TIBET ADVENTURE – BY ROSS

A few notes on our Route through Tibet

As the reader knows from Line’s blog, she and I travelled with a large group of westerners in jeeps to get to Lhasa with our bikes. Once there, and aclimatized to the altitude, we set off along the Friendship Highway, a well-paved backbone of much of Tibet, built by the Chinese, to Shigatze, a medium-sized city to the southwest. The altitude of the two cities is very close, at around 3600 meters or so, so the highway,following the river, has only moderate hills in some of the mountain gorges. Though the headwind in those narrow passes was often strong, the first leg of the journey was fairly flat, and not too much work, relatively speaking.

However, after Shegatze, the Friendship Highway goes over two high passes, one at 4900m and the other at just over 5000m, in the next leg, before even coming to the highest of all, the Tigri pass. Line, as Team Leader, suggested that instead of taking the Friendship Highway with its “double hump”, we should stick to the river and head west along the back roads to rejoin the main highway later, at Latze, a big town without any developed tourist industry to speak of.

It is not easy to get maps in Tibet, and many of them are utdated or simply wrong. Line’s was both, we found out. It showed the river flowing more or less straight west from Shegatze without any major bends,towards Latze, with a series of little roads indicated next to it. In fact, the river flows north and south many times on its way west as it moves around the intersecting fingers of the two major mountain ranges on either side of it, the Himal being on the south bank. I estimate that for every klik we travelled toward the west, our goal, we probably pedalled 4 or 5 km in a north/south direction.

As a result, the river route turned out to be much farther than it
looked on Line’s map, perhaps twice as far in all as the highway route. As you’ve already read, the paved road ended after 65 km. After lunching at the town there,we found the dirt road heading west, and set off bravely, passing one of the very few signs in English lettering, which said: LHATZE — 75 km.(it turned out to be closer to 125 km.) Within a few km, the road became more gravelly, and steadily got worse after that. The stones got larger and sharper, and our machines started to take a real beating, particularly Line’s, which is a touring bike, lighter in construction than the mountain bike I had rented in Kathmandu.

Just when one of us would remark that the road we were on was the worst ever (Line actually said this after travelling 9K km.), it would get worse. It was bad enough to constantly battle huge rocks and gouges, but then we came to the sand dunes sweeping over the road. They were often very beautiful, but even more frustrating than rocks to try to peddle through. At times, we had to wear masks or scarves over our mouths against the blowing sand.

Line has talked about the small, sometimes lovely medieval Tibetan
villages we passed through, and the fun times we had talking to children and other Tibetans that we encountered along the way.

At any rate, it was the sand that seized the peddle bearing in my
rent-a-bike, no doubt, which left me in Lhatze with a broken bike, like an an albatross around my neck, saying good bye to Line as she continued upon her way. It is at this point that I became a traveller on my own, which is not an accepted form of travel in the People’s Republic of China. Little did I realize how hard the Chinese police, directly and indirectly, would make it for me to get a bus or a ride to the Nepali border at Zhang Mou, about 4000 km away.
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My Encounters with the Chinese Police

I first asked where I could find a bus station. I assumed the town must have one–i discovered, after trying to consult a couple of police officers, that it doesn’t. Furthermore, next to no-one speaks even a word of English, and it often seems as though the Chinese in general, even those that deal with tourists on a daily basis, are not interested in learning any other language. Their word for westerners is still “foreign devils”.

There was a hotel on the main street where the convoys of jeeps
carrying western tourists seemed to stop regularly for meals, so I asked the management (in sign language) if the bus stopped there. They said (in sign language) that one had to watch the main street for buses that might or might not stop for new passengers going west to Tigri.

I spent 1 1/2 days in Lhatze before i finally got away, during which
time I tried flagging down buses on main street, to no avail, then stood out on the highway passing the town, trying to flag down the buses that bypass the town, and, between buses, just plain hitch-hiking. Finally, after several hours, a truck pulled over and stopped. The Chinese driver spoke no English, but accepted me as a third rider, I found out. The other two were Tibetan, and got off on the main street of Lhatze as we came back through the town to drop them off. As we cleared the town limits, I felt relieved to be finally leaving Lhatze.

