Part 4 (PtMK):
190810 (This is certainly a Saga!)
I had a pretty good night, as it rained all night and the humidity helps breathing. People don't realize how dry Tibet is (because of the elevation), even during the summer monsoon.
I was up at 0545, and the first in the community tent. Zhang appeared shortly thereafter to get the fire going.
We were off at 0915, in the rain, on a bad road with much surface water.
We stopped for lunch after only 13KM, at 1130.
It was here, while having lunch, we got a message from TCITS (in Lhasa), this via Xutan. It seem Chris, Christophe, and Yoji, in some hassle with the PSB in Zhangmu (border between China and Nepal).
Fei and X.T., got 'into it,' and then sister Xuni took up for brother, yelling at Fei.
Then I got angry!
I had Xutan call and find out exactly what the problem was. Seems the leader of TCITS and the 'big military guy' got into it, all of this blamed on us (of course). TCITIS was to be fined 20K RMB / $3,000U.S. and Fei would lose her guiding icense. I didn't like hearing all this, as it was my decision to allow the boys to go without Fei/guide and permit. I thought, heck they're leaving, not entering China., I told Fei, trying to assuage her concern, that I would 'take the rap.'
Also, Nao (Thai woman wanting to join us.) called. By now I'd pretty much had it with Nao, as causing us so much trouble. She was suppose to join us, we'd made arrangements with the TCITS, paid the fee, then suddenly Nao with another group and driving to Mt. Kailas. I thought, whoa, thanks a lot after all we've done for you! I told Xutan, I don't want to know this woman!
After lunch we ended up in some heavy road construction (much the story of Tibet, the summer of 2010).
At a fork we'd asked some equipment operators which detour was best, but the constructed road looked more inviting. Note, in China, there is little help when it comes to road construction, either warnings, or directions. And in Tibet there was always many detours (on both sides of the road). So, which one to take, was always the decision (Xutan good at picking).
We decided to take our chances on the graded road they were paving. But, to get onto it, the bicycles had to be lifted one by one.
In the distance, to our right, the highest (in elevation) freshwater lake in China, maybe the world (name and elevation?).
Next, we're hit with a pelting hail storm.
Finally, at 1630 hours, after an arduous afternoon, I picked a campsite, all of wet to the bone.
After getting all the tents up we spent time cleaning our muddy bicycles.
But, now only 130KM from Saga -- In the middle of nowhere! I don't think I'd ever felt so 'out there!'
What a day of cycling! What a challenge!
It was raining when we got up, me at 0615, a little later than normal.
But, we were able to get off at the normal time, 0915.
We alternated between newly paved road, soft gravel, visqueen (sic) plastic on paved road, dirt, pushing through creeks, and many detours. Plus, the usual crazy traffic.
By 1100 we were back up in the mountains.
We stopped for lunch waiting for the slower ones.
Here we discover in another 20KM ANOTHER 5K PASS, I hadn't planned on!
Xutan and I start out on the 'paved' road, but I eventually opt for a dirt detour.
But, we get an overall view of the highest freshwater lake in the world (?), some 4400KM / 14,400ft. (same as Mt. Evans in Colorado). I can't remember the Chinese name, but it's on my map.
Then further the road turns into a creek and very difficult to manage. I have to get off and push several times.
I don't think tour-cycling gets anymore difficult than this, but maybe somewhere...
Finally, I reach the faster group waiting at a junction. We rest.
Onward we get lucky as the dongfeng (east wind) pushes us up the hill like we had an engine! I thank God!
At 47KM I start looking for a good campsite.
With the wind pushing I manage another 10KM, finding an excavated area to camp in (shelter from the wind).
We get everything up and are in our meeting when the downpour (with wind)
hits! Summer storms in Tibet are ferocious like no other! Serveral times the community ten almost swept away!
Xutan, Zhu and Zhang take the truck to find coal (fuel). Note, there's been no wood for hundreds of kilometers. There are no trees!
I'm so exhausted I fall asleep during Fei's nightly massage.
When there's a break in the rain, I head for my tent, but barely able to walk!
We've made something like 55KM, and under the most challenging conditions of the entire trip. Now, at 4500KM ASL / almost 15,000ft. ASL.
Saga, the next town now only one day (55KM) away, but over two 'hills.'
Today we managed our 5th 5K M pass!
I have a good night!
Up at 0545, I look out my tent to discover it's still dark and raining. Ugh! You don't want to get out of your warm sleeping bag, and sometimes I don't know how I managed. Some mornings I wanted to sleep forever!
But, the group's motto, 'WE WILL LET NOTHING STOP US!'
The first challenge the highway is flooded. We have to go far off to circumscribe, and this pushing though raw terrain. Finally, we're able to get back on the 'highway.'
The first 'hill' is relatively easy, but the next two passes almost impossible on a muddy track.
We can see the second pass some 20KM distance. But, first we must go down, and down we go too fast. Many in the group almost lose their gear. I don't know how 'Mr. Fetes,' or my Schwalbe tires can take it, but they do. Bjorn said once, 'Mr. Fetes almost indestructible!' And Schwalbe tires, the best!
Up the second pass I chant, 'Keep going! Keep going! Keep going!' I ask God to give me the strength to make it! Of course, James B. helps, as always with me! Note, I wear my friend James B. Feeney's helmet everywhere. It was given to me by his wife Barbara after he died (too prematurely of cancer). We have conversations when I'm 'out there' alone.
I make it to the top at 2;30P.M., I think... The girls, Fei and Xuni, follow. We rest, but then civilization (town of Saga) beckons (hot shower, hot food, etc.)! It's 20KM more, but basically downhill.
Halfway down Xuni passes me indicating a problem in the back. I've almost lost one of my rear panniers (going too fast on a rocky, bumpy road). I stop to reconnect it.
Finally, we're at the bridge crossing a wide river (name?). I'm totally spent! We rest for a few minutes, but with Saga only 3KM we're off again.
Saga is a typical Tibetan town, dusty, dirty, and basically unpleasant (packs of dogs roaming the streets, yaks, etc.). But, we're glad to be here, especially me as it has a hotel.
The hotel, however, expensive (300RMB per). I have Xutan try to find another, but no luck. I end up paying the 'freight,' but no hot shower. The hotel doesn't give a shit because this is 'high season,' 'take it or leave it.' Something like 300 Indians are coming on their way to Mt. Kailas. With the full moon only a day away, I picture 300 Indians in this hotel. Suddenly I erupt in laughter! 'Namaste!'
Note, we're still looking for crazy woman, Nao!
The following are my notes, as we decide to rest here one day:
Purchase honey, a mobile case,
Peng (one of the Chinese cyclists that stayed with us, a good guy!) sewing machine oil (for chain)
Camera store for battery
ming (screen) for my tea jar
Nao to bring from Lhasa:
Rear derailleur (I had nothing but trouble with my rear derailleur the entire trip!).
But, Nao can't find us, or is somewhere ahead in a bus.
I opt to move out of the hotel, as there's a camping ground, just north of town.
The others stay in their guest house.
But, what a campsite it turned out to be... Basically trashed.
But, as Tibetans are trashy, they are also helpful and generous with their time (helped get our wood stove going). I think they are fascinated with us.
The campsite, basically a patch of green next to a river is full to the bursting. I't because the commercial groups, like 'Gurkha Treks' (from Nepal) have many 'pilgrims,' in many tents.
There's a group from Italy.
