Tuesday, March 22, 2011

PtMK, 200710-180810 (Lhasa, and Mt. E.

200710  (a Tuesday... You lose track of days when on these long cycling trips...)


In Tibet on highway #109, south to Lhasa...


I slept fairly well except for the noise of some heavy equipment working at night -- the construction madness of China).

I'm up at 0600, and we depart by 0915.

It's up and up against a strong south wind.  But, today I'm feeling stronger, more energy for some reason (hard ever to predict about this!).

Xuni, not 'feeling well,' trades Liu for seat in truck.  But, the rest of us, led by Christophe, stay together and make good time.

We have lunch with a solo Chinese girl cyclist we meet on the highway!  This is extremely rare, a Chinese girl out cycling alone to Lhasa!  I can remember only one other in my 5-years cycling all over China.  Elvis, smitten, follows her after lunch.

In the afternoon we run right into a rain storm, and have to cover ourselves huddled together in a ditch.  It got so bad I had the truck go ahead and scout for a culvert tunnel.

Xutan and Liu, who had been behind, catch up to us.

We stop in a village have a hot lunch, then not too far as wind/rain hit head on.  I notice a RR bridge .5KM off the highway to the right, and we make for it.  But, as soon as we're happily under the RR 'bulls,' 'attack' and demand we leave.  But, Xutan and I argue with the 'big boss' (I'm yelling at this point!), displaying documents (invitation letter, etc.) from CITS in Lhasa.  After calling the 'big, big boss'  he relents, but tell us we can't camp any closer than 20M from the actual line (above us on a constructed 'berm'). 

We pitch the community tent in a howling gale, but one of the 'bulls,' helps to carry rocks to anchor.  Later, I walk 100M to give him 10RMB.  One good turn deserves another!

I pitch my tent too near the RR line, and am awakened by the roar of passing trains!  Additionally, the storm never abates, and wind-driven rain has my tent flapping all night.  Welcome to 4600M ASL /  15,000ft. ASL, Tibet (higher than Mt. Evans, the highest peak in Colorado, U.S.A.).

We have managed only 46KM (partaking of a hot springs delayed us), but now are 220KM south of Amdo.  This in 3 days, or 70KM average per day.  I'm always happy if we can average 10KM per hour.  Now, after two months on the road, we're only 200KM from Lhasa!


210710


I'm up at 0600.

We able to depart by 0900, but directly into a strong south wind (3M per second my little device records such).

We practice our cycling 'peloton' (grouping close together in single file), this at Christophe's suggestion, our own French cyclist.  We want to enter Lhasa, in a manner that impresses the media (we hope to attract).   But, some don't understand, and I have to yell several times when people do what I think are stupid things (like leaving the group to go to the toilet). 

It takes 3 hours to go another 25KM and into a village where we stop for lunch, a long lunch (2 hours).

From 2 to 6P.M. we only manage 22KM against a very strong head wind.

The truck however, continues another 12KM to find a good camping spot.   Exhausted, we stop for the night, a total of 59KM for the day!

I'm in my sleeping bag by 2100 hours (9P.M.)


220710


It starts raining at 0300, and doesn't stop.  Note, I haven't slept well on this entire trip:  I can't breathe, a 'double whammy,' from both the elevation and a stuffy (congested) nose (dryness, thus I was always happy about it raining at night).  I had a thought, however, that my mouth, my teeth, are a part of the equation, the stuffiness.  So, dreaming or not, I vowed to brush my teeth more!

We're off at 0900 into a driving rain, but emboldened by the fact we're now so close to Lhasa (hot shower, warm bed, good food, etc.).  For some reason, maybe the same, I feel stronger than usual.

Wet and weary we make Namtzo Lake Town (Chinese or Tibetan name?), 35KM in three hours -- where you turn off for the Lake.  Now it's so much larger than when I went through there 11 years ago on the way to Namtzo -- I hardly recognize it. 

We find a restaurant and stop for a hot meal, and to dry what is wet (gloves, boots, socks).  Note, I never had what I needed in the way of clothing/gear.  Even the expensive stuff purchased in Germany (by my German partner, Rucha), 'Made in China,' wasn't any good!

Two hours later, fed and drier we head out again.  The first part, downhill, is easy, but the second half of the afternoon, rain and wind again.

We stop having made some 73KM, and camp at 4100M ASL.


230710


Again, and for most of the trip so far, I have a sleepless night.  I can't breathe easily 'because of congestion, and if you can't breathe, you can't sleep. Even the rain in the night didn't seem to help much.

I'm up at 0600.  I notice, getting out of the tent, that a calf (or some heavy animal) has somehow gotten into the vestibule, and stepped on some of my gear.  Anything can happen 'out there!'  'Ke Garne?'  What to do?  Ah, it's all experience!

We depart at 0900, and in 1.5 hours (11KM) we're at the top of a 4600M pass.  By now, having gone over six passes above 5K M, we arrive hardly out of breathe!

Then a long 'down,' some 30KM in the 'Hot Springs Town' (I remember from 11-years ago.).  The boys, wanting to 'race,' go ahead.  I bring up the rear.  Waiting at the junction are the 'fast ones,' me Yogi, Xuni and Fei arriving so many minutes later.

We crank a couple Kilometers into the village for lunch.  Again, I'm amazed at how much the area has been built up.  There was nothing there 11-years ago.  We had planned maybe to partake of the hot springs (pool), but when we found out what it cost, 128RMB each, we decided against.  Can you image...?  That's about $16U.S. to go swimming.

But, now we're going down toward Lhasa, and the 'smell' the comfort enlivens us.

Another 30KM and we start looking for a campsite, now in a narrow valley.

We end up in a 'fight' with a RR 'bull,' as he won't let us camp where we want.  We want him to call the 'big, big boss,' but he refuses.

We go on, looking, but only after about an hour, and several missteps, do I spot a bluff across the river.  It takes a bit to get there, over a bridge, but it turns out good with a nice view, but nothing but hard dirt and rocks to pitch tents on.

Tomorrow the big day, Lhasa at last!


240710, a Saturday  (Coincidence... Our camping location was right at a junction (the bridge) where I had been driver with a group to Tsurpu Monastery, some 11-years earlier.  Even more amazing, I recognized the place even built up as it has been in the interim.)


Only 30KM from Lhasa, we arrive, at least on the outskirts, by 12N.  Everyone is excited!  We haven't seen any comfort since Geermu, 30-days ago.

We stop in a town, the main street under construction, and we have to thread our way though much 'shit.'  Finally, a huge boulevard is revealed, and I lead the 'peloton,' east on Beijing Road.  

It takes another hour (Lhasa so large now) to glide past the Potala Palace, but we're all entranced having made it!

I lead the group back to our hotel, the Sunrise, on the southwestern part of the City.

Here we indulge ourselves in a 1K RMB lunch, complete with curious media.

Our 'host/sponsor' in Tibet, the TITS (yea, 'tits' for short) has arranged a welcoming 'party' complete with banner in front of the hotel.  (See at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/)

After lunch we were interviewed by several reporters, an article (with me on the front page) ends up in 'Tibet Travel.'   It seems like a dream now (writing this months later).

The group takes off to find lodging of their choice and budget.

Xutan and I have dinner with 'QiQi,' the writer from 'Tibet Tour' Magazine.

The we ride back to the hotel in the dark. 


250710, 'resting' in Lhasa


This was my list of things to do while in Lhasa:


Banking

Find personal items in store

Oxygen naps

Get something for congestion

suck lemon water in sinuses

bicycle:  wash, maintenance (Shingo)

Meet Zhang, Liu, and Elvis

Purchases;  Various bags to carry

                 Food items

                 Arrange picture in front of Potala (Xutan)

                 Plaques for party (Xutan)

                 L/S/ bptt; (metal?)

Wednesday Gov.-produced live show for group

Friday P.M., party:  pick location, time, etc.

Upload pictures and text at www.cyclingpeace.org

Nao?

Truck maintenance

Note, text for plaques: 

"Congratulations!  (name).  You have successfully completed Haqi-Hutch's Tour-Cycling Course:  Lijiang, Yunnan, to Lhasa, Tibet, 2800KM in 51 days!  Please promote the use of the bicycle as transportation wherever and whatever you do!"  F.A. Hutchison


26-290710 (in Lhasa)


Here was a list of things to do:


Internet

0730 breakfast buffet with Xutan re party

Print out certificate

1000 Meeting

Lunch at 11A

Camera store

Tibetan Medical University

Oxygen nap

Supermarket items

Storage - inventory

X.T. - stamp

P.U. Camera, 450RMB

pay hotel 4X 800RMB

postcards, 500RMB

2X L-Zh photos, 40RMB

Bank WD 2K RMB


300710 (in Lhasa)


party night (at the famous Accordian Bakery Restaurant), things to do:

Chen, bring drum

WD RMB, bank

pcopy speech

gift items

Purchase 3 of her music CDs

Sign, banner

slide/video show

Zhang-Liu


310710 (in Lhasa)


1000 Sunrise Hotel:  Go through items (in garage) to store or to take..?


010810, a Sunday in Lhasa


WD RMB at bank

Camera problem...?