A few km. out of town, we came to a truck weigh station, manned, of course, by several young Chinese police officers in spiffy uniforms. They often appear to have no leadership, as though they are there to throw their weight around in whatever way they see fit, which allegedly includes taking bribes and harrassing the non-Chinese population (i.e.Tibetans).

The truck driver was told to pull off the road, and he took his papers into the weigh station for a few minutes. I don’t know what the cops said to the truck driver–he didn’t try to explain. He just got back in the truck and drove me right back to the main street of Lhatze, where he dropped off me, my crippled bike, and my 35 kilos of stuff in my backpack, bags, etc. I was back to square one.

Walking by the jeep stop hotel, I noticed that the current convoy
pulling in for a lunch stop included a minibus with more seats than the standard Toyota SUVs which comprise 98% of the tourist agency vehicles.
Not only that, but a couple of the seats were even unoccupied. Thinking I might get lucky, I approached the guide of that particular mini-bus, asking if I could pay my way to the border with his group. “I’m sorry”, he told me, “but the police won’t let us carry anyone other than our own group, for whom we have special permits. We would get in trouble if we gave you a lift and got caught.” Indirectly, the cops had thwarted my efforts again.

My yuan were running low, and there was no way in town to cash
travellers’ cheques or use a Visa card. I seemed to be stuck in this little Hell hole with rapidly dwindling resources. By now, many of the townsfolk, both Chinese and Tibetan, had noticed this foreign devil with the broken bicycle walking up and down main street with a note written in Chinese asking to find a way to the Nepali border. That note, kindly copied from one that Line carried by a friendly hotel clerk, became extremely dog-eared, but I’ve saved it as a momento of the experience.

Finally, in the mid-afternoon of day 2, I found a smallish bus whose
guide and driver agreed to drive me to Tingri for a hundred and fifty
yuan, quite a high amount. Of course, I agreed, and paid them
immediately, even though it just about cleaned me out untiil I could get to Zhang Mou, where I knew there was a Visa machine. We stowed the bike on top of the bus with my other stuff, then I entered the bus to discover it was full of kids of about 9 to 13 in age, perhaps on a school outing or some such. Because of the language barrier, we couldn’t communicate very well, but we exchanged friendly greetings as I said my good byes to Lhatze yet again.

As we approached the truck weigh station, I held my breath, but we were stopped only briefly, and the cops didn’t come aboard. However, a little further down the highway, we came to a proper police checkpoint. Not only did an officer board the bus and peruse my passport and visa, but after a few minutes, the guide came back from the police hut to inform me that they would not be able to take me any further. I said good bye to the children and got out as they unloaded my bike and bags from up top. I piled it all by the side of the road outside the hut and went in, where the cops were all sitting around drinking chai.

I hadn’t really planned as to what I’d do in this type of situation,
so I just followed my natural instincts. I walked into the hut, sat down with the cops, took out my documents again, remarking on my problem of needing to get to the border within the 5 days remaining on my visa, and then asked for a cup of chai, which they were pouring out of large thermos bottles, very common in Tibet. They didn’t have a cup for me, so I found one in a cupboard and wiped it out with the skirt of my cycling shirt. They poured me some chai, which turned out to be the salty, hard-to-drink variety, but I hardly had time to take a sip before a strange process suddenly occurred. Barely as I had sat down, one of the
young cops had left the hut, and as the chai was being poured, I could hear him yelling at the bus driver, who had just begun to drive away, to stop the bus and back it up to the hut again. The driver complied, and before I knew it, my stuff had been repacked onto its roof and I had been instructed to get back on the bus and continue on my way.

Needless to say, I was caught completely offguard by their flip-flop, but was delighted at its outcome. The kids, also astounded, welcomed me back aboard, and we enjoyed the next 3 hours as we travelled over the magnificent Tingri Pass at about 5200m together. Unable to speak with them, I pulled out my harmonica and serenaded them with a few old down-home prairie melodies, to which they clapped along.Though the episode was completely unplanned, I have come to see it as a small victory for individual travellers’ rights in Tibet.

When they dropped me off at Tingri, I still had over 250 km to go to get to the border, and I had another set of adventures in order to finally accomplish that, but my mind had already settled into the mindset of the realities of living under a totalitarian regime and its powerful and ubiquitous police presence. I think I would find it oppressive anywhere in China, but in Tibet it seems doubly so, and extremely galling to those of a buddhist persuasion.

