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the dream of crossing TIBET

written in : zhongdian (CHINA) on : 2005-12-15 13:38:07.0 kilometer: 0

Dear Friends, Om mani padme hum,

since 220 days i am on the road always towards the east. this report will be from my section from Kasghar in the Xinjiang Uygur provinz in the far west of China trough all of Tibet. crossing into China from the karakorum Hwy in Pakistan is not possible by bike before Taxkorgan 130km after the Pak-Chin border. because there is heavy roadmaintaince the strech towards Kashi was full of washboard road and corrugations. there i pased the very impressfull Karakullake at the Muztagatamassiv 7546m. so on the 7th of sept. the undertaking of crossing Tibet really starts.
it was an 275km ride on paved roads to Yecheng from were the very long isolatet 219 route begins. the pavement ends after about 100km and immediatly big climing starts. already after 165km i had my first really high 4825m chiragsaldi-pass bevore heading down into Mazar a typically chineese wooden hut place. from here on there is a turnoff what brings you on very bad roads to K2 viewpoint. the second tallest mountain 8611m. from Mazar the real washboard ugly road starts. just up on the climbe to the first 5000m pass the road gets surprisingly better. but since i left Kasghar my body was out of power. diarrhoea, weakness and strong coughing were not the best assumptions to climbe this enormous pass. in between pushing up the whole time i had to lie down on the road. this really was the time i wanted to take the next passing vehikle. but no one of the rare vehikles who passed stoped for me. i was so glad that this slave driving findes an end after 5 houres of pushing up to the pass.
in Xaidulla on 3570m i meet my friends Peter&Cameron. as well as other cyclists coming from Centralasia. after a restday i felt better to continue on my own because all of the other cyclists head of a day ago. now i was on the way to the Aksai Chin Plateau an extream isolatet dessertregion were you never come below 4850m. so you can expect some very "refreshing" campnights. and its true. there i had mornings with -9 degrees IN the tent and a completely icecovered outertent. 3 days after restarting from Xaidulla i was glad to meet Dror from Israel & Sylvain from France. it was so much nicer to cycle and push the bike to this extream isolatet part with accompanist. so for the following 2 nights we were very glad to had a place were we could stay inside because it was over 5000m. 16km bevore Rutok, the first bigger place we stopped at the mystic Nyak Lake. one of the first things we did, wereto take a nude swimm in the 4150m high lake. what an amazing fresh feeling after 3 weeks without having a shower! afterwards we had the freshest fish direct from the lake! what a feast for the palate!
no more checkpoint here? 4 years ago, when 2 belgium friends and me tried it thye first time we got stoppet here by the police, and the dream of crossing Tibet findes here an sudden end. so in Rutok we had to pay an horrible dong feng truckride into the 135km away Ali. from there we had to organice a jeep transport to the Nepali border. but nowadays it seems to be a way more relaxed. when we reached Rutok it was no problem to fill our bike bags with food from different shops. another awful oad was waiting on the way to Ali, the capital of westtibet. unfortunately it didn"t improve the last 4 years. it"s a full chineese city with no more Tibetean influence. but a great place for relaxing and filling up your stomace with rice, nudels, fried eggs, boiled veggies pork&yakmeat what i am not so keen on. and as well a great sellection of dried fruits, nuts, chokolate and also oatmeal. so this will fill up for the next following lonf secction. in Ali we had to pay 300 y fine and 50y for the permit whitch allowes us to continue on our bycicles.
for the next 74km a new paved road was waiting for us. unbelivable after 900km of corrugation, sand and pushing our bikes.i was looking foreward to the holy Mt. Kailash-Kangringboqefeng 6656m for the Buddhism,Hindu&Boen religions. and about 70 km further south there is the holy lake Manasarovar. At this time i really wantet to pass trough whole Tibet, with a 90 chineese visa. so i decidet not to go around Kailash to to the famous 3 day Kora. it was still very impressfull to see Kailash fore a whole day by passing trough. with the Maryum La 5200m there was another enormous climbe waiting. pushing for 150m, stopping to get the excurating pulse down beside hanging over the handlebar. this was mostly the way i was "cycling" up this passes. from Paryang on, Andrea from Germany joins me for some days who i meet first in northern pakistan. in old Zhongba we visit our first monastery with many differennt buddha statues and buddha representations.
the rear tire wantet to finish his job by an explosion. it was realy good to carry spare tyres by such an long srech of dirt roads with me. reaching Saga was the first big stage i was so glad to made! from here there is the turnoff to the "friendship" hwy what runs into Nepal. just 3 km east of Saga there was the first serious police checkpoint where they wantet to see the "aliens travel permit" what i get issued in Ali. from here on the dirt road gets a way better. in Lhaze i join the friendship hwy. there it is the end of the 219 hwy after 2140km since Yecheng! from here i run into a lot of construcction, because they plan to pave the strech to Xigaze in the next year. Xigaze the second largest city of Tibet was a wonderfull place to relax. in the tibetean Tenzin hotel, what is a great place is to stay i had an impressfull view to the Tashilupo monastery and the surrounding hills with prayerflags. another 274km on Paved road seperatet me from Lhasa. because its quite a popular route to cycle from Lhasa to Kathmandu mostly by organised tourgrupes a couple of times kids were throwing stones. but still not compareable to the KKH in northern pakistan were they even throw hand big stones from far above the road.