Trek Bicycle shop for brakes

Prepare for departure tomorrow


020810, departed Lhasa, a Monday


After another group picture (view all at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/) in front of the SR Hotel, we departed at 0915.  And sadly without Liu, who decided Lhasa was far enough.

Getting out of town, with all the traffic a reminder of how many motor vehicles are now on the streets and highways of China.

We stopped once just beyond the city, this to gather the group together.  Here Elvis dumped the portable chair I'd given him (Strange, to me as why not do this before departing?  If probably had to do with the weight).  Coming out of some trees (toilet) I ripped my jacket.

Another mishap, Xutan left some of his clothing back in the hotel room, so our support vehicle (Zhang, our Tibetan driver) had to return to Lhasa to retrieve.

The highway was good (always around a Prov. capitol), and even with a 'bicycle' lane.

We passed Shingo, who had stopped to repair a flat tire.  Note, the 'trick' with tour-cycling is Schwalbe Marathon tires (from Germany)!  I never had one flat the entire trip (5K KMs)!

The terrain became semi-desert as we went down in elevation (Lhasa is at 3,600M ASL).

And for the first time during the entire trip, it became warmer and warmer until it was actually too HOT (cycling in t-shirts)!

We stopped for lunch in some shade trees overlooking the Lhasa River.

By early afternoon we'd gone 60KM, and this turned out to be the day we made 100KM (9-5P.M. or 12KMPH average).  I think the most kilometers of any one day and maybe the best average.

About 4P.M. I started looking for a campsite. None came I went on and on entering a narrow canyon.  But, at highway sign #4734 (distance from Beijing) I thought I'd discovered one, a dirt road just off the highway.  Here I waited for the group to catch up.  Then, however, news came of a hotel, just up the hill, and not far.  I sent Xutan to check it out.

This hotel turned out good, although some pitched their tents in the parking lot (to save money).

We had a nice restaurant meal, a meeting afterwards, and then bed by 9P.M. (in my private room).

Unfortunately, this was another 'sleepless barking-dog night' and with my stuffy nose didn't get much sleep. 

Note, I wonder in retrospect how I, at 70-years of age, I made it all the way without ever getting much sleep...?  The body is an amazing thing -- it follows the mind.

The climbers that summit Mt. Everest have no doubt!


030810


Off at 0900, it was up and down in this picturesque river canyon -- reminded me of southern Colorado.  There was much traffic on this highway (#?), however on the way to Shigatze, Tibet's second-largest city.

For some reason Xuni, my 20-year old Chinese 'daugther,' (Xutan's sister) seemed to be having some difficulty as going slower and slower.  But then, after lunch in a village, she zoomed ahead of all of us!  Maybe 'low-blood sugar' in the morning.  Note, both girls (Xuni and Fei) I tried to get on a better diet, like eating oatmeal in the morning, but neither ever did.  Youth overcomes much.  And they have to learn the hard way...

We went on until we've managed 77KM, and camped on a bluff.  

The weather, at least the sky, was clear, but with the usual wind making erecting our community tent a challenge.  

Note, I don't know how many times it took all of us, yelling and screaming above the sound of the wind, wrestling with flying this and that, putting rocks of the bottom, to try to keep from the wind carrying it away.  I remember one time, when everyone was away taking showers, there were only three of us, and we barely managed to hang on to it until some of the others returned.

Now, this evening, we're only 100KM from Shigatze.


040810


I slept fairly well, my stuffy nose only a little problem.  It blew and rained all night, maybe that helped as more humidity and more air.

I'm up at 0600.

Why I only wore cycling shorts I'll never know, maybe wishful thinking.  Or, watching Chris and Christophe cycle in shorts gave me the idea. Whatever, it turned out to be a bad idea, at least in the morning.  Summer in Tibet is like winter in other parts of the world.

When we depart at 0900 the rain has abated.  But, soon after we end up in a steady drizzle.

Seeing even darker to the west, I stop to put on my rain gear.

We're not into highway construction, and very unpleasant having so many detours, down and through mud.

We stop in a village for lunch at 42KM.  One group in a 'noodle' restaurant, me and Xutan in a mifan (rice) restaurant.

After lunch the sun comes out.  I take off my rain gear, and back to cycling shorts.

With the sun comes the wind, but I felt strong.

At 3:30 I catch to 'strongman,' Chris (Roach). We'd been at it 6.5 hours, and had gone 70KM.

I spied a grove of trees down by the river (name?).

I send Chris and Christophe down to check it out.  They eventually signal to come, meaning it's good.

When I arrive, I discover the ground soft (even wet), many flies, and piles of sticks.  All of this indicating the river has been here, and we're on the reclaimed bank.  After some of the tents are up two Chinese men arrive to inform us sometimes the river overflows, that we should move to higher ground.  I decide we'll stay for one night.

Zhu cooks a good dinner and we sit and eat watching the river (here as wide as the Mississippi).  It's a lovely evening, even a little warm.  The moon comes up, casting it's shaft of light right into my tent.

All is well, and I drift off (at 4250M / 14,000ft. ASL).


050810


We pack up and go by our daily departure time, 0900.  But, we have to push our loaded bicycles back up to the highway (several hundred meters).  Chris, Xutan, Christophe, the stronger ones ride up the hill (a feat as dirt).

It's an easy crank once on the highway, except for the construction obstacles.  On the outskirts of Shigatze we stop at a park to gather everyone together.  Note, you want to be together in a city, as so easy to get separated and lost.

The first order of business is to find a hotel.  But, I recognize nothing from being here 11 years ago.  What was a dusty Tibetan town, is now a bustling Chinese city.

We end up cycling around to four hotels, The Shigatze (4-star) too much at 380RMB per.

We have lunch together and then split up.

I end up (with Xutan) in the Post Hotel for 220RMB / $33U.S. per. 

I spend the afternoon napping as so tired.

Xutan and Zhu are off to the Government, Fei (our 'official' guide) with my passport (as we have to register).


060810


In the morning I have breakfast in the hotel (usually I don't because Chinese 'breakfasts' more like lunch to me.  But, sometimes they have boiled eggs.

I feel somewhat rested after a night in a bed.

I get online at the Shigatze Hotel (computer room).

I walk around looking for a supermarket.

I wash my bicycle (Ms. Feats').

For lunch I eat dhal bhat at a Tibetan restaurant.

Later, I cycle around the city to see if I can locate the hotel where we stayed (11-years ago) -- the 'honking madness of China' worse here.  I think I identify at least the area, but everything has changed (grown).

Of course, this is the home of Tashihumpo Monastery, where the Panchen Lama hangs out.  I remember in 1999, doing 'kora' around, climbing the hill behind, and being exhausted from the elevation (lack of air).

I take picture of bicycle statues across from the entrance to Tahihumpo Buddhist monastery (what a contrast).

Before bed I watch a 'Hollywood' movie, 'Network!'  How stange, 'Network' in Shigatze!

Xutan informs me they're still trying to solve the Zhang and Teng 'permit' problems with the local Government.

To have air flowing through the room, I prop the door open with a honey container.  During the night one of the 'fuwuyuan' (maids) pushes it back into the room and closes the door.

This at 0200.  Thus, the flow stops.  Note, Chinese so concerned about thieves.  Nobody trusts anyone in China!


I write a poem during my sleepless sojourn:


Day after day,

Making 'hay,'

Cycling,

Working,

Eating,

Shitting,

Fucking,

Playing,

Sleeping,

Dreaming,

Awake,

What a break,

Dying!"


070810


I'm up at my usual 0600, take a 'cold' shower, and fix breakfast in my room.  I awaken Xutan at 0800 (as with most young people he likes to stay up and sleep late).

I go across to the Shigatze Hotel and get online.  I send an email message to Nao, a Thai woman wanting to join us (to Mt. Kailas).

I take an 'oxygen nap,' from 12 to 1P.M.

During lunch Xutan informs me that both the permit problems have been solved (with Fei's help).  We can depart ASAP.  Note, Tibet a bitch because now run by the military:  many check points where we all have to produce our passports, other documents. 

We set a time to depart, 1500 hours, and everyone goes off to prepare.  Note, beyond Shigatze there is little in the way of whatever you've forgotten.  Yes, villages and Tibetan stores, but little choice.

We're off at 1500 hours, but only go until 1730, some 24KM.  We camp near a stream (water source), this at 3800M / 12,500ft. ASL. We're up in elevation from Lhasa, and going up.

We have dinner and our usual meeting in the community tent.

I'm in my sleeping bag by 2100 hours (9P.M.)


080810 (The Beijing Olympic Games began exactly two-years ago!)


During the night it's unusually warm and dry.  Thus, I suffer from head congestion a stuffy nose.  I awaken at 0300 (you can't sleep if you can't breathe easily).  But, I somehow manage 5 hours of sleep during the night!

I feel exhausted in the morning, but manage to get up at 0600.  

Many times I wondered to myself if I could actually make it all the way to Mt. Kailas (riding, rather than sitting in the truck). 

