December 17, 2007 GMT
Home Run to Kathmandu

After a long pause here are finally news from the second half of my cycling tour through Tibet. As indicated in the last blog, I left the town of Ali by myself taking a different route than Benni, Mandy and Mirjam who started a day earlier.
As often, I set my objectives of how much to see and how far to go quite high. Usually this is much more than what is achievable in reality and so also this time I pushed myself to the limits. Well, actually beyond them as a result of which I caught a nasty cold that tied me to the bed for quite a while. But this gave me the opportunity to at length contemplate the world and my place in it. And chinese TV :)
However, after recovering I managed to cycle the rest of the way to Kathmandu, not without meeting many, many Tibetans. Overnighting in their huts and tents I felt really lucky being able to experience their lifestyle, humble character and heartfelt hospitality. Together with the grandeur of the vast, beautiful, but incredibly harsh environment I was sometimes moved to tears (or was that because of my saddlesore butt?) and other times broke out in euphoric joy.



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After leaving Ali and thereby crossing the Indus River, the road is paved for the first few hundred kilometers. A blessing to all travellers, this is of course intended to increase accessibility and improve living conditions for the chinese immigrants. Due to the asphalt I had no trouble in ascending the first pass. In fact it felt easy enough that I didnt even take a picture on the top. On the other side I looked down the wide Gar river valley along which the road runs in a southeastern direction, thus slowly approaching the Himalayas. The view to its peaks was still obstructed by another range that I was to cross over several 5000+ meter passes on my way to the 9th century ruins of the Guge Kingdom. On the left side of the road the Kailash range rises higher and higher, but its most famous peak (Ganrinpoche as the Tibetans name it) was still hundreds of kilometers away.
I slept a night in a tea-house in Namru, a small village where the shop didn't even have instant noodles. At 6 in the morning a crowd of merry and beautifully dressed Tibetans on their way to town (Ali) threw us out of bed. They wanted to warm up and eat some Tsampa, my first opportunity to try this tibetan staple food. Not so bad I must say. And gives lots of power, as I noticed going 1000Hm up the next pass.


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Tibetans heading for the city


Unfortunately the sidetrip to the Guge kingdom leads over more than 200km of everworsening tracks crossing half frozen rivers that were sometimes difficult to pass. So the next three days saw me pushing hard over two 5300m passes and a final strech through very sandy terrain. The first evening I had a hard time because I had planned to ride further and hadn't allowed myself enough time to eat and rest. Finally I had to give up and find a wind sheltered spot for the tent. After spending almost an hour in trying to get some water from a small stream that was mostly frozen to the ground I stumbled off the "road" across the steppe to check out a stone wall that I could see in the distance. As I was pushing my bike across the rocky field, I was very surprised to find scattered and mostly broken stones with tibetan inscriptions. Then, just out in the open came a spot with many of them piled up - I couldnt believe it. I thought this find to be very special and spent some time admiring and taking pictures. Later, I found out that these so called Mani Stones are a very common sight around buddhist tempels and Stupas and the inscripted Mantras are a form of prayer. Still the experience of finding them so unexpected added to the feeling of mystery in this land.
Since by now the sun was gone and it was getting cold fast, I shifted my focus to the more vital task of setting up camp, getting warm again and cooking. I noticed being very exhausted and every move was quite an effort and very slow.


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Tricky rivercrossing




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Lost Mani Stones


The next day, the next pass. I took a wrong turn and went up some Jeep tracks that were much steeper than the actual road. I only noticed when I had already climbed 200-300Hm, and didnt want to go back down. So I got off to push the bike. The road got steeper and steeper and I found myself pushing the bike that was heavy as a stone for not more than 10m at a time. Then, for a minute or two I would stop, struggeling not slide down the loose gravel, and then give it a go for another 10m. It was only 500m until I reached the proper road again, but it took me 2h. I couldn't help feeling like


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Sisiphos


„Und weiter sah ich den Sisyphos in gewaltigen Schmerzen: wie er mit beiden Armen einen Felsblock, einen ungeheuren, fortschaffen wollte. Ja, und mit Händen und Füßen stemmend, stieß er den Block hinauf auf einen Hügel. Doch wenn er ihn über die Kuppe werfen wollte, so drehte ihn das Übergewicht zurück: von neuem rollte dann der Block, der schamlose, ins Feld hinunter. Er aber stieß ihn immer wieder zurück, sich anspannend, und es rann der Schweiß ihm von den Gliedern, und der Staub erhob sich über sein Haupt hinaus.“

– Homer: Odyssee 11 –

I didn't even have to trick the gods of the underworld in order to escape this situation. No, just stubborn endurance finally got me back to the road. But I was even more exhausted than on the previous pass as this picture gives an indication of.


