The road after Ali wasn’t completely without struggle… But I guess cycling in Tibet wouldn’t be either way. I haven’t cycled EVERY single km, only about 2100 of the 2600 between Kashgar and Kathmandu, I’ll tell you why…
I left leaving a little later than planned (again…) But had some fun with 5 other cyclist there, Andreas, you already know, Carlotta and Hedwig, two French ladies who cycled across Tajikistan as well and I’ll be meeting again in Kathmandu and Benny and Mandy, a german couple who are trying to get the world record for the longest tandem-ride. They’re well on their way with a year and a half and 22.000km so far. (www.globecyclers.de)
With Benny and Mandy I cycled out of Ali on our way east. First stop mount Kailash, 300 km from Ali It took us a good while because Mandy had some trouble with her knee, we skipped the Guge-kingdom on our way ’cause the days are getting short, the distance is long and the road bad (well up till 280km after Ali it was actually great! but then it was back on corrugations and sand..)
We had some short and rest days which we spent eating and playing card games, good fun.
So mount Kailash, a place I wanted to see ever since I read about it on another blog months ago…
It’s a holy mountain in four major religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, the ancient Bon-religion in Tibet and the Jains of India. This makes it one of the most important pilgrim sites in Asia. Walking the 52km Kora around the mountain wipes out the sins of a lifetime, good news! Just wonder if it counts for sins still to come…
But Tibetans usually go for 108 rounds around the mountain to guarantee instant nirvana and a clean sin-slate for all lifetimes. Not only that, they also walk the Kora in one day only!
Except when they prostrate, lay down on the ground with their arms stretched over their heads, get up, do a step and start again… It then takes about 3 weeks. I didn’t see anybody doing this but I remember seeing it on telly… just had no idea it was at this place. A one day Kora takes about 15 hours, I met two of these pilgrims on my 2nd day on the way up to the Drolma La pass, when I arrived at the pass, slowly slowly trying to catch my breath they where sitting having lunch and invited me to join them. I spend the rest of the day with father and sun with who I couldn’t talk but could walk, they shared with me dried yak-meat and tsampa, a kind of dough made with barley-flour and yak butter and mixed with tea, and I gave them my chocolate. It was a long hard day and we arrived just after sunset back in Darchen where we said our goodbyes and I went back to my hostel with 5 ginormous blisters which I had great fun with trying to get the fluid out… And to my surprise Hedwig and Carlotta had arrived as well. They started their Kora the next day just before Benny and Mandy arrived back as well. And on my way to the toilets I spotted a red bicycle, Andreas! So the 6 of us in the same place and I was the first one to head out to my next destination; Lake Manasarovar and the Chiu Monastery.
I left Darchen on my own ’cause Benny and Mandy where busy working on their Karma. It was a beautifull day and the wind helped me along, untill the turn-off, the wrong one too I discovered after a two-km struggle against the wind, I didn’t want to back-track so decided to go straight across the plain to the next turn off… stupid. The plain wasn’t easy to cycle, under the snow it was sand, so I pushed and changed my mind a few times but finally made it to the ‘right road’. Later on this day my tracks would surprise Benny and Mandy… As I pushed along around me little marmots ran around and curiously peeked out of their holes to see this strange appearance on their land… surely they be laughing at me….
It was just one pass to get to the monastery, but men it wasn’t easy, with the wind trying to blow me off my bike I often had to get off and push so it took me forever to get up and when I was, I still wasnt, it’s always just across the next hill….
Also here the Chinese are building a road but it’s not finished so along the old tracks I finally made it at sunset, a warm place to stay is very difficult to find so I settled for a cold room and wondered how Benny and Mandy would get on…
I found out the next day as I ran into them at the monastery, They’d arrived real late, took the wrong turn-off as well….
Another day of not cycling but spending the day at the lake, apparently if you drink the water the ‘sins of a hundred lifetimes’ will be erased, but already having walked the Kora I figured the sins of just this one will do for now…
There are hot springs and even a bathhouse there, so I took the opportunity to have a wash, the first time after leaving Ali.. on the walls it says ;’20y for forenbols’… a bit much Benny and Mandy also thought so they used the water flowing out the back and a bucket. But I went for the luxery-option and took a bath with the sun shining through the glass-roof in a mouldy bathtub in slimy water smelling of rotten eggs, stuffing the plug with my scarf. Only the music, candles and wine were missing, but with some cookies it was nearly perfect.