We're off at 0915, covering 30KM in two hours!  That's fast on a heavy bicycle at elevation. Maybe it was the conditions, hot in the sun.  This, in contrast with the last 3 months (mostly cold rain).  The group suffers, however, probably dehydration (not drinking enough water).  Rest stops became nap time.  Elvis made this famous, able to sleep anywhere at anytime.

Ahead I stop at a river and bathe my feet in the cool water.  Christophe, comes along and joins me.  By and by they all showed up  Chris, suffering from an infection was last (unusual for this 'strongman,' usually first).

We went on to the '5,000KM from Beijing' (on highway #318) monument, where we took a group picture.

I go ahead to find a campsite.  At 70KM I think I've found one, but send Xutan and Zhu ahead to look for better.  They phone up head that's they have found better and we camp at 76KM.  Now, we're up to 4K M ASL.

Setting up tents it's still sunny, but a storm comes soon and forces us into the big tent (dinner and our meeting).  

Tomorrow, we go over a 4,2K M pass then reach Lhase.  This is where we take the junction to Mt. Everest.  Then in another 45KM a 5.2K M pass as we approach the tallest mountain in the world.  Note, I remember seeing it in the distance... A sharp, white peak jutting up above all others.


090810, a Monday


And yet another night of fitful sleeping.  But, I continue to survive, even under duress.  Bless my mother and father for giving me such a good body/mind).

I'm up at 0545.

Putting on my contact lens (only one), I'm distracted by demons (the closer I get to Kailas, the more they 'attack').  But, I've brought another.

We depart at our usual 0900, and up 6KM to a pass, this in only 1:15 minutes.  At the top we run into many foreign tourists (tour bus).  We have quite a conversation as they are amazed we're there on bicycles.

Then down 15KM and then another 25 into Lhase.

We have a good hot lunch in a Chinese restaurant.

I go shopping, and then take a hot shower (Chris and Christophe there too) in a public bath.  The best public bath so far.  Note, the guest houses/hotels don't have hot-water bathing outside of Lhasa and Shigatze.

Somehow I 'lose' my RMB bills, or think I have.  I return to the public Shower to loock, but not there.  The demons fucking with me again.  Then buying pears and wash cloths in a shop I discover the money inside my backpack.  Normally I keep small bills in my pocket. Maybe I'm just getting senile!

Xutan has checked out about the highway between highway #318 and the town of Saga (shortcut saving us having to return to Lhase).  He thinks it's possible, but dirt.  Knowing this, I choose to visit Everest Base Camp.

We head out, but only crank another 10KM before discovering a nice campsite (grass, and by a river).  Note, hundreds of streams and rivers in Tibet.  Seems like we were always cycling next to one.

During the meeting Xutan talks of 'living in the moment!' 

Shingo burns some incense, as we're only 2 to 3 days from Everest Base Camp.

Tomorrow, 2 5K passes to get over.


100810


I have a good night for a change, even dreamed.

Up at 0545, I'm ready by 0830.

Heading for the first 5K pass it's relentlessly up for 22KM, the vertical climb 1200M.  But, both the highway and the weather good (makes a huge difference).  I thought at times I wouldn't make it, but I kept going drinking water and sucking up honey.

At the top Chris informed me this was the 'big one!'  The next slightly lower.

At the top Tibetans selling trinkets and whatever to the bus tourists.

After a group picture in front of the 5248M ASL monument we gladly coast down, although in some places I had to crank.

I caught up to Xutan and the 'fast group,' to wait for Fei.

10KM more and camped on a bluff overlooking the river.

Exhausted, yet ambulatory (Some nights I couldn't get up out of my chair!).

Zhu cooked his usual good dinner and afterwards our nightly meeting, Tibetans sticking their heads in so curious about us.  Xutan announced that the entrance fee (per person) is 180RMB / $27U.S.

We had come 50KM in 9 hours, and now were up at 4400M ASL.

But, we're now just 200Km from EBC.


110810 our 100th day on the road (from Lijiang May 5th)


I finally slept all night!  No nose congestion at all.  Why?  Maybe the rocks?

I'm up at 0545, and after my morning ritual we watch, in the distance, Tibetans herding a flock of sheep in and out of the river (far below).  When some of the sheep got carried away in the current, the herders dove in and 'rescued' them.  I thought the treatment somewhat brutal.  Money is 'God,' you know and we wouldn't want to lose any of our 'meal ticket.'

It's easy down to a town sounding like 'Biba,' one of the best starts ever, Everest looming in the b.g.

We eat in a restaurant in Biba, and vote on going to EBC (Everest Base Camp). Everyone wants to go, so Xutan off to the ticket office (in N. Tigri) with Zhu.

We wait and wait, all afternoon, them not returning until 6P.M.

But, they have accomplished an amazing 'smooch' job, and we are allowed in, no charge.  We're saved some 2650 RMB / $400 U.S.!

We rush off trying to get through and camp, a major military check point. 

At the check point, we have to present passports and documents, but Fei and Xutan take care of this (at least for me).  After about one hour, we're all 'approved,' and allowed to continue.

But, with fading light I only go 3KM before pointing to an area north of the highway.  Note, I've camped (put up a tent) in the dark, but someone has to hold the flashlight.

We have our meeting celebrating 100 days on the road (a milestone).  Also, Xutan's lost glove is returned to him (somehow?). 

Tomorrow another 5K pass, and then just 100KM to Base Camp.

I'm in my sleeping bag by 1000.


120810


I'm up at 0545.  It was a fairly good night, except I was too warm (note I have a -15C down sleeping bag that can be too warm).  We're at 4100M / 13,500ft. ASL, but we're only at 28 degrees north latitude, and in August.  Maybe the warmth caused me to dream, but I remember floating in a wonderful state.

We depart together (as always) at 0915.  It's sprinkling rain, but by now nothing to us.

In just five KM we take the junction to Everest Base Camp.  it starts out O.K, the dirt packed.  But, the further we go the the more difficult it gets:  loose gravel The worst for bicycling (unless you have the perfect tread for this.  I have 'semi-slick' treads for both hard and soft surfaces, a compromise.).

We crank up in this 'shit,' 1100M / 3,600 ft. in 22KM / 13 miles.  And with much vehicle traffic making it even more unpleasant (at least for me).  What a bitch!  I didn't think I could make it, but finally in six hours at the top another 5200M pass (just slightly lower than the one before).  I can't recommend Everest by bicycle, unless you're a masochist!

There were many tourist and Tibetans at the top, where we 'hung out,' for 2 hours.

Then an incredible down, many switchbacks and in a hail storm.

Then a valley, a village, and finally a campsite at 6P.m.

I'm so exhausted I can barely walk!

We've done 53KM, camping at 4KM / 13,000 ft. ASL.

At our meeting we decide on rest day.

Everest still another 50KM and we have to go up 1200M / 4,000 ft.

The rest day here, a good idea.


130810


What a crazy 'rest' day it turns out to be.

Fei makes friends with some local Tibetan children, that turns out almost tragically (certainly sad, if not tragic).  She organizes games, and teaches them some English.  We all give them our food, and THEN WE CAN'T GET RID OF THEM.

One boy latches himself onto me, and poignant it is (his expressions of curiosity).  If I had the means, etc. I would have adopted him.

These children spawned out of animal couplings, are basically unwanted, uncared for and uneducated.  It's tragic!  I want to SCREAM at the parents, but they're children (mentally-emotionally) too!  What to do?

I hike up the hill behind us bringing back another 'heart stone' (still have today).

We play with the children, trying to assuage our guilt, alternating with pleading with them to go home!

But, no matter how we suggest it's time, they won't leave!

I get angry at Fei for creating this, making her cry!

In the meantime, Xuni and Xutan climb up the hill behind us, making me worry when they don't return on time. 

I walk to the river, hoping to bathe, but it's too cold.  I douse parts of me, trying to refresh.

Our rest day turns into a nightmare.

With the sun setting we end up yelling and screaming at the children to GO HOME!  I even throw rocks at them ashamed of myself!  Finally they give up and disappear!

God, I beg, HELP THESE CHILDREN!


140810  Everest Base Camp 'day'


I'm up at 0545, this after a good night for a change (dreamt).

We're off at 0915 on what turns out to be another grueling day.

The dirt road the traffic, horrible!

We go up a river valley some 20KM to the military check point.  After waiting for everyone to arrive, Fei collects passports, IDs, and submits all through a barred window.  We take the opportunity to rest, drink and/or eat something.  After another 20 minutes we are 'approved,' and they open the gate to Mt. Everest!

We go up and up for 30KM the road getting progressively worse!  I suck up dust (from all the traffic) and honey to keep going. 

Finally, after 7 hours, over a little hill, there is it, Mt. Everest hidden behind clouds.  Being first, I stop, take a picture and wait for the others.  

Shingo arrives, and sprawls exhausted on a rock.

The others arrive, and I decide, with Xutan, to check out what looks like a hotel, this across from Rombuk Monastery.  it turns out to be ridiculously expensive (300RMB per), with no bathroom.