Ross Campbell

THE LINE BLUES

On the way to Tibet Ross spent time writing a song. When we arrived in Lhasa he invited half the group for a beer in  his room, because his room mate had birthday. He also said he needed help to sing the song he had been writing, and pick out the 10 best worses (it was 28 to begin with!)

I got really suprised and embarresed when I discover that the song was about me! Ross played his harmonica and here is the final song.

THE LINE BLUES                  (12 Bar Blues in D)

Gotta friend named Line, a pretty Norwegian girl  (sic)
She jumped upon her bicycle ‘n’ rode all ’round the world

Line, yeah Line is her name
If you meet that woman, yer life’ll never be the same

She started off in Norway, she started off slow
By the time she got to Turkey she was goin with the flow

Line, yeah Line is her name
If you meet that woman, yer life’ll never be the same

Line road to India, before to Pakistan
She searcin’ all the world jes’ to fin’ the right man

Line, yeah Line is …………..

Line is a lady with a great big smile
She flash it at the locals ‘n’ they folla her fer miles

Line, yeah Line is …………

Line climbed a mountain, she said she had a ball
Now she cain’t stop ’til she’s climbed dem all

Line, yeah Line is ……………

Line’s eyes are blue ‘n’ her hair is blonde
‘N’ she can work a miracle widout no wand

Line, yeah Line is …………

Line rides alone – tha’s what she like
Line needs a man jes’ like a fish needs a bike

Line, yeah Line is ………………

Line’s self-sufficent, she gotta lotta pride
‘N’ that ol’ bicycle is the ONLY thang she ride

Line, yeah Line is ………………

Line mounted Mera, and want to mounted Cho Oyu
But Fuggedaboudit, Boy, cuz she won’t mount you

Line, yeah Line is ……………….

Line come from Norway where they eat the pickled fish
But never mind the eel, Boy, it ain’t her dish

Line, yeah Line is ……………….

Line like to boogie, she like to boogaloo
‘N’ if she like yo’style, she might rock ‘n’ roll wit’chu

Line, yeah Line is …………….
 

lyrics by W. Ross Campbell (SOCAN)

other songs & info available at: ross4978@gmail.com

TIBETAN ADVENTURE

BICYKLE ADVENTURE IN TIBET

After 4 unforgettable weeks in one of the world’s highest countries I was back in my “home” in Kathmandu in middle of November. Tibet is a place I will remember for the spectacular open mountain landscape which I rode my bicycle through, the friendly people I met and the beautiful sunset over Mt. Everest. I will remember the exhausting bicycle ride across Gyanso La Pass, all the flat tires and the bumpy rides in different trucks. Most of all my visit in a Tibeten home and the ride in a tractor trailer with a Tibeten child sleeping in my lap while watching the sun going down, are memories I will carry with me.

OVERLAND TRIP TO LHASA
I joined an organized group trip from
Kathmandu in Nepal to Lhasa in Tibet, setting off from Kathmandu on October the 9th. There were more than 50 people from 20 different countries in 13 land cruisers. It took us 5 days to reach Tibets capital city. We visited beautiful stupas and spectacular monasteries on the way, in Shigatse and Gyantse, then stayed a few days to explore Lhasa and the surroundings and The Potala Monastery where the 14th Dalai Lama had his place before the Chinese occupation. There has been a great development of eastern part of Tibet over the last few years, and now Lhasa seems to be more like a small Chinese city than a traditional Tibetan town.

TWO WEEKS BEFORE
— in
Kathmandu, I had met Ross from Canada. I had told him about my plan to go to Tibet and bicycle back to Nepal. He was excited about the idea and said he would like to do the same. He had never bicycled on such a long trip before, but there’s a first time for everything — so why not?

After some busy planning, Ross had gone out in Kathmandu to hire a mountain bike, sleeping bag, tent and whatever else he needed for 3 weeks on a bike in the cold high altitude of Tibet. Finally everything had been ready for the adventure and we had had our bicycles packed in big boxes in Kathmandu to be able to take them in a jeep to Lhasa.

