Chinese Army and Tibetan Monchs

On the Tibetan plateau at 4'500m
On the Tibetan plateau at 4'500m

After more than one week of hassle we - the two canadian girls Mel and Kate and I - got our bicycles back in one piece, we were ready to start to the Tibetan Plateau from Golmud. The Chinese railway had sent our bikes to Lanzhou instaed of Dunhuang. And it takes a while to find out this when nobody speaks english.

 

I decided to ride with the two Canadians up to the plateau and then turn east to Yushu and not to go into Tibet province. But still we had to pass one first checkpoint about 35km after Golmud. So we just disguised as Chinese cyclists - totaly covered with helmet, sunglasses, dustprotection, long sleeves and gloves - and just tried... and it worked! We passed at dusk at around 7p.m. the checkpoint and camped some kilometers after behind a abandonned gas station. The next evening the Chinese Army came when we were about to put up our tents somewhere next to the road and we thought "Now that's it, they will send us back" But instead they called a Chinese soldier who could speak some English and when he was here he came to us and said: "Welcome to this country! I am sorry you cannot camp here, this is military zone. But you can camp about 2km from here. Can I do something else for you?" The three of us were speachless... and of course we went up 2km and camped next to a Daoist temple. It took us four days to get up to the plateau because of the altitude (not more than 500m a day starting at 2'800m). The Kunlun Shanku is 4'760m and then we were on the Tibetan Plateau...! After the pass it didn't really go down. So you just stay on about 4'500m. We split the same day in the afternoon, when I took the turnoff at Budongqan to ride alone 750km to Yushu through nomans land.

 

I was not so sure about the road, because it is not on every map and on googlemap you could see something like a road sometimes... also in the internet I could not find any information about it. The road went along one of the arms of later Yangtsekiang river. So flooding could be possible, which would be a problem if there were no bridges. The first 200km there was no village at all and on the 750km to Yushu there were about five villages on the map... So I carried food for about 8 days (!) with me in case I got stuck somewhere. There were lots of wild animals: antelopes, wild asses, eagles, vultures and even two wolfes... and a lot of Yaks all the time.

 

As I got more into the greener hills towards Amdo the clouds became more and soon rain in the afternoon or night was normal (July and August are "rainy" season here). The ride was often pretty lonely through the hills but the road was much better than expected. It was always between 4'200m and 4'800m with about 8 passes or so.

 

Just before Yushu I camped with some Tibetan monchs who had some sort of a festival with tents and ceremonies. And there somebody stole something from my bicycle. In the evening, when I realized it I got very angry and I said with loud voice to some of the young monchs who were staring and laughing at me, whoever has taken it should give it back. It took some time and some elder monchs who showed up too until one of the monchs said, he had seen it laying somewhere... (it was screwed to the bike). So in the evening one monch brought it back and I could go to sleep.

 

Now I am in Yushu that is still totaly destroyed by the last year earthquake. Most people still live in blue tents from the government and from the city there is not much left over. There is construction everywhere, so when the frequent rain comes everything gets really muddy here and when the sun dries the mud everything becomes dusty... It was quite difficult to find a hotel here. I just found out today that the visa extension is no longer possible to do here in Yushu and my visa expires in five days. So I have to take the nightbus to the closest city where I could do it, which takes a 16hours busride from here...

 

So I just decided to use this occasion to make an excursion to Hong Kong for a week and come back to Yushu with my 40 days double entry visa and continue by bicycle south to Ganzi, Litang and Shangri La, where it should be no problem to extend the visa for 30 days.

 

All the best from Yushu!

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Kommentare: 1
  • #1

    martin steiger (Donnerstag, 08 September 2011 13:45)

    Dein Reisebericht ist mit Abstand das Interessanteste im www! Hei das tönt manchmal (then we split and I took a left turn) nach J.Lennon bei der ersten US-Reise, als ein Reporter fragte "and how did you find the US?" J.L. answered:"no problem we headed to Greenland
    and then took a left turn!".Ich drücke Dir den Daumen und ein paar russ. und ukr. Daumen werden auch gedrückt.Liebi Grüess and take good care.
    I lueg jetzt wo genau Yushu isch und em Yangtse sis Quällgebiet isch. gassho martin

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Coming home 2

Coming home 10 months after I have left
Coming home 10 months after I have left

Going for a big journey is one thing, but coming home is another. Just today I've got a qoutation from Albert Camus from a cycling buddy:

 

"What gives value to travel is fear. It breaks down a kind of inner structure we have... Far from our own language, stripped of all our props... we are completely on the surface of ourselves. But also, soul-sick, we restore to every being and every object its miraculous value."

 

I think this is very true and gets the very point of the adventure of going for a big journey. And now coming home is another adventure. And it breaks down another inner structure again. After so many months on the road with no home but the tent or a hotelroom, the routine of getting on the bike every morning, looking at the sky and the weather, the impression of so many so different people, animals, landscapes, sounds, smells coming home is like another big adventure. An adventure at least as big as the going away. Coming home with all these impressions, life will never be the same again.

 

After two months of asylum at my parents house in the north east of Switzerland I found a place to stay in Zurich in April. So it was time to go for the last bit of my journey: riding the 80km back home to Zurich. I took some small roads through the hills of the Hinterthurgau, crossed the Lake of Zurich on a ferry and reached Zurich Wollishofen almost exactly 10 months after I have left the town by bike (see photo).

 

This is the end of my journey.

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From +30 to -20 degrees Celsius

Snowcovered hills back home
Snowcovered hills back home

Taking a plane with a bicycle always makes me a little bit nervous since there seem not to exist any definitive regulations and it always depends partly on the goodwill of the clerk at the check-in desk. After organizing a carboard-box for the bike and a taxiride to Bangkok International Airport I was checking in as early as possible with 38kg instead of the allowed 30kg. The woman at the counter did some phonecalls but in the end gave me boardingpass and ticket and I didn't have to pay any overweight!! Yeeeesss! It could have been 40$/kg overweight!

 

After one night in Colombo my plane to Switzerland took off at noon on February, 3 and by sunset we landed in Zurich. The temperature outside: minus 11 degrees Celsius and still dropping! And it dropped as far as minus 22 degrees the following night. The next day - exactly eight months after my departure - I cycled the last few km back home through a beautiful snowcovered landscape.

 

Total time: 8 months

Total km: 8'864 km

Total countries: 7 (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirgistan, China, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand)

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The dewdrop has reached the ocean

After more or less eight months and 8800km of cycling I have reached the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand.

 

After two weeks in Chiang Rai I missed my bicycle. So I took a bus down to Bangkok again just to take my bicycle on the train and head for the Cambodian border at Aranya Prathet where I crossed the border three weeks before. I decided to make a little detour through Cambodia before heading south to the sea. I passed through the colonial City of Battambang and continued from there south to the borderprovince of Pailin, known for gemstones and beeing the last "Khmer Rouge Resort". From here I cycled straight down to Trat at the Gulf of Thailand and took a boat to the remote jungle-island of Koh Kut (picture).

 

The Island is the perfect lonely-beach-paradise and endpoint of my pilgrimage from the Central Asian deserts over the Himalayan Plateau to the jungles of Southeast Asia. So I pass my remaining days here at the white beaches of Koh Kut.

 

On february, 2 my flight leaves at 7 p.m. from Bangkok International Airport direction Switzerland...

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