We meet the others on the road, and crank to a temporary 'village,' made up of Tibetan tents.  Here we stop and have Tibetan tea, the 'hustle' on, many 'hellos' meaning come here and buy!  But, just to sit in a comfortable chair is an extreme pleasure I would have paid for alone.

Chris and Christophe, having arrived a day before, have camped beyond the barrier (in an illegal) place. 

We walk to their campsite where we have a meeting, and discuss what to do, where to camp.  They opt to stay where they are.  We decide to camp next to the village.  But, are informed we can't without paying.  Xutan calls the 'big leader,' but still no.  'Fuck that!' I say, and decide we'll go back and find a spot.

About a kilometer from the village I decide to camp right next to the road, although the ground is unusual rocky and sleeping may be lumpy.  

We set up the community tent, our own, and have dinner.

Every once in awhile someone will announce 'the mountain,' and we run out to glimpse Everest.  It's stunning when it reveals itself, and we take many pictures.

We've managed 47KM in 7 hours (7KMAPH and slow).  Nonetheless excruciating for me, I'm feeling such accomplishment just to be at the foot of 'the Mother Goddess of the World' (north or Chinese side).  Note, I've been to Base Camp on the south, or Nepali side as well.


150810


I'm up at 0530 after a pretty good night.  Note, try sleeping at 5K M ASL, that's over 16,000ft.  I didn't awaken once to piss (normally at least 2X).

But, it's cool to cold at 16,000ft. ASL, even in August.

I 'm first in the community tent, but no fire.  I light my canister cooking stove, and set it between my legs.  

Zhang arrives at 0600 (has a difficult time getting up in the morning).  But, he's a good fire maker and soon the tent begins to warm up.

Some in the group appears, as want to glimpse Everest (Qoomolungma in Tibetan/Chinese).  We've heard morning is best for viewing.

And amazingly, the clouds part and there it is before us, the tallest mountain on earth!  Everest, an awe-inspiring sight.  In fact, Elvis breaks down in tears, thanking me over and over for getting him there.

We take a thousand pictures, mostly of us in the foreground.  God knows we'll probably never get back here.

Suddenly I'm walking toward the mountain following Zhu, Zhang (our driver) and Elvis.

It's 7KM to Base Camp, and up about 500M.  I go unprepared, and suffer for it later.

After following the road (buses take tourists up), we arrive at a relatively flat glacial plain.

The first thing, of course, because China is a 'police state,' is to check in with the goons.  Note, Tibet is controlled by the military, and according to them we all foment revolution!

Don't think of mentioning the D.L.'s name in these parts, or you'll be whisked off to be water boarded!  Luckily, Fei, our 'guide' has gone before us, and we're 'approved' as O.K. people (little do they know), and we walk on to a vast open space where they set up Base Camp (during climbing season).

On our right, the early group, Yogi, Fei, and Shingo are building a cairn (sculptured rock pile), as some kind of spiritual gesture.  I have pictures at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/

We walk as far as we can go, a 'riverette' stopping us. 

At that point I look down to discover something I have with me today, a rock on which the image of a dragon 'lives!`  I'm a metal Dragon (1940).  You think me finding this, a gift from Everest, a coincidence?  Note, It will be my offering to Chasca Coyllur, the Goddess of Sex (Inca mythology) at Macchu.Picchu on 12.12.12. 

To our right a hill on which there is some kind of monument, no doubt for the first Chinese climbers to summit.

I'm 'discovered' by a commercial film crew (something about an automobile).  They want pictures with me, not the half-naked model shivering nearby.

On the way back we stop at Padmasambhava's monastery retreat. I can't imagine a more inspiring setting to meditate!

We have lunch in the tent village, then back at our campsite by 1P.M. (1300 hours).

I take a nap in my chair by the wood stove.

After dinner we have our regular meeting, but this one very emotional as Chris, Christophe and Yoji are leaving us tomorrow. (departing early, as have to make the Nepali border in three days.).  I couldn't stop crying as partings difficult for me.  Everyone spoke.  Yogi gave Japanese coins to everyone.  I gave both Chris and Christophe gifts, Christophe so overcome he cried in my arms.  Yoji, he's the gift!


160810 (The most difficult day of tour cycling in my life!)


I have a bad night, with both nasal congestion and shortness of breath.  But, in spite of it I manage to get up at 0400.  We're departing early 0730, and it takes me, with all I have to do, three hours preparation.

We're off at 0750, but soon the boys (Ch.Chphe, Yoji, and two Chinese boys) disappear in front of us, so fast.  We never see them again.

We glide down the dirt road 17KM to signpost '79,' where we take the road to Old Tingri.

Ohmygod, you can't call it a road, more like a trail, and from the very beginning neigh impossible with my tires and weigh (need a real mountain bike, with the right kind of tread).

Struggling up a steep incline to go over a bridge I exert so much I shit in my drawers (control different for older people).  Of course, I continue hoping it ain't so.

The next 26KM, maybe the worst in my tour-cycling career.  I finally am able to hide somewhere, just after a village, to check things out.  Sure enough the worse is discovered. Well, there's nothing much I can do at this point so I clean myself as best as possible and continue on.

I have to push up hills, and crank over a 4900M pass.  I thought I might pass out!  I had to stop and rest every 50M, sucking up honey and water.

Next, a 2KM stretch of the 'road,' that is basically a river.

We get to the pass at 1:30P.M., 18KM taking 6 hours, or the slowest ever (3KMAPH).  After resting, down we go 8KM on a crazy-bumpy road (with loose gravel) I've ever encountered.  Note, cyclists:  don't do it!

Then after another 26KM I find a good campsite near a creek.  I pitch my tent where I can hear it.

There were times during this day I was SURE I couldn't make it, so difficult, so unpleasant.  But, now only 30KM from Old Tingri and back on a good highway.  But, I wanted was a good night's rest!

At this point, we've cycled 3,700KM / 2,220 miles from Lijiang in 64 days (106 total trip), have partaken of Lhasa, and Mt. Everest.


170810


I slept O.K., although the usual let nostril problem (clogged), and difficult to breathe easily. 

It rained in the night, plus the sound of the nearby stream was music to my ears.

When I did sleep, I had some interesting dreams, although I don't remember specifically.  Sometimes, you awaken, it's right there, you return to unconsciousness, and by morning, it's all a jumble.  What's left is the feeling.  And these made me feel good!

I'm up at 0545, and everything outside is wet.  How many mornings on this trip has it been like this... Many!  Too many!  I think it rained about 70% of the time.

We're slow to go, but off by 1000.

It's downhill now (1K M to O. Tingri(, but the road rocky and difficult.  My backpack, strapped on the back of my bicycle kept sliding to one side.  Others had gear problems too.  Note, you spend years learning how to pack a bicycle, and with me it always seems to be changing, what I take, and how I pack it. 

The road is 'ugly,' but the scenery makes up for the rough, long (3 hours) and arduous (sometimes up).

We rest and Zhu gets an idea for a bicycle race, from Everest Base Camp to O. Tingri.  It's a good idea, but one almost impossible to pull off (big, complicated event, Gov. involvement, distance from Lhasa, etc.).  Plus, it would be a 'spoke breaker!' 

Finally we arrive at highway #318.  Fei had taken another route, and Zhu was already ahead in O. Tingri. So, I think it was me, Shingo and Elvis that rested at the highway bridge.  Unfortunately, Elvis parked wrong and the wind knocked his bicycle off and down several meters into the stream.  We rushed to extricate it, but it was damaged (one flat tire, and one broken spoke).  Note, you learn the hard way about the wind.  It's knocked my bicycle over many times.

Even from a distance I could tell that Tingri had grown.  When I was through there in 1999, it was but a wide place in the road.  Now, 11 years later, maybe 100X larger.

Finally, the drizzle stopped during lunch and we went on to a Hot Springs Resort.

The 'Resort, was up on the side of a hill, and we had to crank through running water to get there. 

We'd come some 41 KM, and were at 4200M ASL.  

The 'Resort' turned out to be interesting, although typically Tibetan trashed out:  the main pool in the courtyard hadn't been cleaned in a long time, green algae a carpet on top.  The girls, however, were delighted to see us, and they ran about trying to serve us.  

The 'big guy,' came finally and we negotiated a common room for those that wanted.  I pitched my tent on the 'yard,' below the facility.  Xutan pitched his on the porch, but water flooded him back inside.

I partook of the 'spa,' which was leaking from the rain.  The hot water came after you pulled a plug, and flooded a rock trough.  I was happy to bathe in hot mineral water!  The humidity, the warmth opens nostrils.  Note, it's incredibly dry in Tibet, even with the monsoon.


180810


It rained all night, the wet kind of rain.  And with the dogs barking all night, I hardly slept.

But, again, up at 0615, and ready to go by 0900.

I had trouble rousing the others inside, but we finally started off at 1030.  

Getting back onto the highway was a bit trying, as going by the road you had to negotiate a current, the road inundated.  Me and the girls headed directly for asphalt, but it turned out worse than going by the road.  We had to push through a series of riverettes (I call them.), almost falling several times.  On the highway we spent some time cleaning the wheel rims as gritty from the sandy, wet soil. 

