The town where we’d spent the night was remote. By vehicle is was only accessible from the steppe above. Otherwise you were looking at a long descent through an isolated valley, tracing a line along Gongga’s back, downward. In the village the trail was a double wide track, that cut a steep path along an escarpment that jutted from the center of the valley.
The valley walls were thickly carpeted with forest, and dead silent. Golden morning light cut a sharp line between the ridges, illuminating everything before us, save for few dark corners shielded by the mountains.
Passing through the town, we dropped down alongside the river and followed it further down. A river crossing caused the group to bunch up one last time, as everyone, weary from long days with wet socks, did their best to tip-toe across the stream. I was in full fuckit mode and splashed my way through, dampness be damned.
This gave me a hot minute to re-organize with Jake and grab a spare tube, in the event I punched it too hard on an unexpected rock, and found myself in need of a new tube. I let everyone go off the front before heading on.
I followed the road a ways before catching up with Jake, just in time to meet Abu, who was shepherding everyone on an easy-to-miss turn through the brush, signaling the start of the single track section.
The single track is traditionally a footpath for locals going up and down the canyon. It’s worn by foot, horse and man alike, as well as more recently, by motorbikes. It made for a fun ride.
It cut through a dense forest, occasionally bursting out into open marsh, with a clear view of the glacier blue river, that followed the same course as us, downward. Before long I caught up with a few riders, but let them slip off as I saw roadside, a rider with his bike turned rubberside up. This is the universal sweeper signal for help. The poor fellow has cut a nice gash in his rear tire’s sidewall, and was waiting as his tubeless set up wept it’s final few, peach-colored tears. No biggie.
We set into the repair. We managed to get the bead off and clean the wound. The rider had a spare tube and patch kit, so we made the best of the snakebite patch and booted the tire. We threw a tube in and began the long process of getting his 4” tire pumped to pressure. This cost us about a half hour, but the spot we found ourselves stranded in was beautiful, so there were no complaints.
We got motoring again, following the trail as it rolled uphill, gaining ground above the stream below as it spilled into a broad marsh. As the stream broke and cut several, broad, flat courses across its plane, we rolled up and down in the hills above. It was slow going. A motorcycle passed us, but gave a good indication we were headed down the right path.
At the head of the marsh we finally rolled into low, thick undergrowth. The trail made a nice windy course through the trees that made for simple pedaling. We’d lost the group off the front for some time, but managed to make our way along: through river crossings, mud pits, rock gardens and the like. Before long we’d met up with Jake, who was waiting off the back to make sure we weren’t dead or lost. We tailed him a little longer through like trail before popping out at the mouth of this nature reserve.
Everyone was waiting for us and were enthused to inspect the repaired gash in the tire. Abu gave a quick warning about a mean dog down the hill, before we moved onward. What followed was a fast, steep descent along a windy gravel road. There were a few contours that made the road a good course to explore a bike ride from all angles. The forest took on a somber autumn air, and soon the trees were dotted with oranges and reds. It was a nice conclusion to the dirt, before bursting out onto a bridge, that indicated the finish of our mountain biking.
We had a good stretch from there down, on the road, which made a nice dessert for the past few days ride. Not technical in any way, but fast and smooth, the road offered one final chance to soak in the surroundings. So was the ride out from the mountains.