After reaching a plateau at the top of the valley we decided to take off our shoes and cross the stream to the other side in order to get into what we figured would be the good trails. The water was cold but somewhat refreshing with the temperatures in the sun being up in high 60's to low 70's and just a beautiful day all together. After crossing the stream we followed a horse/yak/sheep/goat trail further up the valley hill side towards some of the naturally formed terraces that lace the Jiuzhai valley.
It was here that we met the first in many groups of animals that we were to cross paths with. Of course when you come across a group of sheep the instinct to "baa" is overwhelming and we decided that communication with them was imperative. Of course these were Chinese/Tibetan sheep and they have a "maa" more than a "baa". After discussing politics and forestry policy we left the sheep to soak in the sun and rest in the shade.
Weaving through the shaji bushes we were finally able to get some much deserved single track though it wasn't to last very long and we came across a group of yaks. Yaks can be a bit stubborn and we decided that it might be smart to ride slowly and avoid the pointy ends of their horns.
Continuing along the terraces we stayed at the same approximate elevation for about a kilometer until it was apparent that there was no foreseeable trail to follow. Finally after crossing two swampy meadows, a small gorge and two clear cuts all of which were down on foot with bikes in tow, Amanda began to get hungry which in turn means that we needed to finish our ride very soon. I decided to follow a steep trail down to one of lower terraces that is actively used for pasturing animals and has a very nice trail through it.
After being met with much surprise from the locals we followed the trail along the upper pasture to the edge of the valley until it drops down into the lower valley. It was a fun trail that rolls up and down for a couple of kilometers finally winding back above Khe Zhu's house. We followed a mixture of road and trails back to Khe Zhu's making it back safely and with all tires still inflated. Of course this was not to last.
We were greeted at the house by Khe Zhu's mother who promptly gave us water to drink and fed us Tibetan flat bread. She then also made us lunch while we waited for Khe Zhu to return with our car (the beast from the east). Of course when he returned it was with two 3m pipes hanging off the side of the car attached with some nylon twine. We removed the pipe and set about putting the bikes back into the car. It was then that we noticed that Amanda's front tire had fully deflated while my rear tire was beginning to show signs of becoming limp.
When we arrived at home it was apparent that at least three of our tires had fallen to the evils of the Shaji bushes. By the next morning all four tires had gone from bouncy to lifeless. Unsurprisingly I was left without any spare tubes and thus the tires would need to be repaired with patches. Since the workmen were coming over to repair our western toilet (for those unfamiliar there are western toilets and eastern toilets, suffice it to say that they are different) for the second time in a month. This gave me enough time to tackle the task of repairing the flats. This basically amounted to me removing the several thorns implanted into the tire carcass from the Shaji bushes, thoroughly examining each tube underwater for punctures and finally patching them. This turned out to be an interesting activity to the two men that were repairing our bathroom problem as any chance they got to watch me they were looking over my shoulder. After repairing six holes in the tubes and using up all of our remaining patches I was saddened later that afternoon when I came home to find that two of the tires continued to lose air and thus required further repair. It was at this point that I found another thorn in the tire and had to use four more patches. Three of which were on one tube.
Needless to say we will likely not be continuing to ride on the upper terraces of the valley until we are equipped with armor plated knobby tires or at least invest in tire patch stock which will likely be heavily subsidized by our further purchasing of their product. As a note however we were able to locally source patch kits to repair our tires thus eliminating the need for an emergency bike tube care package.
Stay tuned for further posts, such as:
The Great Toilet Adventure
Gardening with Joshy