Ah, a hard surface makes riding a bicycle so much more fun.  It felt so good to crank on, gliding along at some speed.  We made 24KM in two hours.

I stopped at some point to change into to shorts, as the rain had ceased and the sun came out.

We stopped to eat lunch at 1230, Fei, Peng (a Chinese cyclist that had joined us at some point), and Shingo.  

Elvis and Zhu, so fast, were way ahead.  But, we caught up to them in another 10KM, in a village.  Some how I ended up buying '90 Energy Food,' from Shanghai (turned out hard to digest).

Another 10KM, where the highway started up to a pass, we ran right into a rain storm.

This turned out to be the junction to Saga, however, so Fei and I stopped to wait for the others.  I tried to keep dry and warm.  She played with some Tibetan kids that were wondering around the highway.

When Zhu and Elvis arrived I sent them down the dirt road (heading north now) to check out a camping spot at a Tibetan compound.

When we got there we were 'attacked' by kids, and dogs, so I gestured to keep going.

Another 3KM and I found a spot, on a shallow slope just off the road.

It started raining hard again, but nothing stopped us (so hardened by this point).  We put up the community tent and had dinner.

We'd come 63KM and were at 4,423 M ASL.

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Continued from the past, our Pilgrimage to Mt. Kailas cycling trip


Continued from past, our 'Pilgrimage to Mt. Kailas' cycling trip last summer (May to September).  Sorry, for the long hiatus in I wrote 'Tantric Taoism' in the interim, had accident, many things distracting me.  Now,  writing the final series of BLOG entries, all when we were finally in Tibet.

210610 (Summer Solstice), a Monday...

Where are we?  Some 50KM north of Yushu on highway #214!

I'm up at 0600, even thought it's cold and wet.  I wear 4 layers and my Nepali (wool) cap to stay warm.

But, in our big tent with the wood/yak dung stove, making it toasty warm.

Our goal for the day, the junction and the highway west (308).  It's 35KM, but a lunch break and a hail storm (with headwind) slows our progress.

Zhu goes ahead and finds a campsite at 4200M ASL.

The 'highway,' getting there, dusty.  We have 374 KM more of this, plus three passes before getting to Zadol (one of the few towns on this highway between 214 and 109).

I have trouble with my rear derailleur, but Shingo tries to fix it.

By the time I arrive at our campsite, Zhu has dinner waiting for me.  We've only gone 50KM, but I"m exhausted.

During the meeting, Liu (our 'secretary') informs us we've come 1400KM.

It's Father's day, so I'm 'celebrated!'  It's my age, 70 that qualifies me.  Mr. Zhu gets teary eyed talking about his daughter.  I'm touched!  What a good group for the most part, the best you can have!

220610

I have a difficult night!  I can't sleep waking at 0100.  I try walking and then boiled water (in the big tent).  I"m up and down and finally try the truck, but it's uncomfortably cold.  What hell I think!

I'm up at 0600, even though tired.  I'm the last to get ready, and Xutan's has to push me up the hill to the road.

Zhu stays behind to cook our dinner.  What a good guy!

I make the 4600M pass with Elvis.

Going down to village (for lunch) I see a wolf.  He (?) runs across the highway in front of me.

We eat lunch in a Chinese restaurant (hard to find in a primarily Tibetan town).

After lunch and some shopping, Fei and I crank on, the truck ahead to find a campsite.

After dinner, in our community tent, we're sheltered from the usual storm with rain and wind.

230610 (We are on highway being constructed (#308), this 150KM west of major highway (#214) -- Qinghai Province)

It rained all night!  This,good for sleeping.  It's getting up in the morning, when cold and damp, that's challenging.  But, I 'just do it!' (at 0500).

We get off at 0830, but a 'slog,' on a wet, muddy, road.  No fun!

It takes 3 hours to get up over the pass (4690M ASL), 21KM or a 7KMPH average.  Not bad, with a heavily loaded bike on a muddy road!

Then an incredibly curvy 'down,' some 10KM, sometimes on good road (with 1 KM newly paved).

We find a good restaurant in the town (of concrete streets), plus my lost spoon.

After eating lunch we go on another 15KM for a total of 55 for the day.

We camp something like 70KM from the next high pass.  When this happens you have to plan how you're going to get over it, in one or two days?  The best is to have time to go lower (to sleep).  Crank high, sleep low, is old advice.  We decide to sleep late the following morning, only cycling a half day.  This positions us to 'attack' the pass from a shorter distance.  You don't want to cycle 100KM, and THEN have to crank over a high pass!  Maybe,  if you're 25-years old, and in good physical condition.  I have to be more conservative.

I stay up late for me (10:30P.M.), but only a half day's 'work' tomorrow.

During the night there's some wind and rain.  This, plus a stuffy nose give me a hard time sleeping.

I don't get up until 0700.

We spend a leisurely morning, completing tasks we never seem to have time for...

Xuni gives 'Ms. Fetes' a bath in the nearby river.

I try to get better organized, as difficult to find things.

We're off at 1100A.M. some 35KM to a village, and the pass another 35KM.  I'm concerned how we're going to do this...?

I try to get Xuni, who's particularly slow this day, to put some item in the truck.  She declines to her credit.

The village turns out to be 30KM distance, not 35.  We go another 2 KM, then stop to camp.

Yoji and Shingo, our two Japanese cyclists, cook curry/rice for dinner.

It rains, of course!

240610

(I'm missing my handwritten log for this day...?  I must have gotten confused and have thrown it away.)

250610 ('Full moon, and empty arms...' -- from a song I remember...)

I'm up at 0500.

I couldn't get the fire (in the community tent) going.   I got cold in the night, but I only  had my down sleeping bag as a 'cover,' and not 'in' it.  When I got into it this -15C. bag (expensive), no problem keeping warm.  Thus, I have a reasonably good night.

We got off at 0830, and to the top of a 4812 M pass in 27KM.  This pass the 3rd on highway #308.  Then 21KM down to a 'town,' for a total of 48KM for the day.  But, we couldn't find any hotel/guesthouse, so we camped out in a Tibetan's walled 'yard.'   We paid them 100RMB, but no toilet (Note:  Tibetans don't even have a toilet in their own homes.).

Most had departed to take a shower (in a public facility) when a storm came, and almost blew our tent down.  I, along with Xutan, Shingo and Xuni, managed to hold on to it.

I took a nap when things settled down and we got the wood/yak dung stove going.

I stayed up until 1000P.M., not quite exhausted but almost.

260610

I was up at 0300 from a stuffy nose, and a barking dog (madness).  I wasn't cold, nor much problem breathing from ELS ('Elevation Sickness'), but I have a head congestion problem (a different kind of breathing problem).  When I have these together, it's most unpleasant as you can't sleep at all.

I dream about Roger Goodman (old ABC colleague).

I finally got up at 0700, and went to the public bath at 0900.

Afterwards Xutan and I went to the local 'Net Bar,' to get online.  But, the usual cigarette smoke and noise drove me out after 30 minutes.

We depart at 1345 hours (1:45P.M.) and head for the 4th pass on #308 (going west from #214).  

By 1800 hours (6P.M.) we've gone only 30KM (7KMPH average).

We camp for the night, just in time to endure another big storm (wind, hail, and rain).

I'm in my sleeping bag by 1000, the sound of raindrops on the tent 'roof' lulling into unconsciousness.

270610

It rains most of the night, but even that and a bright moon can't keep me awake.  I slept reasonably well for all the humidity (or whatever, as I can never figure it out).

I'm up at 0500.

I have trouble starting the fire in the wood stove, and happy to see the sun (warming all).

Today we go over three 'baby dragon passes,' and then down to a village.

We manage 70KM in 9 hours.  

A woman walking on the street invites us to her house.

Zhu cooks a meal in this woman's house, as no restaurants in this village (town?).

We find a 'guesthouse,' all they have in this 'town.'  Me and Xutan pitch our tents in the rain (with help from Fei and Xuni), but the others opt for a room inside.

Elevation here, 4100M ASL.

Of course, it rains most of the night.

280610

I slept fairly well save for some nose congestion.  Drinking hot water ('kai shui') from the 'hot pot,' ('thermos') and applying Tiger Balm helps.

I'm up for good at 0600.

After making breakfast in the vestibule (inside) I pack up a wet tent.  But, no struggle, no reward.

We're off at 0945 in the rain, and have to negotiate a muddy (dirt) highway.  But, by now nothing stops us!

We make the first pass (a mere 4632M ASL) at 1330 hours (1:30P.M.), roughly 21KM in 3.5 hours.

We have lunch by the side of the highway, everyone from their own (we always carry food).

Down and up again, over the second pass (a mere 4509M ASL).

Then down to a campsite early (1600 hours) -- elevation 4200M ASL.  We're now only 200KM from highway #109 (to Geermu/north or Lhasa/south).

It  becomes sunny and we're able to dry everything (tents, etc.) on a nearby fence.

We have dinner in the midst of the nightly storm.  It snows for the first time.

We are also blessed with a rainbow, one that appears to have deposited a 'pot of gold' right in our midst!

Yoji, Shingo and the girls have a snowball fight and build a snowman (maybe woman).  

