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September 15, 2006

The Misery of Rain

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LOCATION: Tangmy, Tibet
Longitude: N: 29.72°
Latitude: E: 094.73°
Miles from Singapore: 3911

'Did I ever tell you about the time it DIDN'T rain in Tibet? Actually, now I think about it I can't remember...'

I'm afraid this update is just whinge about the 'weather and me'. But the reality is that for the past week the rain has dominated all aspects of daily existence to the point that I'm unable to extract much enjoyment from the experience of traveling through Tibet. I'm surrounded on all sides by some of the most incredible landscapes I will ever find myself fortunate enough to be traveling through, but to be honest I don't care anymore. I just want to get to Lhasa where I can check into a hotel, dry out and get some decent hot food in my stomach. The compounding factors of being constantly wet, cold, tired and having no ready access to hot food or drinks are really taking a toll.

There was a 5-hour window four days ago when the sun broke through. For every other hour of every other day it's been rain, rain and more rain. I knew I'd be clipping the tail end of the rainy season here in early September, and perhaps see the odd hour downpour in the afternoon, but this moderate but round-the-clock precipitation is making a rainy month in good old England look like a brief cloud burst.

All my clothes have been soaking wet for days, save for my long-johns and sleeping bag. I manage to partially dry a pair of socks and shirt each night by wearing them inside the sleeping bag, but they're wet within a half an hour of getting out of the tent the following morning so it's hardly worth it. From a mere morale point of view it's hard to keep the spirits up; three hot meals have passed my lips in the past two weeks, the rest of the time it's been cold packets of noodles (like instant Ramen noodles available in the west) and biscuits. From a more logistical/safety point of view it makes crossing the passes over 4,000m a more serious affair; the risk of hypothermia (wearing wet clothes) being a real danger. Pedaling uphill generates heat of course, but freewheeling for several hours downhill after a pass will suck the last ounce of heat from my body (my fingers got so cold during a descent yesterday I ended up having to stop the bike every time I wanted to shift gears and use my feet!). And then there's the added risk of landslides with all this moisture. The locals tell me the risk is greater with the bigger trucks (the vibrations being greater), so I'm making sure to stay well away from any convoys passing the landslides prone areas.

If I was a little more resilient I'd just see the rain as being a temporary inconvenience. The bottom line is I'm alive and I haven't been arrested and turned back (yet). I've pedaled over 1,000 kms of difficult terrain and successfully made it through seven towns that either have police checkpoints or police presence, with another three or four to go. The novelty of getting up at three o'clock in the morning (in the rain of course!) to lessen the chances of being intercepted has worn quite thin, but it's a strategy that does seem to be working, so I just have to stick with it. In around a week I'll be looking back on all these discomforts as distant memories thanks to the anesthetizing magic of hindsight - guaranteed to soften the most traumatic of holiday nightmares.

So again my apologies for this being such a whiney report. After Lhasa I will be out of 'survival mode' and able to travel the remaining passage through Tibet as a legal traveler, immersing myself into the local environment and culture en route without constantly looking over my shoulder. And this will hopefully be reflected in these reports from the field, something those of you more interested in Tibet than my current wardrobe crisis might be encouraged to hear. And by that time it might also have stopped raining.


Posted on September 15, 2006 8:47 AM


Just finished reading Steve's book. What an adventure. Keep up your strenght! FF Rob Sobo
NYC Fire Dept

Posted by: firerob [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 3, 2006 4:53 PM

happy birthday, jason! i hope you found mr. & mrs. leech to be fine travelling companions. (eek!)

here's to dry beds & hot meals for your belated birthday celebration!

Posted by: gl. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 8:50 PM

Happy Birthday!! and the question should be - how old do you feel thses days?

Posted by: Darcia [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 6:06 PM

ps...how old are you? R

Posted by: ROBERT [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 4:29 PM

Hi Jason, and Happy Birthday. I just broke down and sent you a birthday donation to sponsor a video update. (I easily owe you that much for just the gin you have spent on me) Must say, you are still my hero, especially after seeing you drinking chi (around the box fire), in the shack, and managing to keep your spirits up in the face of endless rain and cold.

My sister Linda's oldest son Chris, is using your site in his elementary class room,,,I'm quite sure they are not disapointed. Hang in for the reward,,,Im sure it will be spectacular. Robert

Posted by: ROBERT [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 4:27 PM