Friends in life, Steven Le Hyaric and Perrine Fages managed to link Lhassa to Kathmandu at the beginning of June via the Friendship Highway. An unprecedented performance carried out in six days and punctuated on a course perched rising to more than 5,000 m in altitude, between sacred lakes and monasteries.
Connecting Lhasa to Kathmandu is certainly not the most frequent tourist circuit, but it is nevertheless in the catalog of some tour operators. Some, even crazier, have taken up the challenge of covering the distance by bike and in less than six days. United by a taste for effort and travel, Steven Le Hyaric and Perrine Fages - who are lifelong friends - set out to conquer this oh so sinuous journey.
For his part, it's not Steven Le Hyaric's first rodeo, after having completed a mountain bike ride on the Great Trail Himalaya or in the Sahara desert, and completed the Paris-Dakar in record time in order to warn about global warming. His sidekick Perrine Fages, for her part, is strongly taken by her profession as a lawyer, which imposes strict time constraints on her. This forces the duo to think of new adventure formats.
Between Lhasa and Kathmandu, the result of their crossing is eloquent and speaks for itself. To understand the nature of their effort, 1207 kilometers covered, including 500 of ascent and 200 of Gravel, 30 hours of sleep in six days, all above 4200 meters of altitude. Ten passes, including six above 5000m. “Locally, what impressed people,” Steven says,“ is that the trip is supposed to take seven days by car. At this altitude even the mechanics run out of steam.
Spirituality against the museum
Arriving in Lhasa inspires mixed feelings in Steven Le Hyaric, who is very much into Buddhism and meditation. At the foot of the Potala, this incredible monastery-fortress which was the Dalai Lama's winter residence until 1959, the vast esplanade where so many monks prayed, demonstrated and sometimes sacrificed themselves, is transformed into a parking lot.
"It's the impression of arriving too late, after the passage of history"
Bitumen and clean white lines want to bury spirituality. “We were going to look for a change of scenery, we found another,” says Le Hyaric. It is the impression of arriving too late, after the passage of history. For me, the Potala was Tintin in Tibet and Alexandra David Niel. Today the faithful still come there on pilgrimage, but the Potala is a museum without cracks.
"And to move from one district to another, the Tibetans"badge!" Spirituality remains a sensitive subject for the Chinese government. Perrine and I were fascinated by these faithful walking the paths of prayer and throwing themselves to the ground every three steps, hands joined, in a city under surveillance."
It is with their heads full of these images, and perhaps full of humility, that Perinne and Steven get on their bikes at dawn of the first day, heading for the "Friendship Highway". This is the name given to the Lhasa - Kathmandu road when it was built in the 1960s. The objective was to facilitate trade between the two capitals: on the back of yaks or porters, this represented 45 days of travel.
The two cyclists cycle from dawn to dusk. Riding 200 to 300 km on this strange motorway balcony perched between 4,000 and 5,000 meters above sea level is an incredible requirement for the body. In addition, frequent police checks interrupt them in their crossing.
The guide, imposed by law (it is not possible to travel alone in Tibet) plays his role: he facilitates discussions with the authorities, but intervenes between travelers and the populations that Steven would like to approach more spontaneously.
"A fabulous journey on the edge of the forbidden"
The panorama consoles them, which every day brings out, by turns close and inaccessible, the highest peaks in the world. The morning, having left at five o'clock, when they arrive at the border post of the Everest region, the official sleeps on his table, and is not very happy to be woken up. They hope to cycle to Everest Base Camp.
But, as part of a campaign to "clean the roof of the world," the last two kilometers are off limits to tourists. We have to negotiate. At 5,000 meters above sea level, a visit to Rongbuk Monastery moves them. Isolated from everything and made tiny by the overwhelming presence of Everest, the place where the multicolored tents of mountaineers are scattered "would awaken the most narrow-minded minds".
After the imposing border post with Nepal, Perinne and Steven only have a few kilometers of stony track to raise the dust and enjoy the calm. Soon the impeccable asphalt of the Araniko road will be covered again with trucks and with the altitude, the two friends will lose the feeling of being alone in the world.
What Steven Le Hyaric keeps is the feeling of having, in this country as sublime as it is tense, a kind of limit. "A fabulous journey along the edge of the forbidden, and of my physical means: To always ride at the altitude of Mont Blanc is literally to change scale."
Source - The Team
Lhasa to Kathmandu
6 days - 1,207 km
THEY ARE TALKING :