I'm in my sleeping bag by 2100 hours (9P.M.)

290610

The day starts well with sun and a dry road.

Zhu and Elvis speed ahead of us aided by a tail wind.  We meet them much later at a river/bridge where they are washing their clothing.

It's been a 'fast,' day for all and we've made 60KM in 'no time.'

I spy what I think looks like a good place to camp, an abandoned structure at the base of a hill.  Elevation here, 4400M ASL.

We're in the midst of erecting the community tent, when a fierce storm attacks, sending torrents of mud through the tent (definitely in the wrong place).

I eat dinner and get my nightly massage (from Fei), with my boots in muddy water.

It rains all night, but I have some trouble breathing.

300610

I'm up at 0600, everything wet, cold and unpleasant.  My tent a muddy mess.  I had also parked my bicycle in the wrong spot, next to a mud-brick wall (part of the abandoned structure), and it was covered with dirt washed from the wall.  Note, you makes mistakes and learn... hopefully.

But, we make it off by 0900.

The sun has come out in the meantime, and the road fairly dry.

We go up and down hills, with a view of wide open plains leading to the snow-topped Kunlun Mountains to the north.

We watch a group of Tibetan antelopes race away from us.  A pair of large birds (hawks?) soar above.  Someone spies a wild donkey in the distance.

Then up ahead, we come across a caravan of 4-wheel drives (usually Land Cruisers) stopped, a group Swedish bird watchers with long lens on tripods.  They offer us a peek at some unusual bird.  Note, you never know what or whom you're going to meet 'out there.' 

One of their drivers informs that Budongguan, the village at highway #109, is only 40KM.  How wrong he is (it's actually 70KM to...).  (Note, accurate information in China very difficult to come by.) 

We make 50KM in 6.5 hours, and camp at 1530 hours (3:30P.M.) -- elevation 4300M ASL.  We hang our tents to dry, and perform other tasks.

And for the first time in days, no evening storm.

010710 (July:  We've been on the road for almost two months.)

I have an unpleasant night, with both breathing problems ( = little sleep)!

I manage to get up by 0600, and we're off at 0915.

With the wind helping and a good road, Xutan and I (leading), make 35KM in 2.5 hours (something like 16KMPH average), which is very fast (for us at least).  We stop at a bridge for lunch, Zhu and Elvis joining us.

In the afternoon the weather deteriorates into wind and rain showers.  We stop at a construction site, hunkering down behind some large concrete pipes.  This to avoid the wind, gusts up to 30KMPH.  What to do?  We could take shelter in some construction people's tents -- they have invited us.

I survey the western horizon noting a brightening sky.   I signal to go ahead, hoping I'm right.  But, what a mistake as we head right into a horrible rain storm.  So unpleasant, soaking wet, we stop for nothing!  It's the worst 12KM of the trip (so far), mostly blinded by a driving rain!  Finally we make highway #109, the major north-south highway (Geermu to Lhasa).  Freezing cold, God blesses us with the sun, redeeming the storm. 

A military convoy passes, many trucks... Fei waves to all the drivers.  She's so naive.

Little by little all the group shows up, but all are soaking wet.

Budongguan is a wide place in the highway, not what I wanted, not enough of what I wanted or needed.

We end up in a 'restaurant,' really just a tarpaper shack, a couple operates.  We huddle around their wood stove drying out, then eat lunch.

There's only one 'guest house,' and I check into a room with a wood stove.  The 'proprietor' is pretty good (does what we request, like bringing more coal).

Where to store items in the truck, while we're in Geermu, becomes an issue.  We finally find a 'room,' (shack) dank and dirty, but they clean up for 'dinero.'   Zhu and Liu decide to stay in Bu. while we're in Geermu 'camping out' in this 'shack.'   I spend the night in a 'nice' room hoping to get some rest.  Unfortunately, noisy neighbors (walls paper thin), and barking 'gods' keep me up until 0100.  The wood/coal stove has turned the room in to a 'sauna,' and I have to open a window to try and cool off.

We had gone 70KM in 7 hours, for a good average (at least for us).  Note, I was determined to make highway #109.  This is a 'kilostone,' as finally, after thousands of kilometers we're heading directly for Lhasa (after a trip to Geermu in the truck).  We have been forced to circumscribe eastern Tibet (Kham) as foreigners not allowed through, this taking us through northern Yunnan, Sichuan, and Qinghai Provinces.  But, this route way out of the way, probably 1,000KM!

Elevation at Budongguan, 4400M / 14,400ft. ASL (higher than the summit of Pike's Peak, Colorado).

That night I have breathing problems (congestion and elevation), but to compensate, I have a dream in which Julia Roberts (the movie 'goddess') falls in love with me and we get married.  It was all too real (plausible), thus a wonderful fantasy.

Tomorrow we drive to Geermu.  I fantasize just sitting in our truck (no exertion required), warm and dry, watching the countryside slide past.  Note, I can sleep in moving motor vehicles.

020710

The next morning we take everything out of the truck (to take bicycles to Geermu), and store it in our rented shack.

We can only take four passengers in the truck, so the others have to hitchhike or take a bus.  It is me, Xutan, Xuni and Shingo in the truck.

It's 300KM to Geermu, and takes something like six hours.  First, however, and through fog and rain, the Kunlun Mountains, and a pass over 5K M.  Luckily, I sit in comfort, dozing in and out of consciousness as the brown and gray landscape glides by.

This is my first time in Geermu (besides stopping at the train station when traveling from Xining to Lhasa).  It reminds me of Kashgar, as subtropical, and on the edge of a desert.

We find a new hotel in the center of town, and the room, the restaurant turn out to be good (room: 160RMB per).

We've come to Geermu to shop, repair bicycles, and partake of a little 'civilization' after two months on the road (basically rest).  Also, we're to meet Chris and Christophe here.

Me and Xutan stay in the hotel,  the others in various guest houses, paying for a dormitory bed.

At the bicycle shop, www.cyclist.cn, we find a good mechanic (the owner).  He replaces all my cables, takes care of Xutan's problems, and replaces Zhu's front fork.

The best news is from Lhasa, where the Tourist Gov. has reduced the fees to 2,000RMB, and Fei can act as guide for us.  This will save us a 'bundle!' 

We celebrate the 4th of July (actually I didn't realize it was July 4th until later) at a 'hip' restaurant across from the hotel.  Partaking of this Chinese 'scene' inspires the following poem:

Fruit pizza and a blue smoothie
Make me woozie!
This is China, 2010.
They want 'it'
At any cost!
Hubris like the Ibis,
Lost in the wind!

070710

We start to drive back to Budongguan (in our truck), but on the outskirts of Geermu we discover Chris and Christophe waiting at a toll gate.  They have been hitch-hiking but so far unsuccessful in attracting a ride.  So, we allow them to ride in the back of the truck (hidden under the tarp).

The drive takes 4 hours, back and up over the Kunlun mountains, the 5K M pass, all under partly cloudy skies.  I enjoy dozing off.

We arrive in Bu., the thriving metropolis it is, at 1700 (5P.M.) hours.  It's a depressing sight after Geermu.

The others, Xuni (traded with Fei on return), Shingo and Yoji, arrive via private automobile soon afterwards.

We negotiate with their driver as Chris and Christople want to return to (town some 200KM south on #109, name, ?) where their bicycles are stored.  Fei however, flags down a truck and gets them a free ride.

We meet Omar Wu, a Chinese cyclist from Taiwan (returning from Lhasa).  He was born in Taiwan, talks about New Zealand, but lives in Shanghai (a bit confusing).  We take the usual pictures (www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/), and he writes the contact information for his daughter Wilma (Wu) who lives in Auckland, N.Z.  I'm interested in any New Zealand 'connection,' as going there after China.

This time in Bu. we (Xutan and I) camp out on concrete at the medical clinic building (under construction).  

They have a petrol generator (for electricity) going that's too loud, and I know it will keep me up.  But, they comply with my request to shut it off when I offer 10RMB.

I'm in my sleeping bag by 2130 hours (late for me).

It rains, of course, and Tibetan dogs bark, but I manage some sleep.

080710

I'm up at 0600, cooking breakfast right there in my tent.  Later I move such into the shack where our items have been stored, and where Zhu and Liu have made 'home.'

I get in a bad mood, however, when I discover Shingo has installed the kickstand (purchased in Geermu) on my bicycle.  I explain to never do anything to 'Ms. Fetes,' without asking first.  Asians don't understand personal 'space.'

My unhappy mood continues with the way they load the truck.  I must be having 'my period!'

We depart at 1200 hours.

The first 20KM is easy and fast (in just one hour).  Then when we turn south, there's a large black cloud in the distance.  I'm alone at this point, with Xu tan and Zhu ahead, the others behind.

I go another 10KM and then it hits, wind and hail so strong I have to hide behind my bicycle.  Luckily, two large construction trucks have stopped just ahead and I use one of them for shelter again the storm.  

When the wind abates (30 minutes later) I push off again.

Not far ahead I meet up with Zhu who's struggling a bit.  I follow him, hoping to spy Xutan and the truck (we'd sent ahead) soon.