And Indians everywhere!
I remember te morning we left the hotel we helped some Indian men carry an old women down to the lobby. I thought, how stupid to bring this woman to 4500M ASL.
It rained all night! I've never seen so much rain, and we were right in it!
But, by mid-morning it had lessened, however, and we were eating outside.
The Tibetans had returned, and I gave them 10RMB each. They then left, and returned with some meat (hooves). Maybe they thought I wanted. Zhu used the hooves (maybe sheep) in a potato dish he served that night.
We didn't depart until 1:40P.M. This after Shingo tried to adjust Mr. Fete's derailleur problem.
The road soggy from all the rain, we started out.! But, what a challenge, this pass. It wasn't the highest or the longest (to get to), but for me the most difficult (I shall never forget it).
The worse part it was all construction, so we slogged pushing our bikes through deep mud, dodging trucks! Try that some time, at 4700M ASL. Slippery, I fell several times, caked in mud! I started cursing! You get to a point where you don't fucking care!
Then it really rained on the way down!
I asked Xutan to go ask a Tibetan family (farm house) for shelter. I went ahead in the truck to look for a suitable campsite, but in 5KM, nothing so we returned to the Tibetan compound.
Oh, they were overwhelmed with this group, like if Martians landed in your neighborhood. But, too crazy for me. I opted to keep going. So, we head out again after warm tea, and feeling the fire.
We found one, a campsite, hear a rushing river, and I'm talking rushing. I almost lost Mr. Fetes, when I plunged him into the current wanting to get the mud out of the gears.
Fei washed my boots and gaiters.
It was here during our meeting that night that I revealed The Heart Stone (one of the holy objects for Mt Kailas).
I tried to explain that I'm on a spiritual quest! Maybe they understood.
Onward we go to Mt. Kailas, closer every day!
I slept well for a change, having a dream, atleast the feeling. I've had the most interesting dreams on this trip, but only remember a few. But, the feelings linger...
It's raining when we depart at 0930.
The highway a little better now, but millions of potholes filled with water.
They're constructing bridges for the new highway, so we have to negotiate, water, sometimes having to ford, pushing our bikes through. So times it's just a muddy depression, but dodging trucks, buses, who never yield It's all about money to them!
At one of the most daunting the 'loban,' ('forman') helps us. First he directs us to a plank 'bridge,' then his workers accompany us, sometimes, pushing it, sometimes carrying it. We try to thank the guy, as this is unusual! He declines any remuneration, my 'hero' of the day!
Xutan was a big help too, at one point carrying my bicycle up a hill.
We traverse at least six of these bridge construction sites. Note, we're one year early.
I notice a lone backerpacker, an 'anglo' woman walking on the road. I stop to inquire. Turns out she's Russian, and going to Mt. Kailas, amazing to me, so young and fearless! We invite her to join us, to ride in the truck. Waiting we have lunch. We discover she's studying Japanese, so Shingo and her have a good time.
We go on, her riding in the truck.
We camp early as everyone is tired from a difficult day. I'm the most exhausted I've been, and am concerned if I can make it -- so many days above 4K M.! I think of ways to lessen my load, like putting my gear on the truck, even riding in the truck (a wonderful fantasy)! To get there is important, not how.
Then the sun comes out cheering me up. Others are busy washing and trying to dry them. Usually, the wind, the dryness, and it doesn't take too long to dry even cotton. But, in Tibet in the summer, the weather changes in minutes. One minute you in the sun, the next it's snowing.
And the rain, I have to believe that this was the wettest summer in Western China on record (2010) -- I'd love to find out!
Thank God, for Fei, one of my two Chinese daughters on this trip. She was a huge help to me. In fact, without the groups help, particularly, Xutan, Fei and Xuni, I don't think I would have made it!
It rained in the night, of course. But, this helps me sleep as increases the humidity.
I'm up at 0545, and we're off at 0900
The highway is better, and even better I had energy. In fact, me and Xutan led the way for 2 hours, some 20KM. Then we took a lunch break, the other joining us one by one.
Over the hill is was down with brighter skies.
But then at a bridge construction site, the detour was basically a rushing river (we watched vehicles going through).
This stopped us for a couple hours, trying to figure out what to do.
I sent Elvis up stream, and Xutan down to check out possibilities.
The girls got a ride on a tanker truck, but not for me.
Finally, I let Xutan guide us across, a place we'd seen a motorbike cross. Zhang had also check this crossing out and said O.K.
But, we have to push, knee-deep in rushing water, across several 'tributaries' to finally get to dry ground.
On the west side, Zhang helped pull out a stalled vehicle (that didn't make it).
Onward the highway improved, and I thought we'd had the test of the day!
But, we had to ford another stream at another construction site, again completely wet: boots, socks. But, Mr. Fetes had a nice bath!
Cranking onward trying to make some distance yet another bridge construction site (3rd of the day). But, here workers helped us push across a plank bridge. In fact, one walked with me, another pushing Mt. Fetes. Such wonderful help from the common man. I tried to pay them, but of course they wouldn't accept anything.
By 4P.M., we were looking for a camping site, wanting to dry things out. And we ended up camped just beyond a village (to avoid dog-barking all night).
45KM, and at 4408 M ASL.
I had felt better, stronger this day! But, I'm never quite sure why, maybe sleeping finally...
And now we're only 500KM east of Mt. Kailas
I have a difficult night, hardly sleeping. This because it didn't rain very much, as the humidity helps me breathe.
We're on the highway by 0900. It's paved for the first time in hundreds of kilometers, thus fast.
After an hour we're going up again, this time to 4800M pass (Nothing to us by now.). There was the usual road construction, however, and in some places I had to walk/push.
I'm at the top of the pass in 3.5 hours, 31KM, Peng and Shingo there already.
I take a nap waiting for the others, but when they arrive (in an hour) we find out they taken a break for lunch already. Note, normally the fast ones wait for the slower ones, and we all have lunch at the top (of a pass).
While we were waiting two very fast Chinese cyclists pass, on their way to Kashgar (long, long way, maybe another 3K KM).
Then, with the group intact, it's 20KM down to a gate before a town. They're stopping motor vehicles because of the construction.
We circumscribe (ride around the problem) and camp 3KM beyond. Zhang had to drive the truck through open country.
I'm exhausted by the time I get there, but felt better after eating dinner. I'm amazed I can do this!
Now, we're 150KM beyond Saga, and closer to our goal, Mt. Kailas, and every day! I can feel it!
It's been such a long and challenging trip, but I expected such, but not one day... This on the way back ('stay tuned).
In spite of the fact it didn't rain (first time in a long time) I slept fairly well.
But, I didn't want to get up in the cold at 0545. Discipline, however, is important, and I have enough I guess, as I got up.
Off to a town at 0900, some 20KM distance.
This highway (#219) turns out good, and with no major obstacles.
We get to the junction of Zhongba, but the town is still another 15KM off the highway. To go, or not to go, that is the question. I decide we should check it out, as looking more Chinese (civilized) than Tibetan. Tibetans are wonderful people generally speaking, but not particularly organized or ambitious to turn Tibet into China. The Chinese, on the other hand, are diligently turning it into China! Thus, Chinese restaurants, and my preferred meal (mi fan + rice) and vegetables. In a Tibetan restaurant only a meat 'stew,' with butter tea.
We find a good Chinese restaurant and have an early lunch.
Then to a guest house Elvis has checked out.