READY FOR BICYCLE ADVENTURE
After some interesting days in Lhasa and lots of good food (especially the delicious yak steak at the Snowland restaurant) we were ready to start our journey back to Nepal. We unpacked our bicycles in front of the hotel, excited about in which condition the bikes would be after days on bumpy roads. Several curious Chinese people were watching us carefully while we were putting our bikes together. After a while they turned out to be really helpful and we had good fun even we didn’t understand a word of Chinese. There were surprisingly few people in Lhasa that understood and spoke English, in spite of all the tourists that visit Tibet every year.

LHASA TO SHIGATSE 231 km (see the end for details for towns name and distances)
We packed our stuff on the bikes and set off by
noon when the hot Tibetan sun was shining at it’s brightest. But we were already hungry! It had been a long time since breakfast that morning so Ross suggested a Vivians sandwich and tea in the Yoghurt Shop near the Potala monastery, less then 1 km from the city center. What an excellent start to the journey.

One hour later, we were on our bikes going south west on the Friendship Highway. The weather was beautiful and the road was very good. Ross was satisfied with his mountain bike which he had rented in Kathmandu, and of course, I had my own bike from Norway. We were happy and ready for the big Tibetan adventure!

We took it easy at first and had a few stops to eat the bit of the food we had bought before leaving Lhasa. The first little town on the way is Quxul — I knew we could find a guesthouse there. Ross got tired after a while, but I pushed to reach the place before dark. Just before sunset we had our first tire problem. Ross’ back tire went flat! He pumped more air in and we continued the last few kms, but it was pitch dark when we finally reached the guesthouse in Quxul.

TIBETAN GUESTHOUSE
The small, cheap lodge was a real Tibetan place. As there were no other guests in the lodge we got a big room with 8 beds for ourselves. The young girls in the kitchen did not speak any English and they were laughing and had lots of fun when I walked around in the kitchen trying to explain what we wanted to eat. A big bowl of “Thuk
pa” (noodle soup with plenty of vegetables and chicken) was a good choice after almost 6 hours on the road.

2ND DAY ON THE ROAD
Next morning we changed Ross’ back tube and fixed a tiny hole in the flat one. After everything was packed on the bicycles and we were ready to go, I got a big surprise: my front tire was flat! I couldn’t believe it. I had cycled all the way from
Norway to India and had had just 2 flat tires, and this was only my second day in Tibet.

It was late in the day when we were finally ready. Ross had a very sore bum and was complaining endlessly. The first day had been hard and he was tired, so we decided to do a short day. We stopped after 2 hours and put up our tents by a nice small creek sheltered from the traffic. We made tea and sandwiches and relaxed in the sun that afternoon, while a bus with Swedish people stopped for a chat. That was a nice experience, because it’s not so often I have got the chance to speak Norwegian.

THE FIRST SNOW
It was cold
and I woke up in the middle of the night because of the strong wind and discovered that water was dripping into my tent! I lit my head lamp and discovered snow, wet and heavy. My tent was not prepared for this so I crossed my fingers for good weather for the next 3 weeks. There was snow on the ground, and the bicycles were covered in snow when we got up in the morning. It was cloudy and cold, the road was wet from the snow and the wind was increasing. Our camp place was sheltered from the wind so we took our time, cooked breakfast on the stove and waited for better weather. We walked to the village nearby, taking photos and “talking” to the locals on two and four legs. Slowly the weather got better, the sun came out and we were off again.

3RD DAY ON THE ROAD
The 3rd day we did 30 km
30 hard km. The head wind was terrible. It is a strange thing, this wind. Why does it always come from the direction we are cycling? I wished we could have it behind us sometimes. I was day dreaming about going the other direction, from Kathmandu to Lhasa, it would be so much easier.

We found a sheltered place for the tents that night, on the edge of a steep hill. I discovered too late all the spiky plants on the ground. My inflatable mattress went flat, and the morning after my back tire was flat! Bad luck.

A WISH COME TRUE
I wished for the wind to turn that night, because it was a night of meteorite showers. Not as many stars fell as expected, but we saw a few as we lay on our backs watching the clear sky and millions of stars. The first hour that morning we had the wind
at our back. It was wonderful, even though it lasted just one hour. That day we managed 40 km and reached a small Tibetan guest house near Lubom by late afternoon. Ross was tired, hungry and a bit grumpy, but an unexpectedly good restaurant with delicious Chinese food helped a lot with his bad mood.