We crank maybe another 30 minutes finally seeing the truck out in a field.  Unfortunately, it's stuck in the mud.  

Nonetheless, while they figure out what to do, I get in the truck as wet, cold and tired.  With the engine running I turn the heater on full blast.  After changing my socks, drinking some hot water, I fall asleep.  My little 'nap, delicious!'

Others finally arrive and they set up the community tent (difficult because of the wind).  

We get the truck out, but only with everyone helping to push.  I can't understand how Zhang, our driver, can get into this predicament?  I tell him, via Xutan, never get off a road.  Zhang, a nice guy, but not a thinker.

Then in the tent, dinner, and my nightly massage during our meeting (Fei, a naturally talented masseuse).  Note, we have nightly meetings after dinner.

I'm in my sleeping bag by 2100 hours.

090710 (a Friday)

I'm up at 0600 after a relatively good, but chilly, night.  The sun blesses us at 0700, helping to dry everything out.

We're off at 0900, right on schedule.

I'm feeling strong for some reason (can never figure this out).  But, problems with my rear derailleur (shifting) are maddening. (Note, haven't solved this problem going on two years.).

We, Xutan and I, stop for lunch, waiting for the group.  But, they don't show until we arrive later in a village.

We decide to go another 40KM, to make 70, our goal for the day.

I lead but soon caught and passed by Elvis.  Note, Elvis has a strange style of cycling... seems no matter going up hill or down (fast or slow), he cranks the pedals at the same slow rate.  For some reason this annoys me.   

I  send the truck ahead to find a camping spot.

By 1540 hours we've gone 65KM, (9.5KMPH average) and I've had enough for the day.  Xutan erects my tent, and I fall into it exhausted.

But, there's no storm this evening.

100710

This is a big day, as over the 1st 5K M pass (of six) and finally, after 2.5 months, into Tibet, A.R.  From our campsite to the top of the pass is 35KM distance and up 700M.

The girls go early at 0720, as Zhu has made a bet with them.

The rest of us off at 0915.

We encounter mud for 5KM, then gradually better road conditions going up the 35KM pass.  I'm the 3rd to get to the top, Zhu and Elvis first (the girls lose the bet).  

There's all kinds of things at the top of this pass (besides the usual cairns and prayer-flag 'trees').  Xutan arrives, and the rest one by one, Yoji last.  We take the usual group picture (at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/

Down on a paved road, and with a tail wind, we make another 75KM (4 hours, or 17KMPH average).  Even though over a 5K M pass and waiting under a RR bridge during a rain storm, we manage (somehow) 115KM!  This is the furthest we've ever gone in one day!

I look for a camping site, Chris and Christophe ahead waiting for us with Fei  But, with all the ground soggy wet I decide we should try for the town.

By the time we arrive (I'm first) I'm completely 'blown out,' (exhausted) and spend one hour in a chair recovering (at a restaurant).  

Even more amazing somehow Xutan arranges for me and him to stay at a Military Facility (in town).  I don't really understand what this is.  But, the leader, has given up his bedroom to us and Xutan.  Even more amazing, they have O2 (oxygen) outlets at every bed in this facility.  We park the truck in their garage, Liu and Zhu 'camping' in the garage.  Some here in dormitory rooms, the others in a guesthouse in the village.  It's expensive night but worth it (Yes, you have to pay the military!).

I spend the night sucking up oxygen and sleeping well (until it's turned off around 0300).

We have set three 'records' (for ourselves) this day:  One, over our lst 5K M pass, two, over 2,000KM total, and three, 1st day over 100KM.

110710

I get up at 0700, the sun blasting through the window.  Everyone else still asleep (even the military guy next door).

Later we're asked to leave, as the BIG leader has found out that an American has 'slept here!'   He's worried I'm a spy for the U.S. Gov.  Who knows what he's worried about...

We load up and sit in the sun waiting for Xuni.  

Back in the village we go to the guesthouse where the others are staying.  Some are in the local 'net bar,' checking their email.  We gather them all together and have an early lunch in a Chinese restaurant (Tibet restaurants only serve tsampa, meat, bread, butter tea, etc.).

Afterwards we head south, 'slouching towards Amdo' (a 'city').

Fei, not feeling well, trades with Liu, he riding her bicycle she riding in the truck.

It starts raining and I start looking for a campsite.  Up ahead the truck and group have stopped and are suggesting this might be a place.  I survey the area and want to check ahead.

I tell the group, Xutan and I will go on to look for another, to wait 15 minutes, and if we don't return to come ahead.

Up in ahead maybe another 10 kilometers we stop at a Gov. highway maintenance facility (where families live).  With the rain coming down increasingly harder I ask Xutan to go ask if we might stay there for the night.

He returns with good news, a Tibetan woman has invited us into her home (a 'port in a storm').

Her and her mother, and a friend are inside, excited to see such different people.  They allow us to sit by  their dun-stove drying our clothing.  Whereas in the West, families would be afraid to allow people into their homes, Tibetans welcome you with open arms.   We 'grease the wheels,' by offering 100RMB (end up giving them 200RMB).

She shows Xutan where the group might spend the night.  I, being an old man, am invited to sleep in one of their own rooms.  Later I go and check it out, one room with an unpleasant odor. 

The others arrive and we all crowd (there are 12 of us including driver Zhang) into their 'main' room (where the stove and TV are located).  Grandmother sits in a chair watching us, fascinated with this group of aliens.  Fei ends up giving her a massage.

Zhu cooks dinner on their stove and we enjoy a hot meal.  Simultaneously, it starts snowing outside, and we're warm nee happy inside.  Note, I like sleeping on Mother Earth, in my tent.  But, day after day camping in the rain gets old.  The average citizen complains when the going gets touch,  but my group of cyclists, they are inured to discomfort.   Thus, when they complained it wasn't about the hardships we endured.  Our group chant, at the end of our meetings:  'We're still here, and nothing can stop us!`  Note, ultimately nothing did!

The room they'd given me was a store room or 'kitchen.'  It had a chair which I ended up sleeping on.  But, it wasn't very comfortable, plus they came into the room several times (to get some things they needed) -- without knocking of course..  Worse, there was a bare bulb  light that was right in my eyes.  I tried everything, first looking for a switch.  I even checked in the other room, as sometimes switches aren't where you think.  Finally, standing on my chair I tried to unscrew it, but it broke in the process..  I can fall asleep with light on in the room, but not a bright light right in my eyes.

120710

I get up at 0630, and make my usual 7-herb tea and breakfast (in the room), opening the window slightly to burn my stove.

Later, I try to pay for the broken bulb, but as usual (with Chinese) they won't take it.  Everyone is ready and on schedule we're off at 0900 on a soggy morning, this day over the second 5K M pass.  Before departing, however, we take a group picture with our hosts (available at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/)

Once over a hill  it's a cruise with a tail wind, and we glide through a beautiful open plain, the sun finally showing.  No, 'good,' no 'bad.'  Vice versa of course.

We meet two groups (total of nine) of Chinese cyclists pedaling to Lhasa.  We take the usual group pictures.

I stop alone at 40KM to eat something, rest break.

Then I push off for another 40, trying to make our goal of 80KM for the day.  Zhu, Chris, Christophe, Elvis and Shingo gone ahead, I'm with the slow group (Yoji and the girls).

Somehow I'm told our 'goal,' is only 13KM more.  We send the truck ahead to find a campsite.  By the time I get there, I'm so tired I'm beyond 'daunting.'  

Finally, there, sitting in my chair, a hot meal and many cups of tea help me revive.

Note, in my life time I've experienced all the levels of exhaustion, physical, mental and emotional.  Once, I was beyond tired, and in such a state I couldn't even rise out of a chair.

130710

It's raining when I awake, and we delay departing until 1000.  Our goal only 42KM to the Hot Springs.

Off in the rain it becomes sunny later and offers an incredible vista of snowy mountains in the distance.

We stop for lunch at the top of the 'grade.'

We try to ride in a 'peloton,' the French word for leading group.  But, ours is single-file, a way of dealing with a strong head wind.  Also, this is the way I want to arrive in Lhasa, looing organized.  But, right away problems, as some can't seem to do this (ride one meter apart, keeping the same distance going up or down hill).

We make the Hot Springs village by 1700 hours (5P.M.).

We eat in a Moslem Restaurant, combining theirs with ours (you can do this in Chinese restaurants).  Although the 'manager' ('loban' in Chinese) is concerned about us eating pork inside.  Zhu cooks fried rice for me.

Afterwards, we walk to the Hot Springs 'house,' a lone structure some 500M behind the restaurant.   It's a soggy mess negotiating the muddy ground.  What we discover inside is a disappointing mess (Tibetans just don't take care of things).  Yoji departs without another glance.  The square pool is empty, a woman washing her clothing from the hot water dribbling out of a pipe.  The ceiling is dripping from the rain.  'Welcome to the Hot Springs,' I'm afraid typical of Tibetan neglect.  The woman tells us to wait, but she finishes quickly.  We take off our shoes and wiggy our toes in the water barely covering a dirty tile floor.  It turns out we have a therapeudic time.