At the G.H. I sit in a chair waiting for the manager (few people about).
Finally, we're shown a dark room, the rate going from 160 to 200RMB / $30U.S. It's the last room, as 70 military people checking into the hotel that evening. I envision much noise, no hot shower, all for 200RMB, and I decline. I'll go with Xutan and camp out.
I follow Xutan on my bicycle out northeast, threading through the squalor, up a slight rise and near the river.
I set up my tent nearby.
He and Zhang set up the community tent (even though we don't have the entire bunch with us).
Zhang departs and Xutan and I sit by the river, discussing all matter of things. He tells me about his father having a traffic accident, and how he hurt his leg. The river drifts by, the scene serene. My only concern about sleeping, the Tibetan dog barking all night problem...
Even though Zhu, our chef, has prepared something for me to eat, Xutan and I decide to return to the same restaurant for dinner.
Later, after more rice, we cycle back to sleep in our tents.
Note, generally speaking Chinese people don't like to camp out. Xutan does!
Also, I've learned the hard way, a clean tent/sleeping bag outside is better than a dirty bed inside.
Dogs kept me up in the night, and I don't get up until 0730. I am the first to start the fire in the community tent, however. Xutan arrives to help me. We get it going. He goes back to sleep.
I try to go back to sleep in my tent, but dry throat and breathing problems prevent such. Additionally, the water in my 'hot pot,' now cold.
I get up and sit by the wood stove in the community tent.
I don't see Xutan again until 1100A.M.
We cycle back into town to join the group for lunch.
We decide to stay in Zhongba and rest one full day (without cycling). We need hot showers, to shop, get online at a net bar, etc. before heading out again.
Everyone comes out to the campsite for a meeting that evening at 6P.M. Shingo arrives early and changes my brake pads. Then washes Mr. Fetes in the river. This guy is pure gold!
I'm crawling into my tent by 2100 hours ((9P.M.), but it's still light. I take one last look at the beautiful Himalaya in the distance, to the south of us. Beautiful!
Tomorrow onward to Kailas, now with better understanding...
Not a good night sleeping as had the dry-nostril congestion. And when you can't breathe easily you can't sleep easily. The syndrome is agonizing, as the more you don't sleep, the more tired in a situation that requires more energy than usual. Note, cycling in Tibet challenging for the older, and unfit. I was lucky as I had trained. Additionally, we had a support vehicle, and I carried less. Finally, I had much help from my two 'daughters' (Xuni and Fei), Xutan, Zhu, the entire group actually. I don't think I could have done the same without them!
Up at 0600 I discovered my Exped Venus II Extreme (expensive) tent had leaked and the contents of my backpack were wet. Oh, you have to be so careful for such during the rainy season (and boy did it 80% of the time on this entire trip -- don't talk to me of drought!). The wet contents of my backpack (passport, etc.), the work of demons again! Note, 'The Shambala Sutra.' But, 'we let nothing stop us!' And it didn't!
We were off again at the usual time 0900, and on a good (new) paved highway made good time, climbing at the end to a little pass, but where in the distance the source of the Yaliganghe River, a lake.
Here we stopped for our lunch (whatever we had). Note, Elvis was famous for distributing Tsampa (barley flour mixed with butter and tea). And Elvis was strong, maybe one of the strongest for his good diet.
I tried to get the girls off junk food, but had little success. Their youth made up for it.
After lunch we cranked through sand dunes (yes, western Tibet a high desert) to go over the 'real' pass, the second one of the day.
Then down to 4,450M ASL to camp. Note, good to camp as low as possible.
At this point, however, I could barely function. I even considered less or no weight on my bicycle.
We ended up on the side of a hill in the sun, but next to some kind of quarry. The highway below us, under the usual construction.
Note, I picked the wrong year to do this, as in 2011, the highway will be completed and paved, with bridges, all the way to Kailas. But, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!
We had cranked some 62KM in 8 hours almost an average of 8KMPH. Trust me, at this elevation, 8-10KMPH is good.
I recovered slightly after dinner (with 2 adrenal support tablets), and vowed to KEEP GOING!
I managed to get some sleep in spite of my stuffy nose.
I am up at 0545, feeling strong enough to go as normal (with weight).
We're off at 0900, our usual departing time, everyone together. Note, we always started out together, although the group dispersing, some fast, some slow only to meet up later.
The highway now is basically good, but with patches of either mud or soft sand (construction). Since Saga, however, it's been mostly paved (asphalt).
The sun shone through partly cloudy skies, and we sailed along with help from the wind.
Xutan caught up to me and we were the first to stop of lunch (but here too many mosquitoes). Xutan lit a dry branch on fire, and up wind so the smoke would discourage the mosquitoes. This worked to a degree, but with us having to breathe such as well. Ah, no perfect solution in Duality. And if there is, it's only temporary.
We had come 44KM in 3 hours, for some kind of record KMPH.
After eating onward again, and another 26KM for a total of 70KM (before we stopped at 130P.M.). This another record of sorts. And this turned out to be maybe the best cycling day of the trip. Why? The road good, little traffic nee dust, the weather, and the view of the Himalaya to the South, all added up to a very good day, even a good camping location next to a river.
We prepared a written note (Chinese and English), about us, and our trip, sealed it into a bottle. Xuni got the honors of throwing it into the river. I remember so well this place, literally in the middle of nowhere! We are hoping that someday, somewhere the bottle is retrieved and the note read. Maybe even an email message explaining where and who.
Tomorrow the last 5K ASL (5280M) pass before Kailas. This will be the 6th we've had to crank over.
In my sleeping bag by 8P.M., I had to endure the sound of a local engine (electric generator) as the road construction crews know no regular schedule -- but, finally at 1000 they stopped for the day. There were also the usual dogs barking. You can't escape noise in China! You can't escape dogs (barking all night) in Tibet!
I'm up at 0545, however -- I'm like a machine, a Timex watch, I just keep 'ticking!'
It hadn't rained so things (our tents) were dry (note, this speeds of the time preparing to depart).
I had a bit of a fit when I put my tea jar too close to our stove (in the community tent), and it melted (from the heat of the stove)! I was angry at my own stupidity. Then my nose started to bleed! What to do? Just keep going! Just keep going! Just keep going!
We're off at 0845 on a horrible gravel-rocky surface! It ended in a short time, but returned later.
We climbed up to the big 5200K M pass, but this time the pass felt like a 'hill,' so strong we are at this point. Amazing how things get easier (if you just keep training, going, trying, etc.). I remember the first high pass in Sichuan Province, and how difficult (two days) that was to get over!
Note, climbing over passes also has to do with the elevation gain within so many kilometers. Now, nearing Kailas we're sleeping so high (near 5K ASL), we only have to climb 200 to 500 M. When, way back when, that first one in Sichuan, the elevation gain was something like 3,500M.
What a trip, my 'Pilgrimage to Mt. Kaias,' this was, one in a life time! I shall never forget it!
At the top, it was so warm in the sun, we took a nap waiting for the others.
Down another 15KM, we stopped at 50 for the day (and by 3P.M.)
But, guess what...? we were fooled again... We got news the BIG PASS (5,200M ASL) still another 20KM and up a bad road!
It's not only the physical, but the mental you have to deal with on a trip like this. The mind follows the body! Mental strength more important than physical. I took 6 adrenal support tablets! Fuck it! I told myself, it doesn't matter! We'll get there no matter what! We let nothing stop us!'
