I left the guesthouse at 2.50am and found the front gate closed but unlocked. I silently exited the light of guesthouse and entered the pitch black night. The ride was difficult. At times I had to get off and push my bike. I was occasionally followed by a dog. The higher I got the cloudier it became and sometimes all my headlight revealed was a sphere of sparkling mist. As I rode higher and higher I started coming across the occasional monk walking up the hill. I had to lift my bike over two locked gates. I finally reached the top after two and half hours of riding. I was drenched in sweat but quickly cooled in the damp air. I followed a procession of monks up the staircase and onto the open tiled area. It was still dark and difficult to see anything through the mist. I asked someone where the Golden Pagoda was and learned it was only 30m away, hidden in cloud.

The lighting setup illuminated the rock beautifully. I set about filming and it slowly grew light as I worked. While I was almost alone when I had reached the rock, the place slowly began to fill will Buddhist pilgrims. Only guys are allowed directly around the rock. I became so cold I donned my waterproof pants and jacket. I stayed there for about an hour before the atmosphere of the place lost its appeal (due to the crowds of people arriving, including touts selling things and asking for money). I also became keen to get dry and warm. I rode down the hill in a light rain and was flabbergasted at how steep it was. In the dark it is hard to grasp what kind of terrain you are climbing. I could hardly believe I had ridden up the slopes I encountered on the way down. As I passed back through the now-manned checkpoint at the bottom, a guy shouted at me but I just kept on riding.

The rest of the day was wet. Torrential rain was accompanied by deafening thunder. I felt in the mood for some writing, so I prepared a draft news article to send to the ABC and I edited the script for my future conservation-themed video.

Day 517 (pic)

Even more rain

Accommodation $ Guesthouse
Distance ridden today 28.86km
Average cycling speed 11.2kph
Total distance ridden 13,968km