We crank another 7KM before seeking shelter (raining again) in a RR overpass.  Immediately one of the uniformed 'goons' is upon us informing us that we can't stay (RR property).  We argue, presenting all of our documents:  I get so tired of the Chinese 'police state.'  After a phone call to his boss (no one dares make a decision on the lower level), we're allowed to stay and camp just beyond.  But, with a strong south wind it's hard to setup the community tent.  One of the 'goons,' helps, carrying rocks to anchor the tent.  I chase him down to give him 20RMB / $3 U.S.

At our nightly dinner Fei and Xutan argue about being in Tibet, the arrangements, payment, etc.  We set an earlier departure time (0700) as to make it over the 5200M pass in one day.  This means I must get up by 0400 as takes me three hours, by the time I've done everything.

I'm in my sleeping bag by 1015.

140710

I'm actually up at 0330 and am the first one in our tent starting the fire (in our wood/coal stove).

We're all off by 0700, and with a beautiful sunrise.

After just 22KM, however, we run into a situation, a temporary bridge has been washed out, and they're trying to repair it.  On both sides, there are kilometers of trucks, buses, and some private vehicles parked, waiting...  We had known about this, but it didn't really register on me, as many times the local information inaccurate.

Being on bicycles, however, we get across, first having them lifted onto the new bridge (foundation), then walking them through the maze of construction.  But, we wonder about our truck...  We wait on the far side for the truck to arrive, some engaging in a rock-throwing contest (Chris wins).  I try to take a nap, but breathing easily is difficult (at 4400M ASL). Note, the truck people (Zhang and Liu), as a recommended daily practice, take their time packing up and catching up with us.   I finally send Xutan on a motorbike (the opposite side), to find the truck and inform them of the situation.

Finally, they arrive, and we take out what is necessary to cook and camp with, what we can carry on our bicycles.  We don't know when the bridge will be repaired and when the truck will catch up to us.  Note, tour cycling with a support vehicle spoils you -- you don't have to carry everything on your bicycle, for example.

Starting off and up there is a line of parked vehicles, I lose track of the distance (probably 5KM).  But, to the pass (5,231M ASL), it's another 20KM to , and the highest I've ever cranked a bicycle, a 'record' of sorts for Me and Ms. Fetes.

At the top we wait for the others (I was 4th to reach the top), basking in some benevolent weather (warm and sunny).  Usually, at this elevation, even though summer, you can expect wind, rain, and cold.  But, not this day.

After the usual group picture taking, we glide down 10KM to a vast open valley.  Here we discover a construction facility, with a tent 'restaurant.'  We stop and partake of tea, some eating a snack (junk food).  We investigate the place for possible camp sites.  

Chris and Christophe, however, are eager to camp away from civilization, and who can blame them.  They go on ahead to find a spot, while I continue recovering (tired beyond description).  I catch up, although halfway, realizing I don't have a 'hot pot' (in the truck) and I need 'kai shui' (boiled water) at night.  I return to meet Xutan who's thoughtfully purchased some eggs for us.  He helps negotiate borrowing a 'hot pot' full of boiled water.  I have to leave a deposit.

Chris and Christophe, have camped next to a river, but they're on the other side.  We have to 'ford,' or push through knee-deep water across.  I'm so exhausted someone has to help me.  Xutan arrives and decides to camp on the near side.  

The truck finally arrives at 7P.M., happily surprising us.  Zhang drives it through the river to our side where we set up the community tent.

The nightly storm arrives with wind, rain and thunder.

This is the first time we've camped at 5K M ASL.  

Tomorrow, the town of Amdo, some 80KM distance.  But, before that another 5K M pass to get over.

Lhasa now only 500KM distance.

150710

We off at 0915, on a beautiful sunny morning.  I'm wondering (hoping) all of Tibet is like this.

First it's easy (rolling hills) cranking through this tundra valley.  But, the last 5KM is up, but by now (after 3,000KM and many passes) we 'eat 5K M passes for breakfast!'  I was 5th to reach the top in 3:20 minutes, just a little less than 10KMPH, and fast for me.  It's amazing what you can do even when you're a tired, 70-year old man.

Then it's 40KM more to Amdo, but on a hard surface, thus fast.  But, the last 20KM (alone) I didn't know how I was going to make it as so tired.  The scenery north of Amdo, however, stunning (through a river valley with unusual mountains on the far side).   I just kept going!

Finally, Amdo appears in the distance, a welcome sight.  Then, Chris, Christophe, and Shingo are waiting for us at the junction into Amdo.  I see their tents drying on a fence.

When everyone has arrived we crank across the only bridge and into Amdo proper.  We find a restaurant and partake of a hot meal.  Xutan has to go with the police, to register (taking everyone's passport or ID card with him).

After eating Xutan and I search for the best hotel, and with some trouble.  First, the Gov. hotel not all that great, we hear of another.  I wait, as Xutan checks it out.  I return with him to discover hot tubs and good rooms.  But, the Tibetan people impossible to negotiate with, and we end up back in the Gov. hotel.  Actually all of this turns out to our advantage, as they've reduced the rate from 130 to 100RMB / $13U.S. per night.  Additionally, since we play with her daughter, the woman cooks dinner for us.

16 and/or 170710 (I'm confused about the dates...?)

We spend the day in Amdo resting, shopping, sending some gear ahead to Lhasa (too much in the truck).  We take a hot shower at a public bathhouse.  Fei and Xuni wash my laundry.  We wash our bicycles with a high-pressure hose (10RMB for all of them).  I suck up some oxygen at a 'green cross' clinic (60RMB).  Note, this is the first time I've done this and discover it as a good way to rest (as I fall asleep for 30 minutes).  

180710 (a Sunday)

Unfortunately, I have a bad night (in the Gov. Hotel) as kept awake by some loud Tibetan rock 'n' roll (the usual barking dogs), this until 0400.  If it isn't the insane dog barking in Tibet, it will be some other irritation!  It's not the romantic place people, particularly Americans, think it is.

Fortunately, it's only 14KM to the 4880M pass, and we're already at 4400M (up only 500M). There's even some sun when we depart at 0915!

After the pass it's up and down through a rolling plateau, and it turns out to be an easy day.

I find a good spot to camp near a river.  But, Chris, Christophe, Zhu and Liu (on Shingo's bicycle) are way ahead and want to continue on to the next town.  I have Xutan inform them if they do, they're out of the group.  They all return.  

Xutan cooks 'polou' (Uyghur dish of rice, carrots, and mutton) for dinner..  I eat around the mutton.

At the meeting Zhu express his angry over been called back.  I have tried to explain to the entire group not to get to far ahead, as they may have to return.  We manage to resolve the conflict (rising-moon energy) and the meeting ends with everyone relatively happy.

We have gone 86KM in 8 hours, for over our 10KMPH average.  Now, Lhasa only 400KM distance.

I'm in my sleeping bag by 2200 hours (10P.M.).  But, it's the nights that are 'hell' for me, and I dread going to my tent.  If only some gorgeous woman was waiting (to distract me)!

190710

We depart at 0930, not in any particular hurry.

My notes of this day are confusing, however...  I have written, "24KM south of 'Luma,' which means 'Rome' in Chinese."  'Wo bu ming bai!'  Meaning... I don't understand this entry.

It's 50KM into a larger city (at a highway junction).  Note: name to come with looking at the map.

Once in the city, we have the opportunity for a hotel (a hot shower, etc), but for some reason it doesn't materialize.  We then search for a restaurant.  We end up finding a good one (Xutan has a 'nose' for such.).

Afterwards, I send the truck and the faster group ahead to look for a campsite.  But, the truck delays to shop for coal (we're dependent on coal or wood to cook with, and there is little wood at this elevation.  Yak dung a substitute.).  

I take an 'oxygen nap,' for 20RMB.  Then Xutan and I catch up, some 24 KM to our campsite.  Now, I understand... 'Luma' is the name of the city we had lunch in, and our campsite is 24KM south of it (earlier description).  But, now I'm wondering... Is it possible to cycle from Amdo to Luma in one day, or am I forgetting (no entry) one entire day?  Ah, too much to do, to think about, plus the cycling!  Lack of O. causing my brain to malfunction.

I'm exhausted (as usual) by the time we arrive, but the sun shines and I sit in it;s warmth trying to recover.   But, the exhaustion and my my disgruntled disposition cooperate to create a gloomy mood.  In contrast my Chinese co-cyclists, however, rarely seem out of sorts.  Maybe they just suppress such...

After dinner we have our usual meeting, but tonight's is about arriving in Lhasa, and we devise a plan to attract the medai.   The plan has to do with cycling single file ('en peloton'), or organized, and informing the media about such (beforehand), as to cover.  Fei is worried about the Gov., etc.  Note, Fei, who I have grown to love as one of my 'Chinese daughters,' is emotional (like me).  Most of the time she is a 'blithe' creator, generally happy.  But, when she talks business she becomes very serious, even morose.

I'm in my sleeping bag by 1000 hours.

We have come 79KM, and are at 4400M ASL.
























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