Eating my dinner outside, I'm watched by a Tibetan mother and son. They're amazed as Fei massages my old body (back to life).
I'm sure we were like a traveling 'circus' to the Tibetans, as they hadn't seen these kinds of 'acts' before!
(A new month, September.). I had planned us to be at Kailas during September, and on schedule... Much later at Kailas and it's too cold (even snow) as you climb over a 5,600M pass on the northeast 'corner').
Rain, rain, and just as soon as I was in my tent. But, the moisture, the humidity helped my breathing and I was able to sleep.
Up at 0530, always the 'leader' demonstrating I CAN!
Off at 0900, on a bad road (construction), and a military check point where we have to submit documents, passports, IDs, etc. -- and wait of course! I have two words for the Chinese Government, and you might guess what they are! We are finally 'approved,' (thanks to Fei and Xutan) and can go, now on more bad road.
Finally, however, some pavement and the HIGH pass in the distance. I remember this clearly, as didn't look that difficult (again, the elevation gain not so dramatic).
The boys leaped ahead, and cranked out of sight (so motivated to get over and to Kailas).
I struggle to the top, but get there finally -- YOU HAVE NO IDEA OF THE FEELING OF 'TRIUMPH' WHEN YOU RIDE TO THE TOP OF ONE! SUDDENLY YOU'RE 'KING KONG,' AND CAN DO ANYTHING!. THE PLAQUE READS '5,280M' ASL (over three miles above sea level), the sixth and highest mountain pass of the entire trip! But, not the most difficult!
We wait 45 minutes for the girls to reach the top. They, however, don't seem to need to rest when they arrive so we start down... And into a valley with a lake.
Exhausted, I pick a campsite next to a rushing creek. With the sun out everyone bathes or washes clothes. It's been a long time since 'civilization' and a public hot shower.
I'm slow to recover, barely able to walk. But, with food and adrenal pills I manage yet another day. It's amazing what the body can do, no matter what age, when you put you mind to it! It's true what Addidas' motto is, 'Nothing is impossible!' We prevent ourselves for whatever reason for really living!
We have our usual meeting after dinner.
Now, it's only 140KM to Mt. Kailas, our goal. We've been on the road for 130 days, cycling 80 of them. People are excited.
Tomorrow, more of the same but this 'banquet' coming to a close.
I didn't sleep very well, but nothing new here. It proves the body needs little sleep to function well. Although I'm exhausted when we quit (camp at night), but I've somehow managed to keep going!
Fei's 'massagi,' as she calls it, now includes a 'Vick's like" rub (with mentholatum she rubs into my head (my sinuses) and it helps. Again, I don't think I could have made it all the way without the help from everyone in this group.
This breathing problem has been a challenge, trying to figure out how to deal with, the causes, etc. Needless to say, in my case both physical and mental. Maybe I just like to torture myself. Certainly you have to be a Masochist to do this kind of thing at 70-years of age!
The storm at night mostly wind, little rain, thus I could hear the the creek (a soothing sound).
I got up at 0550, and had a rice-peanut breakfast.
The sun shone, it's rays brightening the morning up, drying our tents, our clothing. Note, in the mountains there's usually some kind of moisture left when night changes into day. I delay departing until 1000.
The weather and the road are good so we manage 31KM in 2.5 hours.
Onward to a village named 'Hor-something' (I never get them right.).
By 4P.M. we have gone 59KM camping out near a river (always near a river 90% of the time).
I had enough energy to help Fei put up my tent. The adrenal support tablets helping me.
We have an early dinner but a long meeting afterwards. It rains, then hail, then wind, but we are undaunted as have been through this so many times before! We now have experience! The tent is now set up properly, and strong against the wind.
Also, we're now only something like 10KM from this of village 'Hor,' and the holy lake, Manosovorar. Mt. Kailas can't be far!
We've finally arrived within 'striking distance' in 127 days total, 80 of them cycling -- and all above 2,500M ASL. That's the killer, so long at high elevation.
We take a rest day as find out, from the local workmen, we're 36KM east of Manosovarar Lake not 10. I know it's better to go slow at the top, and not get too anxious rushing to the 'finish line.' Now's the time to take it slowly and carefully. We've come this far, what's another day out of 140!
I put my folding chair out on the bank of the river, wanting to 'OM,' with the river. I'm in the midst of this meditation when I heard and then see a backhoe coming straight for me right in the middle of the river.
He stops right beside me, offers me a cigarette (custom between men in China). He's curious about us. Luckily, Xutan is there to explain.
Then the guy climbs aboard and drives off again, and right in the river. One of the stranger things that happen to me on this long and arduous cycling adventure, the backhoe guy offering me a cigarette... Well, why not I was sitting by the river he was driving through.
Of course, they're laying a pipeline, and now using backhoes instead of 1,000 people with shovels, hoes and picks.
Later I sit by our stove while Ffei massages me, from head to toe (taking at least one hour and every evening, and only missed a few). I think she made it possible for me to sleep better, thus able to continue everyday... Such a sweetheart! Xuni, too!
I watch as Chinese people hand roll, draw, and cook noodles. Amazing to me, way out in the middle of nowhere, in the Land of Nowhere!
You would think we'd be chanting OM MANI PADME AUM!'
I think by now we were all slightly crazy to get there, and have it end. Sometimes, it takes great patience to do what's necessary to get there (at all), like waiting (while knocking at the door).
It rained in the night, and continued into the morning.
We finally went by 1000 having to negotiate some challenging road construction for 3KM. At one point we had to push walk through a maze, Xutan leading. Part of the gauntlet on the way to Kang Rinpoche!
Then things got better progressively the closer we got to the holy Lake.
We took a picture a view site, the group all smiling!
First through the village of 'Hors...' something, over a detour bridge, and finally on some pavement (new road).
The mountains to the right of us or north are a part of the range that Mt. Kailas dominates. There are so many mountains in China! I always imagine what it's like up there (I'm drawn to mountains!).
At Baga there's a fork in the road. The left sourh (to Purang), the right, west to Tarchen/Mt. Kailas.
We weren't going to Mt. Kailas, before the Lake. So, we had lunch, our own food, in a Tibetan 'restaurant.' Hard to know what to call the Tibetan place of food and drink.
Afterwards we headed south, and up over a pass (not much trouble for us, but a pass nonetheless). Over the top I stopped and glimpsed what I thought was Kailas to the northwest. We stopped all the others to point at least in the right direction.
We would get there in several days, going out of our minds with anticipation!
Down the hill, and then the beach with the Monastery on the hill, someone had told us about (as a good place to camp). A resort of sorts, as many hotel rooms, cabins, hot springs, etc. available). Eventually, we did the 'hot springs,' but expensive at 100RMB each.
Just as we were erecting our tents on the 'beach' a squall struck and much yelling and screaming orders. Xutan, Elvis, and Zhang usually 'in charge' of this task. With the help of all, including me sometimes. The girls worked as hard as the boys, we'd become a team.
We adopted a camp dog, as old and fighting off the rest. These are the large Tibetan Mastiffs, and formidable animals. I, however, are not afraid of any dog, save a pit bull, made friends. They come for food of course, but shy as been abused mostly by Chinese people.
