Waking up after sleeping at 3,500m elevation for the first time is tough. Everyone was experiencing varying degrees of altitude sickness and pretty extreme headaches. We all popped a few Asprin and started off Day 3 with a big group breakfast consisting of congee, bananas and trail mix. The plan for the day was to go an explore some of the mountain bike trails surrounding Pagsum Lake, about 5Km from where we were staying in Basong. Luck was on our side and the weather was pretty warm, hovering around 15 degrees Celcius for most of the day.
The view from our homestay in Basong, Tibet
With day packs prepped, bikes double checked and sunscreen loaded on our faces we headed off into the mountains. Most of the public roads here are gravel tracked, just wide enough for two cars to pass each other very slowly. Incredible single track trails run all along the North side of Pagsum Lake for just over 10Km, with parts covered in loose shoal and others in compact soil. It had rained earlier that morning so mud and small puddles were everywhere.
Tibetan prayer flags line the majority of the single track. At times you’ve got to duck your head and whisk right through them – it’s certainly special and likely one of the only places in the world you can experience such culture and natural beauty all in one place. At one point we even had to get off the track while a local Tibetan farmer herded his Yak up the mountain.
Some of the climbs are pretty steep reaching close to 20% gradient, but then you get to bomb down the other side and bask in the glory of Tibet.
After the single track trails we reached an open valley in the middle of two enormous mountain peaks, both hovering around 6,500m. Wild Yak, pigs, dogs and horses run wild throughout these lands all living off the natural spring water from Pagsum Lake.
Â We rode through the open planes for about 20Km until we reached the small village of Jieba. We definitely hadn’t packed enough snacks or water to compensate for the over bearing altitude sickness we were all experiencing. Our group ended up splitting up into pairs of two until we made it back towards Basong. The photo opportunities in this region are endless, and everyone wasÂ stopping as frequently as they could not for too long or the headaches became worse) to capture the majestic views.
After a quick refuel in Jieba we headed back down a newly paved stretch of road into Basong. Our total round trip for the day was just under 50Km with about 1,500m of climbing, but it felt like we had been on our bikes for weeks on end.
One of our favorite parts of the day were all the incredible dogs and other animals which were surprisingly comfortable with us taking photos and approaching them for a quick pat. Tibet is known for their Mastif dogs and oversized live stock, all of which are even bigger than we had imagined them to be.
We hosed down our bikes, had a quick shower and a nap, and then enjoyed a big group meal with some of the Tibetan riders that were slowly making their way by truck into Basong.
After dinner we took a stroll through part of the countryside and found ourselves at the mouth of the river that runs from Pagsum Lake. With a few beers in hand we sat on the edge of the water and watched the sun set over the mountains.
Our night ended with a cup of yak butter tea in one of the small village shops, accompanied with some zamba – a local Tibetan snack made from barley flour. As we strolled back to our homesetay we were all feeling extremely exhausted and ready for another good night’s rest.