If one day you pedal away from home, past your old school… past your old job… past your old boyfriends house and you just keep going. Then maybe, just maybe, 8 months later you find yourself in Tibet… I did 🙂
I never find it easy to leave a place I’ve stayed for a few days, same with Kashgar. But, after a small disagreement with the hotel staff (they reckoned we didn’t pay and wouldn’t let us go, but we did! Who would do a runner on a 2euro-a-night hotel??), we managed to get out of town sniffering and snottering… It’s about 200km flat along the Taklamakan dessert which was a good thing ’cause we both felt severely dodgy, picked up some kind of flu. So took it easy the first couple of days. We met a Chinese guy on a bicycle (well, many chinese on bicycles but he was traveling around the country) and he told us; “Oh! There was this one guy who went up with a cold…. and he died.” So we stayed an extra day in Yarkand to get better and I bought a nice mouthmask which helped my breathing and I blended in perfectly with the locals too.
When we finally managed to get up in the mountains again I felt much better, must have been a case of low-altitude sickness…
‘We’ by the way, is Andreas and me. We met on the border of China and when I told him I was trying to find someone to cycle across Tibet with he jumped up and shouted: “Here I am!!”
He’s got a funny thing for stoves, he keeps finding ways to improve or invent new ones with the result we carry about 6 different cookers between the two of us.
We’ve been sharing my tent since it’s slightly sturdier then his which gives small problems at times cause he is 1.92m and doesn’t quiet fit… but we’ve been managing alright so far. He also cycles a good bit faster than me so at every break the tea/lunch is ready by the time I arrive, that suits me just fine 🙂
After our first ‘proper’ pass (4950m) we sat and enjoyed some great food in the small village of Mazar. As we studied the map we discovered we weren’t far away from K2.. It would be about a 3-day detour to go and take a picture of this big BIG mountain.. Could we do it? We went for head or tails, but since there’s only notes in Chinese money that didn’t work. So we just went.
Instead of turning left to Ali we turned right on a hobbly, rocky road direction Pakistan. As we got closer this great idea formed. We would cycle up the pass from where we should be able to see the mountain (nearly 5000m), then we’d set up camp and climb the nearest 6000+ peak just to get a better view.. All excited we followed our way just to have our dream shattered at a military post where they wouldn’t let us go further. The young soldier-boys giggled a lot and gave us food but no way we could continue 😦 They’re a bit funny in the border areas. So we turned back and stayed the night in the one-man-village of Bazardara with Imri, the one man. Who shared with us his bread and apples and made me wash my feet before going to bed… guess it was necessary.
Back on track Andreas told me he’d like to cycle a bit alone as well so we made a plan to meet in Ali the 6th of november (the day his visa runs out so hopefully he gets an extension there). So after a surprisingly good lunch with some road workers, who cooked us some meat and calamari and all sort of veggies and didn’t want us to pay for anything, we both went our own way. Well, exactly the same way but at a different pace…
I figured I better hitch a ride to the next village cause it was getting late and there was still a 5000m pass between me and there. But that sounds easier than it was. The only one truck that passed me and stopped smiled at me and said NO. even when I offered to pay! So I put a spell on him.
Finally at 17.30 I reached the top, half-frozen and the sun was setting. I didn’t want to sleep that high up so started to make my way down when miraculously 6 trucks appeared behind me and my bike got chucked on top of some chicken and pigs and we drove to Xiandulla. The driver and me couldn’t speak so we spend the hour or so it took singing songs to each other.
From there the next morning I tried to get a ride about 300km up the road so I could continue to Ali from there. The one trucker that would take me explained he didn’t want to ’cause we would arrive at night and if he let me out there I’d either freeze to death or be eaten by wolves. According to him. But he would try to help me find another ride. In the meantime Andreas had arrived as well… He needed to skip a part as well. So when a bus pulled up we both jumped on it.
One of these double-decker chinese sleeping busses that could be comfortable if the road wasn’t in such a bad state. 3 flat tyres and 10 hours later we got out at 4am, quickly put up the tent ’cause indeed it was cold. But on the way we did pass just about every truck I’d tried to get a ride with earlier on … HA!
Next morning we discovered the bikes didn’t quiet survived the bumpy bus ride…. my frame is half through, backrack broken and some holes in the saddle. A few other scratches but she’s still going! That day we reached the highest point of the highest road in the world (according to the Lonely Planet) a 5401 meter pass! that’s high. very very high.
And it is in Tibet! There’s prayer flags flying and beautiful colourful people around. During the day it’s sunny and almost warm but at night it can get chilly. You know it’s cold when in the morning everything in the tent is covered in a thin layer of ice and even the water in the thermos is rockhard. Then when you walk to the river to get water it’s frozen over before you’re back at the tent… then it’s cold.
The scenery is great! Big HUGE mountains and ginormous open spaces just a notch up from Tajikistan, it sometimes nearly drives me mad when you don’t seem to go forward on the heavily corrugated road… It’s not a happy holiday ride across europe.
But when you see deer running, eagles flying and people smiling. Or you get over a pass and find this deep blue lake where you can eat some fresh fish it’s all well worth it.
But sometimes I dream of smooth tarmac and the wind in the back….
And guess what!
Just the other day, struggling up the road, Andreas stopped and waited for me; “Let’s enter the tarmac together” WHOOHAAA!! There all of the sudden this beautiful new road appeared! ridiculous that something like that makes me happy. But it does. And we arrived in the strangest town I’ve ever seen. It’s one big street in the middle of nowhere called Rutok Xian. I guess I shouldn’t like it cause the Chinese put it there and it’s Tibet, but I did. Chocolate!
And all the way untill Ali the road stayed smooth… easy riding.
Old Rutok is a Tibetan monastery where we tried to go for the night but we couldn’t without a permit. So we stayed in the village shop instead. Where we were pumped full of butter tea wich I really enjoyed.
So far so good. Or well, actually at times I’ve wondered if I’m on the right road since a few things seem to be going wrong, for example;
The things I lost:
1. My Spare Tyre. mysteriously disappeared one morning never to be found again. Shame ’cause 28inch tyres are not the easiest to find. especially good quality ones…
2. My Bike Computer. I’m now at about 9500km. Must have lost it on the truck ride. Remember I put it in my pocket but probably put it next to my pocket on the road instead. If you’re near at km marker 314 just after the bridge on the left side of the road….
3. My Wallet. There was only about 15euro worth of Yuan in it but the wallet was the ONLY souvenir i bought… in Murgab, Tajikistan.
4. Lonely Planet Tibet. Only just got it from an Aussie lady who assured us there was no useful info in it and every place in Tibet is a hole… Funny that I found it very interesting to read about the history and culture and every village is like a oasis with good food and friendly people… But we left it in a midnight-highaltitude-shakybusride-minus20degrees-daze in the bus…
The things that broke:
1. My Bicycle. But still going strong, 3 flats as well…
2. My stove. Benzine everywhere, but when I fiddle with it still works.
3. My Waterfilter. I’ve sent out an email and they’re gonna send me a new one. not much use now, lucky I’ve got iodine. And Andreas with purification tablets.
4. My Altitude meter. But a new battery will fix that one.
5. Sleepingbag liner. easy to fix as well….
but worse of all
7. My Camera. I can’t change the shutter speed or use some other options anymore. And sometimes it randomly tells me my card is not initialized. This gives me a heart attack everytime.I don’t know if it’s the cold, the dust, the moist the heat, the bumpy road or what but I REALLY don’t want to lose my pictures. But taking out the card and putting it back in helped so far…
IM IN TIBET!!!!