Elvis hiked up the hill to the highway to enjoy the sunset (maybe a clearer glimpse of Kailas). While he was there he met another Chinese cyclist named, Kai from Kunming. He joined us for dinner and ended up meeting us in Tarchen (later). There he got a job at the Volunteer Camp Ground (where we were camped in their parking lot). I'm always amazed about such, how things happened in China. I remember him, turned out to be a good guy.
We were blessed with a rainbow over the Lake at sunset (pictures at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/
A rest day for us, camped at the edge of this, the holiest of Lakes (maybe in the world). But, from a rocky/sandy bluff you were quickly in a quagmire as swamp 100M before the actually lake. So, some doing in getting out there.
I remember recording Fei doing her dance on the edge. Fei, a very spiritual person, most of the others didn't understand (now in Kenya, Africa). One of my best Chinese 'daughters.'
The boys, Xutan, Zhu, Shingo, and Kai go along. It's atleast 100KM around, and the kind of thing youth does without thinking enough about it. Later, we discover the road ran out, they ended up in a rain storm, they then cranked west and to Tarchen (couldn't wait to find out about Kailas).
I was unhappy that they had gone ahead. I wanted everyone to arrive at the same time, in a day or two.
We had business south in Purang, and needed an entire day, even in the truck, to get there and back before too late.
Fei swims in the Lake.
I sit in the community tent looking out at the Gurla Mandhote, 7.7K M peak in the distance.
I listen to Chinese banter.
I prepare to deliver our gifts to Mt. Kailas.
What has it been like getting here, this far? I ask myself. Daunting, exhilerating, challenging, the trip of a lifetime, my 'Pilgrimage to Mt. Kailas.'
This morning I went to the edge of the Lake washing my hands of all misgivings!
I have learned the lesson of compassion. This all men must learn (if to become a knight in Western mythology).
I have struggled to overcome my negative nature, learning much from my Chinese colleagues (most always in a good mood).
This the challenge of a lifetime, overcoming the Ego! The, 'I want!'
Most people never take the opportunity that life presents them with... Consciousness! Potential! Imagine that, said John Lennon. 'But, I'm not the only 'won!'
I must prefect myself first, this trip, with all its challenges helpful in that regard!
All the others, more mature, more capable with more confidence! Certainly our girls!
We're here after 4 months on the road, 80 of them cycling an average of 56KM per day at an average elevation of something like, 3,500M ASL. Lhasa is at 3,600M ASL.
We let nothing stop us! Not the Chinese Government! Not high mountain passes! Not, rivers we had to forge! Not the cold, or rain, nor mud, nor wind! Not, storms, not anything Nature had to bring! We just kept going! Not all the construction! Not the demons, nothing! Not barking dogs! Not loud talking, music-playing Tibetans! Not the Chinese Army Military Truck convoys (Fei always saluted).
We just kept going!
We are only 40KM from Mt. Kailas!
It hits me!
It's taken, not 140 days, but five years for me to get here, and with much effort (expense, etc.). What a trip, beginning in Colorado Springs, January of 2005!
I fall on my knees and beg Mt. Kailas for compassion! To receive us with favor, and to allow us to 'kora,' safely.
What is life all about?
To live is to act, and acts have consequences. Some times positive, sometimes negative the interplay of opposites, a la Taoism (yin and yang).
The goal maybe, to evolve (develop) your full potential (consciousness).
Beyond that what can we 'no?' It's not the 'knowing' that's important, but having the potential to imagine!
We drove to Purang, where the Government is that controls access to Mt. Kailas. Xutan is going to plead our case, just like he did for Mt. Everest. Essentially, that I, an old man, has cycled all the way and should be allowed in for free!
By the drive down, sitting in a motor vehicle, both good and bad. I was able to partake of the mountains, as they played with us, not sure they would show their peaks, maybe because we weren't ready, or evolved enough.
We drove by the 'other holy Lake,' too. It even more beautiful than Manosovarar, its neighbor (siightly north east).
I took many pictures now online at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/
There was a stunningly different shaped mountain, right in front of us. A square flat top (peak). I've never seen anything like it before, any where.
Then there's the 7.7K M peak, that dominates the region (technically in India), (name?). People try to summit this mountain.
We arrive in a lovely little town, with much commercial influence from India (close neighbor to the south). Many Indian shops, good, food.
We eat in a Chinese restaurant waiting for the Government to decide.
We walk around and shop. I remember I was looking for something I needed for the trek around Kailas.
One of the Chinese guys had wanted to come with us, by Zhang said no because of the police. Surprise of surprises, however, he shows up on his bicycle. Note, it's at least 100KM, but luckily downhill. I can't imagine the trip back up on a bicycle!
We got the word that we have to pay (buy a ticket for Kailas). The reason... It's their only revenue stream, and it supports the entire town (translated, we ain't giving up anything we get). Xutan assures me he'll find another way! I can't afford to pay for everyone, totaling something like 2K RMB, or $300U.S.
The ride back, up and up, in the late afternoon sun giving us the peaks (on the ritht - east) denied in the morning.
This, of all the areas I've been in western China has the most interesting mountains (south and west of Manosovarar). Well, think about it, Kailas, just to the north.
This is holy ground, this path, as thousands of Indians have walked all the way from India to do 'kora' at Kailas.
We get some good views of Kailas, now revealed in the distance. We stop and take pictures.
Tomorrow, we cycle there!
I have a good night's rest. There was wind, but little rain.
I slept late 0745, awakened with Zhang starting the fire in the stove.
I was the fifth one in the community tent, behind Xutan, Zhu, and Fei.
The weather was overcast, dismay in appearance.
We sat in the tent, many preparing their lunch, as some 45K KM to Tarchen, and then we don't know what's there exactly.
Xutan has made a connection with the Chinese leader of Volunteer Tibetan place, and the plan is to go there.
In the meantime, Zhu and Xutan off to the hot springs.
We don't get off until 2:30P.M.
We're at Baga at 4P.M., but we have to wait. Xutan's plan has to do with going through the gate during a certain time, when guards are eating, gone home, etc.
At 5 we head west. In the beginning the weather was O.K., then we get hit with TWO, not just one, but TWO rain storms, hard in our faces!
We're all drenched, but the storms help us through the gate, as the office is abandoned. I'm thinking I just saved 1900RMB / $275U.S.
We crank into the Volunteer compound (first sign on the right just entering the town). It's 7P.M., and we're wet, cold, and hungry! We're warmly greeted by a woman I guess is the 'manager.' The 'big guy,' (that Xutan knows) not there today.
We're allowed in to get warm and dry, but ultimately select the southwest corner to set up all our tents. Some will pay for a bed.
Here our camping ground is real dirt, surrounded by a high fence.
I think we're here! But, where?
Tarchen is the village that's sprung up to serve tourists circumambulating Mt. Kailas.
You can purchase most things here, at least the basics, but expensive.
We find a Chinese restaurant, and have a good dinner.
One thing you must do with a group like this, cycling, consuming so many calores. You've got to feed them! And much!
After dinner and back at our tent complex we're giving a PP orientation about Mt. Kailas. I am amazed, at professionalism of the presentation. Now, we know roughly what's in store for us.
A ask Xutan to hire a yak, or porters to carry some of my stuff (possibly the girls).
I'm in my sleeping bag by 11P.M. (very late for me).
I have nose congestion and only slept four hours (from 11 to 0300). But my watch is malfunctioning, so I'm not sure exactly, might have been a dream.
