[From November 2007.]
Xigaze. Tashilhunpo monastery, home of the Panchen Lama, the usual blend of madefortourists artifice and perceptible timbre of centuries. Spotted late an email from Aukje indicating that she was there, but by the time I arrived at her teahouse in the morning the jeep had left (I would see her again on the road in a few days). Returning to my bicycle in the courtyard, there was a tall European standing next to it. At my approach he was inexplicably excited, asked in halting English if the bicycle was mine, then urged me to stay put for a moment. A few minutes later Marcin emerges from a dorm style room with two others, Agata and Tarek. Three Poles on a journey in China, Marcin pulling an Extrawheel trailer (made in Poland) identical to mine behind his Giant dualie. We laugh, exchange early superficialities, then chat in a different register, discover an unexpectedly easy rapport.
Without being explicit or commital, we travel together for the first day, maybe them auditioning me, maybe me wondering after them. Soon, still without discussion, we travel a second day, a third, and then we’re a team: Agata and Tarek, spouses, Marcin therefore sometimes feeling left out, so I ride alongside him and we’re all happy with the new arrangement. Marcin is carrying far too much (well, in my view, all three are), and they suffer on the climbs but I don’t mind dialing it back a bit for a week or two. One upside to their intemperate loads is that Marcin has an enormous tent that we can all sit in for dinner or cards, which we do, trading tales in literal and metaphorical warmth.
All three from Lódz, they are hilarious, smart, cosmopolitan. Agata navigates, speaks perfect English, Tarek makes camp and cooks, Marcin works in a bike shop, he races xc at home and is the strongest rider. A&T are experienced expedition veterans of big pedals, South America, Europe, USA; this is Marcin’s first trip. I try to be unobtrusive in their dynamic, as it was no doubt hard won over many weeks.
We ride to Kathmandu together.