We arrived in Shigatse on the 5th day. Good food, comfortable beds and refreshing hot showers gave us the energy we needed to continue our journey.

SHIGATSE – LHARTSE 137 km
Two days later we left Shigatse about 10 am.
10 o’clock seems early in Tibet because the sun comes up at 8 am at the earliest. Tibet is on the same time as Beijing, 2 hours and 15 minutes in head of Nepali time. It is cold in the morning before the sun get up, as in the desert — hot at daytime and cold in the night. We stopped at a bicycle shop that morning to get some more air in our tires. Maybe too much air?

TIRE PROBLEM
We decided to take the northern route from Shigatse to avoid one of the high passes on the highway. While we sat by the road for a short rest one hour later, we suddenly heard a sound like a gun shot. What in hell was happening?? Unbelievable — my back tire had exploded!

I jumped on Ross’ bike, took with the broken tire in and peddled like crazy back to Shigatse. I bought a new tire and was back 3 hours later only to find out that the new tire was a little bit too large for my bike! I learned that a 28″ tire in China is not necessarily the same as in Europe. Bad luck again. We got a lift back to Shigatse, and had to stay another night.

FUN WITH CHILDREN
We filled our bicycle bags with food and water, preparing to camp for the next few nights. Bread, noodles, tinned oysters and mackerel, eggs, biscuits and yak meat. Our road map gave us very little information about the northern road from Shigatse to Lhartse. We just knew by talking to other bikers that the road was partly bad. The first day we had good paved road, but put up our tents early in the afternoon. Ross had some good fun with children who discovered us on the way home from school. Ross played the harmonica and sang for them, and they were very excited about the tents, the bicycles and our cameras where they had the chance to see themselves on the screen. Ross had lots of helpers to put up his tent this afternoon. They secured every corner of the tent with big stones and helped to put all his stuff inside the tent. At the end it was more than 20 children standing around us, some reading from their English school book (that funny enough had Canadian stories). Nice kids, lots of fun.

NEXT DAY
For the first 20 km the next day we continued on a good paved road, but it ended at the charming
village of Thongmon. We looked around and had a good Tibetan lunch there before continuing on “the worst road ever”. The unpaved roads in Tibet are bad and my bike is not an off road bike –it prefers the better roads. I had to go slowly because of the loose gravel and the bad wash board surface. Late afternoon we found a nice place to camp by a bridge crossing a small river. There was nothing other than rocky mountains around us. Ross made a delicious dish with noodles, vegetables and yak meat and we boiled water to fill our bottles. The air in Tibet is very dry, and now we were at about 4000m, so to drink lots of water was very important.

SHEPHERDS
Next morning 3 young shepherds joined us at breakfast time. They studied everything we had and everything we did, and the stove we cooked on was especially interesting to them. They were looking after a large herd of sheep and goats, just come down to drink from the river. They were walking up and down the steep hills to find grass for the animals. Sometimes I really wonder how the yaks and sheep can find anything to eat there in that very dry desert country.

BREAK DOWN
We set off by
noon. The road got worse as further we got, with big stones and, in some parts, sand dunes which I had to pull my bicycle through. After 20 kms the problems on Ross’ bicycle started. The peddle bearing seized up. In the end he had to push the bike. Of course, there were no cars there when we needed them most! We saw just one car the whole day. We reached a small village late afternoon and the sight of a small truck gave us new hopes. The wish came true — finally we found a driver who would take us to Lhartse for 200 yen. After a 2 hour long bumpy truck ride we arrived in Lhartse after dark. Ross was first very upset about the bike, but later he was happy. I think he was tired of the biking and the uncomfortable life on the road, and now he had a good excuse to break up, have a beer and go back to Kathmandu.

The next morning Ross went off to look for a bus to the border while I planned my solo bike journey back to Nepal.

LHARTSE TO ZANGMU 137 KM
I continued on my own next day, after fixing yet another flat tire. I was used to the flat tires by then. I got a lot of practice in changing tubes and fixing holes. But Things Take Time and it was already 2 pm before I started my climb towards the roads highest pass. The road was good and not too steep, so it was easy biking slowly for the first couple of hours. It got harder the higher I reached, and the head wind increased. I didn’t know how many kms it was to the top, but understood it was quite a few because the cars that came down smelled really bad from hot brakes!