A trauma besets Fei. Something about her brother back home, and her mother needs her to go to Monastery, and make an offering. I don't quite understand as she wants to go by herself in the morning... I try to talk her into delaying, but she's gone by 0830. I admire her on one hand, and am a little disappointed on the other. But, people must do what they think is best, etc. I'm worried about her safety!
We have a leisurely morning, then lunch at the Chinese restaurant.
After lunch we wander around, looking in shops for whatever we don't know.
We're back at our tent complex by 3P.M., these to meet two possible porters.
I'm considering taking a hot shower, at the public shower store.
Xutan is cooking dinner.
The two Tibetan boys, recommended by the 'loban' (name?) are young and seem unqualified. They want 150RMB per. I tell them 100RMB per. They will think about it. We should have gone to 'Rent a Yak!' but trying to do the 'loban' a favor. No good turn goes unpunished! They lasted one day.
The 'loban,' by the way from Beiing, has been around the mountain 56X in 6 years!
He says Guatama Shakuman (Lord Buddha) taught here, that's why the mountain is venerated. I'd been asking this question... 'Why Mt. Kailas, because of the way it looks? Some power? Some saint slept in one of its caves, etc.? There's always a reason, why something is venerated, and people come to pay their respects. I had come to offer two holy objects, but wasn't sure where and how to do this.
We launch our 'kora,' but it isn't easy, as no one seems to know about the trail. It's so obvious, no local concerned. Note, there are several in the beginning, to many later, to one at the pass. No trail maintenance here for our 200RMB per. Then again, we didn't pay (and this caused us trouble later: karma).
I lead the way. But, we haven't walked too far when Xutan realizes he's left his holy objects back in his tent. He rushes off to retrieve them.
The first rest stop, a garbage dump of sorts. I'm shocked at how trashed the mountain is! Imagine, the most holy mountain in the world, a garbage dump!
Onward and a Buddhist flag tree, huge, as having been hanging for hundreds of years. To the right some kind of modern buildings. We take a group picture.
I lead the group up the wrong hill, and we have to descend steeply to the trail.
Then it opens to a vast plain.
It starts to rain again.
By the time I get of the commercial settlement (2, 3 tent restaurants for the tourists), I"m exhausted. I end up in one tent, the Tibetan boy porters in another.
Others in our group arrive. They go to the yet other tent (where they can get noodles).
We eat, drink hot tea. It's a nice respite.
We take off, and the sun comes out. It turns out to be a nice afternoon.
In this canyon/valley, stunning cliffs and waterfalls. I take pictures in the sun.
The group arrives, and I point to the ground. This is where we camp the first night.
This on a grassy flat, that was once the river. It trickles on both sides of us.
Xutan arrives having finally caught up.
The Tibetan porters go home. Imagine, a 60KM trek as a porter carrying some weight. Wouldn't you plan ahead and camp out with the group? Not these boys, they were going to walk back to Tarchen every night and return in the mornings! It made no sense to me. Trouble on the first day doesn't portend well.
I have Xutan go ask the nearby Yak herder if he'd like to rent us a Yak for the trip. But, then comes back something about having to go all the way back to Tarchen to get a license. More Tibetan craziness! More Shambhala demons!
I finally get into my tent as it gets dark.
In the night, herds of sheep trample my tent! I shoo them away.
I'm also concerned about the Yaks.
But, somewhere in the night I doze off...
We get up in a cold shadow, and the east cliff (mountain) blocks the sun until much later.
We depart after breakfast. Somehow I'm way ahead... But, at this elevation, at least 4K M ASL, it's not easy (for me at least).
But, I finally get to a commercial tent area, and relax waiting for the group to arrive. Here you can get just about anything, including a night with a 'whore' (just kidding). But, I will say this, the spiritual 'kora,' has gone commercial, with MacDonalds coming next, maybe a Starbucks!
The CCP is the most capitalistic group in the world! Mao is dead! His ideas gone with Dong Xi Ping who said, 'I can bring you prosperity. Or, I can bring you famine! What would you like?' So now, everyone in China wants to own an automobile! Bicycles less and less, except the young boys who cycle to Lhasa (from Chengdu).
I see 'THE MOUNTAIN,' up close and personal for the first time. It looms above us, seemingly so close. Mt. Kailas. Kang Rinpoche, the home of Shiva, God of procreation, fertiilty, and creation! It's all the home of Chakrashambava (Lord of the Tantra), and Demchod, all blue compassion!
But, we had to walk.
Along about here, the trail turns east as we're on the north side now. And always a river to follow.
Halfway to somewhere there's a sign than indicates the Monastery over the bridge to the left. We debate about what to do. The group votes to head for the Monastery --- and ultimately a wise choice, as the view from their the best of all 360 degrees. This is a photo op!
Fei has been here (Remember she left one day early to do Puja for her brother?). So, she knows the people and the 'drill.' I found the Tibetan people here preoccupied and not very good innkeepers (guest house separate from the Monastery). Most of us pitched our tents and camped out in the shadow of the Mountain.
I tied Bjorn's prayer flags on a holy rock. Chanted his name.
Fei came to help me with my tent (sweet, sweet, child)!
I watched as the sun sunk behind the range to the west. This part of China all mountains! And once the sun goes the temperatures plunge!
We where maybe one-third of the way, but in awe of the surroundings. This is truly a rare atmosphere charged by the north face of Kailas (a sheer vertical face of ice and snow). Maybe Rheingold Messner could climb it, but few others.
It started to get cold, so I retreated into my tent.
We were finally there, on the very 'shoulders' of Mt. Kailas.
110910 (the day of delivery, a day of offering)
I forget about the morning. I think the grazing yaks woke me up, their bells still echoing in my mind.
We were off, at a reasonable time (I forget exactly), but the group splintered immediately. I followed Fei, and was glad I did, as we went up a trail. The others, led by Zhang went cross country, and I think it cost them.
Fei and I were 'up there,' first, and having to climb a ridge. Two Tibetan guides came down with horses.
In the distance, the glacier mentioned on the map. This on the north east side of Kailas. I remember a trail on the map going up to it. I had thought this might be the place to make the offering. But, thank God I didn't as what we faced, well, we didn't know about at the time.
Over the ridge a relatively flat terrace, we head directly north. I'm trying to figure out if the trail goes left (more gradual), or right, up the sheer face of a cliff. And then the bad news, yep, it goes up the steep face to the right.
I had to stop every ten steps, catch my breath, let my heart rate come down before going on. Fei, of course, young and strong leading.
Near the top of the pass (5,600M ASL) it becomes a 'sea of prayer flags!' I've never seen so many in one place anywhere in Tibetan or Asia. This is the place to tender 'Uncle Joy,' and 'The Heart Stone,' our offering to the Mountain. But, where exactly?
Xutan arrives, and the others one by one. Zhang, goes back to help someone, a kind gesture. Maybe Elvis, maybe Xuni. But, Xuni now very strong! I think it was Elvis that was having trouble.
We're there on the pass maybe one hour. It's surprisingly warm and clear, people enjoying the respite, liquid, something to eat, pictures to take, and flags to tie. Everyone makes some kind of gesture to the mountain, Xutan with his holy objects.
I place The Heart Stone (carried with me around the world) and 'Uncle Joy' (from Lijiang) on a flat rock facing Kailas. I chant people's names. I chant the chant of OM, the two I know, and I pray that we return safely to wherever we're going. When I walk away I'm filled with concern about my 'babies!' Will they be all right up here! Will I ever see them again? Probably not! It's an emotional moment, parting such sweet sorrow!
