to it.  Body on auto.  Just follow  my eyes.  Up and up until the road runs out into a small group of tents.  There is a gap at the top so I ride up.  There is a thin string barrier running from one tent to a small dark hole in the other.  I rest the front wheel against the string, go to the hole and look in.  A small round face looks out, looks at me, looks at the bike… I just point to the bike, point to the camera, point to Everest… In return I get a smile, a flick of the hand and the string hits the ground… I’m in…  holy shit…. I’m actually in.


The Bitch … the mountain.  That bike has let me down before and I really wondered if I would ever see it here… but here it is… just purring… bouncing its booms off the biggest mountain in the world….

I take a few pictures but I’m in a sort of daze.  The altitude isn’t helping either… String man is getting twitchy now and want’s me back behind the barrier.  The next stop up the mountain is the military camp about 1km up a dirt road and they’re sure to be watching.  Get back into the tent stockade and wait for the others to arrive.

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One by one they all appear, all drawn to one of the greatest views on the planet.  They all walk towards me but their eyes are transfixed.   We’re all just mesmerized.   We’ve all made it… this far at least…

I wander back to the tent, point to the bikes, point to the camera, point to the mountain, get a hesitation, a point to a watch, and a drop of the barrier.  Line up .. smile… done.  A fraction of a second in time, but a memory that will last forever.


We all retire back down to the monastery, exhausted after such a huge emotional ejaculation.   It would be stupid to come all this way and miss sunset and sunrise so we’re staying the night.  A night at EBC.  Flippin unbelievable.  Lovely little rooms with 3000 tog duvets and electric blankets.  web-0338

Where ever you go, whatever direction your body is pointing, your eyes are only ever pointing one way.

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Sit in the warm and wait for sunset.  Smiles on automatic, laughs on loud.  Precious moment with mates.  Magical memories being hammered into my mind through a perfect picture window.


Then out into the cold to say goodbye to a very special day indeed.

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