We were 30km away from completing the ride from Lijiang to Shangri La when, weary from endless rain, we pulled into a restaurant and guest house at the side of the road. The large, lofty building felt just as cold as outside – except for a trio of small benches surrounding an electrical heater masquerading as a table. It was where the owner slept, back to the window extending across the front of the store, scant distance from the dogs greeting each passing truck through the night.
“We are Chongqing people, we only opened up a few months ago… It is so cold here, there is nothing fun at all to do… It is only famous because of that English guy of yours!” The beaming smile and lovely welcome of the friendly guy shone through despite his remarks, though, and at least there was a little warmth. The confusion as to what he was doing there remained, of course, but in the spirit of a fellow sufferer he insisted we drape our musty socks, thermals, and boots near the heater, his sleeping place, in the hope they would be dry by morning.
It seemed to mark the end of the easy bit. The mountains had arrived. With rain, sleet, and snow, in driving wind, at 3600m. Having set out to do the 100km over the mountains to arrive in Shangri La, multiple lengthy stops spent next to solitary stoves trying to regain sensation in our hands and feet had undermined our progress. But the people were friendly, in these more sparse surroundings, and we were finally entering the Tibetan Plateau! There would be much more to come!