And worse! Later, going down the group suddenly becomes sullen and difficult to deal with. One wants to go this way, the others that way. I get angry and tell them to lead. Some have to rush down, as easier. I let them go, Mr. Pong In particular. Later, he apologizes, and rejoins us. Some temporary craziness! Maybe the Shambala demons?
The trail going down to the river valley (east side of Kailas) is steep and treacherous.
But, at the bottom the standard set of commercial tents offering food and drink. I end up buying a 'hot pot' ('Thermos') from them (which I still covet).
Then on, through a morass of water, swamp-like in some places, and making it very difficult to get through. All this from too much rain.
Finally, a hill with a Tibetan already camped, and we join them.
This was our third night camping out around the mountain.
Fei came and helped me with my tent. I was my usual state of exhaustion!
And, I think it rained.
All the time raining on this trip, when I got back learned that this summer the wettest on record for a long time. Just our 'luck,' we chose 2010, to do this, the theme of which turned out to be, 'construction and rain!' Then again, what 'price' Kailas, and to complete my Pilgrimage!
If you can crank a more difficult tour cycling trip, please let me know. I'll send the younger ones!
120910 (back to Tarchen)
Even thought it was something like 20KM, Fei and I are determined to make it back to Tarchen today!
But, my God, the trekking, almost impossible, jumping water, wading through streams, sloshing through mud. Trying to pick the right track or trail as, if there's one, there's 20! This is what I would complain about to the Gov. in Purang. Where does the money go? Certainly not used to improve conditions trekking around Kailas. In fact, I don't ever remember a trekking trip, and I've done many, as difficult as this. Maybe going around Mt. Adams with my ex-wife Gail...?
The trail, although easier and easier on the south side, seemed endless. Finally, we could see the buildings of Tarchen in the distance! I could taste the Chinese food in my mouth, however, and such is a great motivator!
'Out there,' you play mind games, promising yourself 'goodies,' when you get somewhere. It somehow compensates for all the pain, a piece of pie, a beer, food, and lots of it! A hot shower. A warm sleeping bag. Simple needs are satisfied simply!
They all returned, but Fei and I were sitting in the Chinese restaurant having dinner when we saw them. She rushed out to invite them to join us, which some did, while others wanted to dump their (my) gear.
I haven't told you that when we fired the Tibetan boys, and couldn't 'rent a yak,' the group took on carrying my shit! Think about that, and without a grumble! They divided it up, and carried mine as well as their.
This was the best group you could ever have on a trip like this. We had almost no trouble, except some petty arguments, some emotion spilling over. I remember crying openly in front of the group twice. Once because I was afraid I was going to have to quit, and leave them. Or, at least ride in the truck. The other time, just some incredible emotion welling up, as I blessed them with, 'and, may God hold you in the palm of his hands!'
These are my children! And, all the children are mine!
We had done it, and there was much celebration at dinner that night!
We spent the day, taking care of gear, hot showers, eating, and of course, fantasizing about returning to Lhasa ('civilization'). We'd been on the road something like 140 days (20 days short of four months). It was time to go home!
We took the usual group picture with the Chinese leader, his female assistant, and Kai, now working there.
I didn't give a shit if the dogs barked all night or not, I'd sleep in the truck (a fantasy for the past one month). Sometimes, a motor vehicle can save your ass (I acknowledge!).
And then the demons struck with the force of Zeus! I never had such an unpleasant day in my entire life, than that first day riding back in the truck. I shall never forget this day, as it lives in infamy! For nearly four months on bicycles hardly any big problems. One day in a motor vehicle and the world goes to shit. It was something like 15 hours of hell!
First, because we hadn't paid (not on some list) they weren't going to let us out! We had to sit there for one hour while Xutan solved the problem. But, that was the beginning of a series of events, I need to make a movie about!
Zhu, Peng, and Xuni had opted to ride, as no room in the truck. Now, I wish I had, as it would have been more pleasurable!
People think pushing a heavy bicycle ten hours a day, some kind of feat! Sitting in a motor vehicle, like a bus, airplane, etc., is a feat for me! I'll take a bicycle anywhere, anytime, for whatever distance. But, you can't be in a hurry on a bicycle! Nor, can you ride it over the oceans. So, sometimes we are forced, for whatever reason, to use the motor vehicle.
We were that day!
Second thing of major significance. Zhang drove on some fresh asphalt, and pissed off the military leader. But that wasn't the worst of it. When he frantically motioned to get out of there, maybe the accident was my fault. Zhang was going to turn around, but I told him just to back up. And BACK UP we did headon into one of their trucks, damaging both. I was shocked from the collision! How possible? Zhang not looking out of both mirrors, only one.. Well, now the military leader really pissed off! Several times one of his workers tried to grab the key out of the ignition, from preventing us from leaving. But, I'd been too quick, and had them hidden. Needless to go into details, but I had to pay 1,500RMB or $200U.S. on the spot, or I suppose we'd still be there!
Next, another river to ford, one of maybe twenty without a problem. But, this one, or Lord had I known... Here we yelled to 'gun it,' and we 'blasted' through, I remember water coming up over the hood.
Then up an embankment and onto the road.
First, the more local gerdarmes, didn't want us to drive the road, although fortunately they relented.
So, we took off... I began smelling what I thought was the heater on. Turned out the engine was burning up, as water had gotten into the cylinders via the air intact. Of course, we didn't know all of this at the time.
Finally, the engine died and we couldn't restart. Several of us, walked a kilometer to a nearby farm to get water, but nothing helped. It wasn't going to start. And here we are out in the middle of nowhere, in the afternoon.
First thing, Xutan flagged down a vehicle and asked if they would tow us. This man wanted some incredible price to the next town, and I said 'no!' In fact, almost got into a fight with this guy!
Second motor vehicle agreed, and off we went jerking and stopping, and starting, and jerking along. The driver stopped at one point and said too much for his vehicle.
Now, stranded again, Xu tan, and thank God for him, went looking for a truck (many construction trucks).
He found one, but they didn't want to, nor was money an issue. Then Xutan, after consulting with me, told them an 'old laowei,' was ill and needed to get to this town (and a hospital). That worked.
So, we were 'jerked off again,' Zhang never understanding, or inept at, keep the cable tight with the brake. And this powerful truck, when it jerked we might have all had 'whiplash!' This went on for hours, it getting dark. Fei held me in her arms. We held each other. It was torture.
Finally, we learn that they want to stop to eat something, so we pull into a Tibetan village.
Me, having to play 'ill,' stayed in my seat. Fei, and the others went off somewhere to eat, but she told me she'd return with something. Gad, I must have waited one hour in the cold, not knowing, getting angrier, and angrier! She did return finally with a bowl of noodles (standard Tibetan fare). It was warm and actually pretty good. But, I was in the midst of a spoon full with the truck jerked us forward, and my entire dinner went all over me! SCREAMING! ZHANG, WHAT THE FUCK! STOP! DAMN! AND ALL THE REST! I was in no mood for such a fuck up! He hadn't told me that we'd be off soon, and to be careful. But, of course, he can't speak English.
On and on we go through the night, at one point the cable breaking, the tow truck not knowing they'd lost us! Think about it, in the dark, in the middle of Tibetan, stuck, with no truck/people, and no traffic. Amazingly, they returned having realized. Although I had sent Xutan yelling and screaming, running after them.