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Ayi La, 5350m


The rest of the way was less difficult since Zadah is at an altitude of 3600m and therefore the way was mostly downhill or straight from now on. But my head started to give me pain and I felt a fever coming. After a night in an abandoned stone house I had some trouble getting my bones in order and out of the sleeping bag. The remaining 40km took me 6h hours through fantastic scenery, which at times I couldn't appreciate because of the road being so bad and my cold developing rapidly.


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Eroded landscape near Zhada


In Zhada I spent a few days recovering, which really I didn't. My "hotelroom" had no heating (we started calling them fridge, but it's actually a freezer) and I spent the time under thick blankets watching CCTV9, the english-speaking channel in China. Having no power to move was quite tough for me, especially having nobody to talk to. So after 8 month travelling I slowly started thinking it might be time to go home soon. Being with friends and family, climb the mountains in the bavarian alps and maybe settle down a bit.
WHAT, SETTLE DOWN? -> Yeah, I still had a fever :-)
Anyway, I developed some exciting ideas of how to go on with real life. Getting more into mountaineering (possibly even into guiding), finding a job which really suits me and doesnt just drain my energy, learning more russian and returning to Kirgistan next year, hopefully organizing a small climbing/mountaineering expedition.


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Combined Laundry Drying and Heating



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Mani Stones in front of the Stupa in Zhada


However weak, I still managed to stroll around the local monastery and even up the hills behind the town to explore some ruins. A very peaceful feeling overcame me sitting there and watching as the sun set over the huge valley. I found a small Stupa of which the side walls were broken, so I could have a look inside. It was dark, but I saw a bunch of stones with a very regular round shape on the ground and reached in to have a look at them. I turned out that there were beautiful carvings of Boddhisatvas and dieties on them and I was quite puzzled at the fact that they were still there, very vulnerable to people taking them as a souvenir. I guess there just aren't many tourists around here and if, they are usually part of an organized tour (because independent travel is so difficult) and they just dont walk up any hill to some minor ruins.
I made my way back to bed and watched some more TV where I learned in a documentary about the rich Tibetan culture (no word of the chinese destruction) and how good the preparations for the olympics are going.


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Fine carved Stones inside a ruined Stupa


I decided that in my state it's better to avoid cycling another 230km with many high passes to get me back to the main highway. So my option was either a bus that maybe runs once a week or finding somebody else who gives me a lift. Before leaving I really wanted to see what I came for, which meant somehow making another 20km to the actual site of the Guge kingdom ruins. I couldn't find anybody to drive me there, so I very slowly cycled it. When I arrived I was so beaten, that I almost couldn't follow the caretaker of the place, who showed me around the various tempels. Around 3pm, after only one hour at the site, I had to start going back. Fortunately after about 5km (one hour) there came a small pickup truck, the only vehicle I saw on that day. We threw the bike beside the cow that was tied up in the back and drove back to Zadah, listening to a tape of chinese Techno Music.


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Guge Kingdom




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Murals of dieties in buddhist Tempel


On the next day, the promised bus to Ali never arrived, nor could anybody tell me if it would some time in the near future. So I had to get out and find a car back to the main road myself. Somehow I managed to meet a beautiful tibetan girl who spoke quite good english and helped me in finding a lift. She was the first person in one week I could properly communicate with, so I didn't even want to leave anymore. But she had made out a jeep with a chinese advertisement of a travel agency on it, which meant there had to be some tourists around. Sure enough we found three Israelis who were on their way to Mount Kailash and I could convince them to take me with them. It took another hour of a heated debate between them and their very uncooperative driver, numerous phone calls and finally 200Yuan from me (~20 Euros) until the issue was settled and I dismantled my bike to somehow fit it into the Jeep. The Israelis were very upset because they had hired the car including the driver for a whopping 1000$ for 5 days and still didnt have control over it. That just shows how difficult independent travel is in West-Tibet, especcially off-season. I later learned, that after 2 days the driver just left them at the Chui-monastery and drove in the Jeep back to Ali. Fortunately the agency sent them somebodyelse...

Anyway, after about 5 hours driving, just as the sun set, we reached the touristic village of Darchen on the foot of famous Mt. Kailash. The Israelis indulged in their national sport of haggling to get the cheapest room and we retired in just another tibetan "fridge". They left the next morning for their hasty sightseeing, but I prescribed myself another rest-day and looked around for a room with an oven. While doing that I bumped into Mirjam and promply moved to their guesthouse, where also Benni and Mandy were assembled, as well as the gear of the two french cyclist who at the moment were on their Kora around Mt. Kailash.