A TIBETAN VILLAGE
Reaching higher I had to get off and push my bicycle, I had to stop for short rests more and more often. The load on my bike felt heavier, the head wind got slightly stronger and I was walking up to higher altitude.

The sun was low in the sky, but I continued, wanting to see what was around the next corner, over the next hill. Could I probably reach the pass today?!

But I realized it was too far –it was going up, up, up. I could see the road ahead, slowly going higher and higher. It was getting colder and I was looking for a place to put my tent, out of the wind. I wanted to put it up before the sun went down because after sunset I knew it gets bitterly cold. Then, just around the next corner, just before sunset, there it was: a small village with white Tibetan mud houses with colorfully painted windows and doors, and prayer flags on the roofs. Now I knew I could find a sheltered place for the night.

When I reached the village, an elderly woman and a child were crossing the road in front of me, on their way to fill the jug the woman carried on her back with water. “Namaste”, I said and told her in the universal language that I needed a place to sleep. “Come with me”, was her answer. And I followed her to her home where a surprised husband met us.

I don’t speak any Tibetan, but it always surprises me how it is possible to communicate without language, especially when two people both want to understand and be understood.

LATER INSIDE THE HOUSE
“– I’m sitting on a black, wellworn yak skin on a hard bench near the fire. “Meh” is the Tibetan word for fire or heat. A big kettle with water sits on the top of the oven. I have been given my own thermos flask with hot water, and I’m drinking green tea. In a smaller kettle the butter tea is prepared, made of tea, milk, salt and yak butter. That tea has a bit of a strange taste so I prefer my jasmine tea.

The children boys, 2 and 3 years old are watching me with big brown eyes. They are shy, hiding behind a colorful cupboard, but also very curious. They came a bit closer after I gave them the apples I had in my bag. They appreciate the apples, holding them tightly in their dirty hands, like they are afraid it would disappear before being eaten.

We are at about 4700m and without trees there is no wood for a fire, so people there collect yak and sheep dung to burn. Around the village there is yak dung put up in big piles to dry in the hot sun. I can just imagine how many days the people in this family have been out collecting shit -it’s a big pile outside the house. It burns really well in the oven and gives a good heat.

The houses in the village are made of homemade mud bricks. They mix mud, yak dung and straw and make them into bricks, and leave them in the sun to dry for weeks. I put up my “house” in the small open yard outside the house, sheltered from the wind. The family likes my little tent. I told them that the tent is my house, and the bike is my home.

The most important in the house is the heater, a large oven standing on the mud floor in the middle of the room. Around it there are benches to sit on, where the family also sleeps. The boys have their own sleeping bags made of sheep skin, where they slept naked. Early in the morning, still naked they walk out in the cold weather for a pee, like it is a warm summer day!

The boys parents are out looking for yaks and sheep for some days, while “momo” (grandmother) and “popo” (grandfather) are babysitting. The “momo” seems to work all the time. She makes tea, and heat water to fill the thermos flasks standing on the shelf, while she makes food for the boys. Several times she walks out to fill the jug with water. When she has some spare time she picks up the spinning wheel and spins wool.

“Popo” sits on the bench, near the fire, with his prayer chain, chanting “om mani padme hum”. Now and then he picks up his spinning wheel too. It’s late and getting dark in the room. He lights a small lamp hanging from the roof. There is just gives enough light for me to be able to write down the Tibetan words I have learned while sitting here.

I feel good. To get into a family’s home is always a special experience to remember. “Dalai Lama ok?” the woman asks me. I say “yes” nodding my head. It’s a sad thing that it is forbidden to have photos or even talk about Dalai Lama in Tibet.

GYANSO LA PASS – 5200 M
The night was cold and windy. Because of all of tea I had been drinking during the night I had to run to the “toilet” many times. Toilet? – any place along a stone fence.

Next morning the sun was rising about 9am, by then I had already had my breakfast; tsampa porridge (barley flour in hot water), rice and fried potatoes. I packed my things, paid some yen to show my appreciation and continued my climb to reach the pass.

The last 7 km to the pass took me almost 3 hours. Pushing my bike in the head wind up to 5200 m was heavy going, but at last I could see the prayer flags across the road that marks the pass. What a good feeling!