Two boys about 18 years old stuck their tongs out at me, and not a little as I’ve seen some older people do (mainly women when I stay in someones house), no their tong was nearly on their knees, this is a greeting or a form of respect in Tibet, it proves they are no devils cause their tong isn’t green… they might as well have been ’cause just a minute before one of them rode off on my bike when I wasn’t watching and broke the stand in the progress… So I guess the tong-out-sticking-thing might be meant as an apology too. I was a bit angry, but within 5mins the boy had fixed it with a couple of elastic in a way I would never have thought of.. I felt a bit guilty I got so angry, my stands works fine now, it just goes; ‘tick tick tick’ when I cycle…
The next stretch untill Saga was long and cold, we camped out a few nights and I read -16 inside my tent in the morning while everything was covered in a pretty layer of white frost. My hands and feet have been so cold, it hurts. The last time I remember my hands being so cold was when I was about 6 and playing out in the snow, as I got back in the house they warmed up and hurt so much I cried… I didn’t cry this time, but wasn’t far off at times.
One night we were up at 5110meter just before the Mayum la pass, Mandy had spotted a building so we tried to make it there to get some wind shelter. As we got close we discovered the ‘building’ was a round wall build out of yak-poo for kettle in summer, the ground was covered in goat/sheep/yak-droppings, but it was the only sheltered place so there we camped the night in poo.
Another night disaster stroke, We put up the tents in an empty house and worked hard to make a good meal, but just when we finished I heard a deadly scream…. Benny had dropped the pot of pasta with our beautiful sauce! AAAAHHHHH!!! The most important thing of the day, upside down in the sand So we started all over again…
Not much later disaster strikes again… this time slightly more severe.
After a real nice stop at a small house where we warmed up and had some tsampa and Benny and Mandy even drank a beer, we set off for Paryang, our destination that day. I told them the beer would go straight into their legs and Benny noticed the bike being a bit wobbly when “CRACK”, Mandy on the ground… after close inspection it turned out the frame of the bike went straight in two…
Just at that moment 3 trucks arrived! This is a serious miracle since there is hardly any traffic at all on these roads. We offered them to pay 200y p/p to take us to Saga, but no… after some talking they said they’ll take the 3 of us for 400… sure, won’t argue about that.
So with an amazing speed of 20km/h average we flew over the sand roads to Saga.
Lucky it was possible to get the frame welded, so after some relaxing days of taking showers and eating chocolate 4 of us (Andreas and the French had arrived again too, but the ladies took a break) headed out for the friendship highway, another 170km over nearly impossible roads. The first day we crossed two seriously steep passes and while Andreas and me waited on the top of the 2nd one for Benny and Mandy we could see them stopping to put up camp… So we waved from the top and made our way down on the other side, the strangest goodbye.
But we couldn’t wait ’cause Andreas visa would run out even 2 days before mine.
After another cold night in the tent he went ahead to get at the border in time so I was alone again. A nice sunny day through open plains and over mountains through wonderfully eroded gorges took me to the deep blue Paiku lake.
When I reached the friendship highway after a night in a house that dubbed as the local pub so I had Tibetans drinking around me while I tried to sleep and in the morning it stank worse than a dorm in a hostel in Derry… I knew that there where only two 5000+ passes to cross before going down! It surprised me that the first 11km climb took me 2,5 hours since it didn’t look too hard… It didn’t much surprise me that the 2nd one took me 2’5hours too… for only 7km… but on this one the wind tried to blow me away again, lucky my bike is heavy otherwise I’d probably end up on mount Everest, which you should be able to see on a clear day… this day though wasnt clear. When I made it I treated myself to two (!) chocolate bars and as I sat there a jeep passed me and I looked at the girl behind the window and she looked at me. Japanese tourist. I’m sure she doesn’t realise the next 10min of her journey just took me 2.5h.
And from there it’s down, not completely… but mainly. I’m now in Nyalam where I didn’t plan to stop and where i certainly didn’t plan to stay two nights…. But yesterday when I arrived I passed this internet place and figured I might as well have a look.
Then I met a group of 6 travellers who have gone around Tibet the last 3weeks and together we discovered the local disco
We drank and danced till 3am, and this morning I figured Nepal can wait one day longer…
So it will.
So tomorrow Tibet is history for me. It was a long hard ride and not always pleasant, but the beautiful welcoming people and the gorgeous scenery have made it well worth the struggle. And I’m already thinking of coming back this way… maybe in spring when it’s a bit warmer. (and the chinese keep improving the roads…)
we will see.