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Hitching a ride with the Israelis




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View of Himalayas on the way to Darchen


I was still suffering from my cold and so it was very nice to have some people around that I could talk to, even in German. The three of them had already completed their 2-3 day walk around Kailash and were very busy with checking their travel itinery. That got me thinking, because so far I had not been too worried if the time left on my visa was enough to get to the boarder in time, but there were only 16 days left for recovering from my cold, hiking the Kora and the remaining 800km of hardcore cycling. Plus I had just experienced how difficult it might be to hitchhike and overstaying the chinese visa doesn't come cheap: 50$ per day!
So I decided to slowly start my Kora the next day. If I wouldn't feel good I could just stay in the first monastery, which was only a few hours walking away.


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Tarboche flagpole and view of Mt. Kailash in the Lha-chu valley


The first day was okay though, because the path was only very gently climbing through the valley to the west towards the Dira-Puk Monastery on the northern side of the mountain. During this, many different faces of the Kailash can be seen. First the famous snow dome from the south, later impressive rock walls (that made me want to climb, but even Reinhold Messner abandonded his attempt in the 80's due to the mountains religious significance) and in the end the dark north face as I was standing outside the monastery, watching the moon rise.
I was the only guest for the night and enjoyed the simple but tasty food prepared by the cook and the joyful laughter of the junior monks who queried each other about what I assume were bhuddist rhymes or prayers (mantras?). These guys had a blast and even the cook sometimes broke out in loud laughter. To me they mysteriously seemed absolutely contempt and happy in their remote outpost up here, so far away from civilization.


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Cook of Dira-puk Monastery


On the next day, I left the valley that was now going north, up to the source of the Indus river, and continued steep up to the Drolma La Pass (5630m). Besides the Indus three more major rivers (Karnali->Ganges, Sutley and Brahmaputra) of the indian subcontinent have their origin right here around Mt. Kailash. While walking I was comparing the lifeless frozen creeks to my feet with pictures of thousands of Hindu pilgrims bathing in muddy waters that I had seen in some TV documentation. In a few month I would be there, in crazy India and see it for myself - what a contrast!


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Left clothes at the Shiva-tsal area, 5330m


Anyway, the walk up to the pass showed me my limits! After five minutes I developed a cough that just wouldn't stop and made me puke at one time. My legs had good strength, but due to my affected lungs I had to go unbelievably slow in order to keep my breathing down. On the way I passed a place called 'Shiva-tsal', where pilgrims are supposed to part from their old live and start a new one by leaving a sybolic piece of clothing. I didn't fancy taking my shirt of as it was bloody cold and btw, I didn't meet a single pilgrim, they all go in the summer! However, when I finally reached the pass, I saw an empty pack of cigarettes lying on the path. I stopped to rest and take the view in, the prayer flags, the stones and the snow, the vistas to either side of the pass, the shirts, shoes and hats left by thousands of pilgrims and ... the empty pack of cigarettes again. Somehow it was telling me something. Somehow it said 'Andi, there are no more cigarettes. The cigarettes are gone. You can't smoke them nomore'. Additionally, true insight only comes from suffering and I had just felt how crap you feel if your lungs aren't working properly.
I have never been a regular smoker, but occasionally, and at times on every occasion, I do smoke and maybe it's time to break with that stupid habit. Maybe that's the transformation that I'm supposed to undergo. I won't leave my shirt or shoes, but I should just ditch the habit of smoking. So I decided, no more cigarettes! As I'm writing, this is almost two month ago and except on one single occasion I havn't even felt the need to smoke. So I didn't. Funny ey?


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Leave your old life, start a new one!


Now it was a long way down and along the east, the crystal side of Kailash. I got tired, stopped for a 'tsampa break' every now then and couldnt make my way back to Darchen before dark. At dusk I reached the Zutul-Puk Monastery, where there was only one very old monk. He gave me cold room, a thermos with hot water and some instant noodles. I ate them eagerly before I fell asleep in just another "fridge".
On the walk out I made a slight detour up one of the last hills to get a good view of the wide valley between the Kailash range and the Himalays to the south. Spread out in front of me were frozen rivers, the Lakes Manasarovar and Langngag behind which the huge Gurla Mandata (7728m) rose as part of the Himalayas, which were stretched out on the horizon from the Nepali boarder to the east all the way to the Indian part in the west. Absolutely amazing!!!