Onward, our bodies now used to being jerked about. Zhang's, grim facial expression told the story. He wouldn't talk, as must have been embarrassed having caused some of this!
We ended this incredibly torturous day at 0100 in the morning with us pushing our truck (the cable broke and they didn't return) into the town, and to a guest house. I was so much in 'shock,' from all lthat had happened this day, I could barely function.
But, I'll never forget getting into bed, snug and secure finally, all taken care of.
But, this day from hell I shall never forget! Note, we cycled some 80+days, and without much in the way of trouble. Then, the first day riding back to Lhasa in our truck, all hell breaks loose!
And it didn't end there...
The next day we went immediately to a garage, hoping for the best! But, the demons continued making things as difficult as possible. The people at the garage told us they couldn't repair such, and we'd have to get the truck to Lhasa somehow. They can find a truck, but will cost much money. Ah, the good news, then the bad news.
So, Xu tan and I went looking for a truck/driver that would carry ours from this Tibetan Village, all the way to Lhasa, over 1,000KM.
We went to our Chinese restaurant for lunch. Afterwards, I asked Xutan to ask the cook/owner if they knew of a truck and driver? They one they recommended turned out to be the same one the garage recommended, a guy that hauls vegetables from Lhasa. So, really only one choice.
We meet him and agree on a price, 5,000RMB / $600U.S., and we depart tomorrow.
That night they loaded our truck onto theirs. 'Theirs,' a huge diesel Dong Feng truck, the standard one used to haul many different things. You see them all over China.
We departwd in the A.M., some of our group, Fei, Zhu, and Shingo riding in our truck, Xutan and I up front in the cab with the driver (and his alternate driver, sleeping just behind). The plan was to drive straight through, no stopping to sleep.
I remember falling asleep at some point after dark, then stopping to eat dinner at 12 Midnight. I got out and joined them, but half groggy, like jumping from one 'movie' to another.
In the morning he (Mr. Foo by name) stopped on the outskirts of Shigatsze (second largest City in Tibet). He ordered all the others (Fei, Zhu, and Shingo) out, as from here on in to Lhasa, too many police checking (and riders illegal). They are to take the bus and meet us in Lhasa.
Onward, but not very far before we're stuck in an incredible construction mess, the line as long as I could count. Some truck, on a narrow detour, went to close to the bank, tipped over on its side, and is now blocking everything in both directions. We ended up sitting there for 3 hours, until they managed to solve the problem.
Later, as we approached Lhasa, things seemed to mellow out a bit. Although, not for Mr. Foo who lied to the police at a check point and was caught 'red handed' (extra person/driver caught under blanket)! Later he paid a fine for such stupidity.
We managed Lhasa City, at twilight, the trip so far taking something like 36 hours.
First problem, however, finding the garage that we'd selected to do the work. Finally, after the usual 'cluster fuck' (Chinese fire drill) we did find it. But, not before the usual many mobile calls.!
Even more amazing, suddenly there was a crane/truck, to lift our truck off the big one. All this happening before I could say 'no!' And what did we pay for this service, something like 500RMB / $75U.S.
I was so completely relieved when we pushed our wounded Beijing Jeep truck inside their garage and they closed the door. We'd sort out whatever, tomorrow.
Finally, Xutan and I make it to the Sunrise Hotel, where I check in using my American bank card. Big mistake!
I don't know how long we were in Lhasa, maybe one week... But, many unpleasant things, costly things happened, as the Demons pursued. Mt. Kailas, not paying, an expensive lesson! It was a mistake not to pay the entrance fees.
In Lhasa, the first order of business was the truck, finding out what was wrong, and if possible to repair.
The second 'problem' was dealing with TCITS (as we were in the 'dog house' over Chris, Christophe, and Yoji without a guide/permit to the Nepali border. This group had been our sponsors while in Tibet, and I didn't want them unhappy. I had told Fei (our official guide), I would take complete responsibility, as she was worried about losing her guiding license.
We spent the next day, unloading the truck, and dividing whatever amongst the group. The only stipulation was, they had to take whatever on their bicycle.
They examined the engine, and the bad news, the engine a total loss, as water got into the cylinders. So, we had to decide what to do, sell it without an engine, or pay for a new one. Some times you just 'get fucked' (not the good way). I ultimately opted to replace the engine, as Beijing Jeep took some responsibility (you see, no such thing as 'warranties' in China) and said they would pay one half. Yeah! I forget exactly what our half ended up being, something like 3,000RMB / $400 U.S. But, it was all beginning to mount up!
Then, one day I checked my bank account (website) only to discover, the 1500RMB for room and deposit was deducted as dollars not RMB (Yuan) --- 1500RMB is $200U.S.. We immediately confronted the hotel, and the reception clerks said, no problem they would refund. I signed another 'slip,' which had a minus (-) sign next to the 1500 (figure) so I assumed and made another MISTAKE! But, this one I didn't notice right away, but later, too late as we'd departed Lhasa. Guess what? They (somebody) had deducted another $1500U.S., (instead of crediting they debited) so now with all the fees, I was out something like $3,300U.S.
I think I was stunned by all this, at the same time losing my Swiss Army knife, that Rucha had given me, on the streets. It just seemed never ending. I was beginning to wonder if I had done something wrong, or incorrectly, around Mt. Kailas?
But, we went into 'red alert,' confronting all concerned, and each official Hotel or banks pleaded not guilty. The TCITS people, who own the Sunrise Hotel, said it must be my bank in the U.S. My U.S. bank said it must be the Bank or the Hotel in China. Visa, just didn't want to get involved. We went round and round!
I think it took something like six weeks and many letters (messages) before the $3,300U.S. was refunded to my account. And even to this day, months later, I still don't know who made the mistake, or how this could happen.
Lhasa, had its upside too as the Dutch-owned Restaurant in the Yak Hotel serves Dhal Bhat and we ate there many times. We befriended, in fact, the Nepali waiter/manager.
Also, there was a good coffee shop, patterned after Starbucks, by an American (owner). I forget the name now, no it just popped into my mind, the Summit Cafe? Also, we returned to our favorite Accordian-Bakery Restaurant for dinner (and bakery items). We ate outside the weather so pleasant at 3,600M ASL.
We rode out one day to send off Zhu and Shingo to Lijiang.
Then, along with Xutan and Xuni, (the rest scattered to the four directions) took the train to Xining (24 hours). And what a lovely train ride this is, maybe one of the best in the world, as the scenery so spectacular. But, as I stared out the window remembering all the days cycling in the opposite direction: Five months, and some 5,000KM.
This was in fact the trip of a life time! I can't ever imagine doing it again, but I've learned never to say, 'never.'
One year later, I'm sitting in a trailer in Perth, Australia. Xutan is here with me. The others are scattered practically all over the earth from Korea to Kenya, Africa to Garding, Germany! I'm about to cycle across Australia.
What we did with our Tibetan trip is to start something, something at a visceral level welling up in all the participants we continue to express by cycling the world. 'We let nothing stop us!'
I'm so proud of them (you) all, particularly Fei and Xuni, two of my best Chinese 'daughters!' To Xu tan, now with me in Australia. Congratulations on a job well done! To Rotraut Boyens, who had to leave early, our sponsor, 'mother,' 'friend,' and guardian angel!
I pray for all of us!
May the road rise up to meet us!
May the wind always be helping, not hurting us!
And may God hold us in the palm of his hands!
and a few more...