The wind was very strong, so I stopped where I was a bit sheltered by the flag portal. The prayer flags which can be seen everywhere in Tibet have 5 colours: blue (sky), white (air), red (fire), green (water) and yellow (earth). There are written prayers on them which the people believe fly with the wind.

A group of local shepherds sat by the road and got very interested when I showed up on my bicycle. We had a Tibetan “chat” and they helped me to take some photos before I headed down the other side of the pass. I thought it would be easy to go down, but no -I had to peddle like crazy all the way down. In spite of the strong head wind I made it to New Tingri just before sunset.

MY LUCKY DAY!
A jeep with 2 people from Belgium, Katrin and Tom, stopped to have lunch in the hotel I stayed at the next day. They offered me a lift to Rongbuk, (near to Everest Base Camp). So after a discussion with the guide and the driver in the jeep they agreed to take me and my bike.

After 6 hours on a small, bumpy road from Old Tingri we reached Rongbuk (4900m) with the most fabulous view of Mt. Everest’s north side. It was a beautiful sunset over Everest that night.

MT. EVEREST BASE CAMP
The day after, I cycled up to the base camp and met Katrin and Tom on their way back down. They offered me a lift to Tingri again, but I had decided to cycle. The base camp (5200m) is a rocky place close to the foothill of world’s highest mountain. The Chinese have made a fairly good road up to the base camp from New Tingri, but it’s not paved, and they are continuously improving the road. At this time of the year there is noone staying at the camp, because the best time for climbing Everest is in the spring.

MY WAY TO TINGRI
I stayed 2 nights at Rongbuk before heading down again. I had one problem: my permit to stay in Tibet was running out the next day so I really wanted to reach the border as soon as possible. Otherwise it could be an expensive penalty, someone had told me.

The road had bad washboard surface and loose gravel, so I had to go slowly. I understood I could not make it all the way to New Tingri in time on my bike. So when I 35 km later arrived in the small village Pangsum I asked about the possibility to getting a lift to Tingri. “Yes, maybe!” a young man told me, and 1 hour later I sat in a trailer behind a small tractor taking the shortcut to Old Tingri. The shortcut is marked as a path on the map, and that was what it was a path!

It was 3pm when we set off on the bumpy main road from Pangsum, with the tractor and trailer full of people that wanted a lift to the next village. Together with me and my bike there were dirty children, babies, bags filled with shopping, a goat and women dressed in colorful traditional Tibetan cloths with the most beautiful belts and broaches.

My young friend on rest of the journey was the drivers little brother – a 6 years old boy named Som. His cloths were made from sheep skin and he didn’t say a word during the whole trip. He tried hard to stay awake, but fell asleep in my lap. He woke up some times when the bumping was worse than normal. Then he sat up quickly and looked around, like he wondered where we were, and few seconds later he fell asleep again.

For hours during the trip we were going through beautiful mountain landscape, going up a valley with small villages. Many places I also saw ruins of old villages and monasteries. We crossed the pass at 5400 m, while the sun was going down the most beautiful sunset. We arrived in Old Tingri late night.

TRUCK TO THE BORDER
I thought it would be easy going from there, just taking a bus back to the border the last 180 km. The road from Old Tingri is very bad, with road construction (it will be finished in 3 years time, I read later). I was In fact happy that I didn’t have time to bike this part of the road, and I waited for the bus at 2pm the next day. Then another problem occurred: the driver didn’t want to take my bike! Problems with the police”, he said! What now? I had to be back at the border as soon as possible, otherwise I would probably have a problem!

I had a piece of paper that spelled out in Chinese and Tibetan that I was looking for a lift to the border. I walked up and down the dirty road in Old Tingri showing it to people in hopes of a ride. At 5 pm I was sitting in a truck between 2 friendly Tibetan guys, Dordsi and Nimbo, on the way to Zangmu (the border village). Dordsi had secured my bike really well on the back of the truck.

It was a long journey, because on the way stopped to give lifts to people standing by the road. We stopped to fix the engine twice, and had several stops to fill water in the truck. We helped people with a flat tire and were stuck in traffic jams a few times because of the road construction. This part of the road was just open at night time, and there was heavy traffic with lots of big trucks. It had been another bumpy journey with a beautiful sunset over the mountains when we crossed the 5000m pass.