i can"t describe the heavenlyfeeling when i saw first in real the POTALA PALAST after 11503km since i start from my homebase, vienna. in Lhasa i spend some 11 days of relaxing and enyoing the nice atmosphere of this 3650m high capital of Tibet. i meet Eric from Switzerland who startet his long ycicle journey 2 years ago in Australia. and he is on his way towards home what he plan to reach in one more year. and i meet Mary Ann. with her i had a fantastic time discovering some of the surrounding monasteries by bike&bus.
also this wonderfull time finde an end. it was hard and lonely to continue after meeting her! now i was with Peter a dutch cyclist, who also startet from home by bike. after 150km we had the first high pass- Mi la 5003m but still on paved road. it was exiting to have snow on the ground of the pass sourroundet by hundereds of prayerflags the very typically sign of reaching passes in Tibet. after Bayi & Nyangtri whitch we passed during the night, to avoid checkpoints, another 4515m pass want"s to be climbed. 540km after Lhasa the paved strech endet. on the way down to 2050m we passed trough an unbeliveable rainforest what i never expect to see in Tibet. and this magical forest was sourrounded by snowcovered mountain peaks. sooo impressfull! even it was mid november we had some mudy streams to cross. once we were so deep in mud that we had to clean at the very next stream with clear water to be able to continue. in Bomi i had to weld my front rack already the 5th time! it only works now with extra iron what makes my bike more heavier. in average i cycle with 65 to 70kg including my bike. than it was time to change the front tyre after 12300km because he couldn"t hold the pressure any more. another pass was waiting-- with 72 switchbacks, what my maps shown as a straight line! passing the impressfull nackhu rampa bridge deep indide a narrow gorge the police there indicatet me to stop what i didn"t really want... therefore it was meaningful to pass the next city- Wamda Zogang during the darkness. but after that i decidet no more night crossings, as well it seems to be ok because the PSP to not care on cyclists. we had between 25 to 30 police jeeps who passed us on the road and never stopped us. up to the next pass-- it will be the last of the 5000ers. there i was on my on because the speed difference between Peter and me was to big. i could not belive after 6 houres of permanent climbing reaching Dungda La Pass with 5100m, the very last pass in Tibet with 5000m. i had teares in my eyes... not concentratet enough by the beginning of the downhill i fall of the bike as well the road was very stony and sandy. luckily nothing real serious happend to me and the bike. just my thumb hurts me, because on the operation i had a bit more than 3 years ago. and the handelbar bag was banded.
this long downhill into 3400m before immediatly the next climbe start, demanding my hands quite badly by having always to brake. this sort of downhills is unfortunately not enjoyable at all. bad luck with the pass nr. 7 since Lhasa. therefore i was very glad to stay with tibeteans in sort of a forest administration complex next to the STOVE! when i start on the next day it was already 14h and anoter 600m of climbing to 4300m on icy contitiones were waiting. so i could not avoid to slip out for 2 times. from the beginning of the downhill i was mostly in the sun so no more slippery contitions. by reaching Markam there is an important turnoff. east to Chengdu and south to Kunming. just i couldn"t belive that this dirtroad full of dust should be the mainroad to the south. not enough with this, the wind comes straight from the south. Horrible! for this night i coult stay with roadworkers. a brilliant place in a woodhut because there is absolutely no space to pitch up my "partytent" were next to the road runs the Mekong stream, and on the other side straight up the vertical mountainwall.
a bit after Yanjing i passed a magic point- i left Tibet after 70 days of cycling and entered now on a huge new silveriron plate written: welcome to Yunnan Province! that meanes for me Tibet is DONE!! but not the awful roads. that still company me trough the dessert of the Mekong valley. the Yak La 4292 was the prelast pass towards Zhongdian. around Dechen on 3200m i run into some groups of chineese tourists who wantet to be all with me seperately on their cameras. as well there were 2 chineese beauties i was sourrounded by... and than on the 23rd of november exactly the same day i arrived in Lhasa one month ago i reached Zhongdian on 3240m by freezing cold weather slightly snowfall but with a wonderfull feeling on finishing the stretch!! from here it"s anoter 350km down south to Dali were i am looking foreward to reach the warm clima on 26 degrees.
with best wishes from franz karl

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