Flat smooth roads lead us away from Zuogong early this morning as the sun was just breaking through and there was a long day on the road ahead of us – and what a day it was.
Having slept at 3700m, everyone was moving a little slower in the breakfast hall, but all are coping well with the altitude, although one crew member did admit to finding their wire spark plug cleaning brush in their toiletry bag and their tooth brush in their toolbox!
Despite working on the Martin Tacon and Lesley-Ann Murray’s Alvis until 2am (and at altitude) the sweeps could sadly not get the Alvis fixed and so the car remained in the town while the crew joined the other two retired couples on the ‘fun bus’.
Back on the road and the Yu-chu river, the third of three big rivers which starts in Tibet and joins the Salween river in Burma, supplying South East Asia, guided us through the base of the mountain gorge.
The mountains kept changing colours and contours, almost as if each had its own personality, but the water was the real highlight of the day.
On the bank of the river, a huge number of Vultures had found the carcass of a dead Yak at the edge of the water and were feeding on it. However, two wolves had other ideas and chased them off so they could get their breakfast. Once full the wolves retreated back up the mountain, only to return to scare the vultures once again every time they were distracted by their meal.
It was then time to start to climb our first pass of the day, the Zargama pass, at a height of 4,618m which didn’t seem as steep as previous days considering we were already three quarters of the way up that distance already.
The viewing point turned into a rally party as competitors gathered. Thousands of prayer flags and soldier monument attracted plenty of tourists including many cyclists. In the distance, the first glimpse of the snow-capped mountains we’d get a closer look at later.
The next viewing point was for an epic stretch of hairpin bends that were as amazing to drive as they were to look at. Turn after turn, the crews made their way down the mountain to rejoin the rivers that would be part of our day.
Further along the road, our first breakdown of the day had created another rally gathering as all stopped to help – unless they were there for Barbara Shooter’s delicious homemade fruit cake.
Richard Cunningham and Paddy Walker suffered their 23rd breakdown in the Mercedes 280SL, as car 20’s fueling problem is still reoccurring. Sweeps Richard Last and Karim De Mymn were on hand with birthday boy Rudi Friedrichs to help them out and get them back on the road.
Although everyone was motoring on, there was still time to enjoy a picnic with a view. David and Julia Little had parked their Bentley on the banks of a side river but still managed to draw a crowd of enthusiasts.
Then it was a steady climb to the Shel-la at 4,905m. As we drove further up the pass, mountains thick with snow came into view and soon we got an up-close look at the snow as we had a shower of our own.
At the bottom of the pass, just after another police check, was the beautiful Ranwu Lake which is fed by a local glacier. A new modern holiday village with a trendy cafe and chalets sits on the edge of the turquoise lake that lead us to a scenic road lead is to today’s final destination, the town of Bome.
Bome is nicknamed Little Switzerland because of the scenery. Mountain sides covered in pine trees and the Parlong Tsangpo River running along the valley floor and through the town.
In the car par, there was the usual tinkering occurring before dinner. The suspension was tightened on Car 16, the Collins’ Jaguar, Car 4, the Porsche 911 was down on power, Car 20 was having its fuel tank cleaned and a new fuel filter installed. However, despite the work needed, the sweeps were finished by the 7.30pm dinner gong and another banquet of endless dishes.
Dinner ended with Rudi blowing out the candles on his birthday cake while the rally family sang to him, followed by three of the ladies from the hotel staff singing Happy Birthday in their language too.
Everyone agreed it was an amazing day of driving. Each day seems to get better than the last so excited for what tomorrow brings.