At 3am next morning we reached Zangmu in light rain. No hotels were open at that time, but after walking up and down the street I found an open door to a hotel. But there were no people to see, so I ended up sleeping on a hard bench for 3 hours. By sunrise I walked back to the truck to fetch my bicycle. Dordsi and Nimbo were still sleeping in front of the truck, and our last hitch hiker had wrapped himself up in plastic — for protection from the rain — in back of the truck. I got my bike, waved goodbye to my new friends and went for a big breakfast before crossing the border. The woman at the border check point didn’t even discover that I was 1 day late!

My bicycle ride through Tibet is a part of my long journey I will remember, but it was very nice to smell the trees and the green, fresh vegetation the day I cycled down the steep hills towards the Nepal border. I spent 3 relaxing days on the road back to Kathmandu.

LHASA TO SHIGATSE 231 KM
DAY 1 Lhasa – Quxul 67 km
DAY 2
Quxul – Dardrong 39 km
DAY 3
Dardrong – Nubshllung 31 km
DAY 4
Nubsholung – Lubom 41 km

DAY 5 Lubom – Shigatse 53 km
DAY 6/7 Shigatse

SHIGATSE TO LHARTSE 137 KM
DAY 8 Shigatse (back to Shigatse because of tire problem, 70 km)
DAY 9
Shigatse – Karu 65 km
DAY 10
Karu – Possum 46 km
DAY 11
Possum – Lhartse 26 km (+ 50 km truck)

LHARSTE TO ZANGMU 137 KM
DAY 12 Lhartse – Gyanso La pass 27 km
DAY 1
3 Gyanso La – New Tingri 60 km
DAY 14 New Tingri – Rongbuk (by jeep 93 km)
DAY 1
5 Rongbuk – Everest Base camp – Rongbuk 16 km
DAY 16 Rongbuk – Pangsum – Old Tingri 34 km (+ tractor ride)
DAY 17 Old Tingri – Zangmu (lift with a truck 180 km)

ZANGMU TO KATHMANDU 133 KM
DAY 18 Zangmu – Zerokilo 81 km
DAY 19 Zerokilo – Dhulikhel 18 km
DAY 20 Dhulikhel –
Kathmandu 34 km

GUTTEN I SAUESKINNS POSEN

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The boy in the sleeping bag made of speep skin.

MOR I HUSET

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HOS FAMILIEN I LANDSBYEN HVOR JEG OVERNATTET. HISTORIEN FRA TIBET KOMMER SENERE. In the family house I stayed one night in Tibet. The stoty from Tibet will be published later.

TYPISK LANDSBYHUS I TIBET

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A typical house in a village in Tibet.

MIN VENN I TRAKTOR HENGEREN

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REISEFOELGE MITT PAA DEN HUMPETE TUREN GJENNOM INGENMANNSLAND TIL OLD TINGRI
My friend in the tractor trailer on the bumpy trip to Old Tingri.

PAA VEI TIL OLD TINGRI

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PAAFYLL AV VANN PAA TRAKTOREN MAATTE TIL HVER TIME. HISTORIEN FRA TIBET KOMMER SENERE.
On the way to Old Tingri. We had to stop to put water in the tractor every hour. The Tibet story will be published later.

PRAKTISK KLESPLAGG??

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I TIBET GAAR IKKE SMAA BARN MED BLEIER, MEN MED AAPEN BUKSE. SAA NAAR DE MAA PAA DO ER DET BARE AA SETTE SEG NED. PRAKTISK ELLER ? KANSKJE LITT KALDT OM VINTEREN.
The trousers for babies and young children in Tibet is open so they just sit down when they have to go to the toilet. Practical? but maybe a bit cold in the winter.

ROSS OG SKOLEBARNA

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HISTORIEN FRA TIBET KOMMER SENERE Ross and the schoolchildren. The story from will be published later

TIBETDAMENE OG MEG

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People of Tibet.

ROSS PAA VEIEN FRA LHASA

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HISTORIEN OM TUREN GJENNOM TIBET KOMMER SNART Ross on the vei from Lhasa. The story about Tibet will be published soon.

YAK COUNTRY

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