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View of Gurla Mandata and Lake Langngag


Half a day walk and another rest day later I recovered enough to hit the road again. The remaining time in Tibet was now down to 12 days, which meant I would have to cover about 65km a day in order to avoid problems. Given that so far on average I did about 50km meant stepping it up a notch - not a very promising way to success as I still hadn't recovered from the last time I tried pushing it. So from the start I tried to stop every vehicle that came past, but 95% of them didn't even stop. There's not a whole lot of chance left if you only see 20-30 cars in a day. After 2-3 days I got so fed up with the Chinese in their Landrovers soaring past, that I gave up on it. But also the tibetan trucks either didn't go very far or were absolutely full, so they just left me in a cloud of dust. So I would have to do what I could to cycle the bit.
Day 1 was still devoted to recovering from the cold and I did only 50km on a "good" road to Horqu. I left after a short night (after 2 Lhasa beer I just couln't sleep) with no trouble. Mirjam, Mandy and Benni told me later their experience in the town of how the situation got out of control after they haggled with and then fotographed the people in a chinese restaurant. Involved were pepperspray, stones an a huge butcher knife and nobody really knows why the situation calmed down and didn't end in bloodshed (more here). Mandy apparently was lying defenceless on the ground being kicked at! Luckily they suffered no big injuries, but so much to the statement in my last post, that travelling in china is so safe...


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Kuschelyak


The following days I got into a good routine. Early start; tsampa rest just before noon; a few hours more fighting until lunch, usually 2-3packs instant noodles and then keep going until the day runs out. This way I went 60-100km a day, largely depending on road conditions and wind. At times I was quite worn out, especially the constant bumbing from the road got to me. However, because I went greater distances I mostly reached some settlement at night where I could relax around a fireplace, eat enough food and sleep in a warm bed and this way recovered quite well from the days exertion. This way I also met some amazing people in whose houses I stayed or just cooked my lunch. Usually the whole family would gather around me and gaze at me for hours, following every move I make and giggle about the way I eat or just do anything. I always felt genuinly welcome and despite verbal communication being almost non-existent, I felt as if I became part of the family over night. They just wouldn't let me leave in the morning.


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Despite spending 90% of the time in the saddle every day was different. Lakes, passes, sanddunes, views of the himalayas, Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) river valley, yaks, horses, sheep and goats, broken motorcycles, tibetan homes with the distinct smell of yak-shit powered ovens, waterless sandy plains, a 1km stretch of tar with a modern petrol station on it, encounters with herders, drunken tractor drivers, a japanese cyclist with broken wheel and bleeding nose and finally after a long, long 90+km day the town of Saga, which marked my end of the Tibet-Xingyang Highway at km 1845 because I would branch off to take a shortcut south towards the chinese/nepali boarder instead of going straight east to Lhasa.


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Almost blind man with prayer wheel. Typical little shrine in the backgroud.



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Kids of a host family




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My temporary mom


In Saga I again met Mirjam and the rest of the cycling crew. The frame of Benni and Mandy broke and I don't know how they did it, but 5 minutes after it happened they managed to get a lift with some trucks. They had spent some time in Saga getting it fixed and it seemed to be good work. I had planned a rest day, but everyone was leaving the next day and consequently so was I. But not before enjoying the main attraction of Saga: Public Showers! My last hot one was about 2 weeks back already...


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Tsampa Ingredients: Tsampa, Yak-Butter, hot water




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Tsampa Preparation: Mix and Eat. Mmmmmh




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Yes, I work with electricity



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Dunes near Paryang




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Traditional travellers. Background Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra)




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Tibetan freezer


So our group of four (the french ladies decided to stay a little longer) set off at noon. We took it pretty easy and got benighted on the second of two rather steep passes. Mandy and Benni where a little behind and apparently ran out of power because we could watch them from the pass pulling of the road and pitching their tent. We waved goodbye to the two small figures far below us and hurried down the other side to find a sheltered spot for our tent. I asked Mirjam "old system?" and she nodded, while we were grinning at each other. I guess I have forgiven her.
We put up the tent in no time, arrange mattress, sleeping bag and gear the way we were used to from the many nights camping between Kashgar and Ali. There's something deeply satisfying in this routine. Everyday you touch almost all of the belongings you carry. You unpack and repack it, take care it stays in good shape or repair it if necessary. You get very attached to your gear, because everyday it ensures your basic needs are satisfied. Food and Water and a warm place to sleep just whereever you stop. Whenever a piece of kit fails it means ALARM! So you LOVE the gear that has proven itself to work reliably, no matter how dirty and fucked up it looks by now.
Everything went smooth and I was really pleased when Mirjam took the initiative cooking dinner. Even in the morning she started boiling water for the porridge. I added some apples and organges that I had protected from the freezing night by keeping them in a tupper box inside my sleeping bag and we enjoyed a good, healthy breakfast.


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Fixing a flat




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End of G219


We hit the road together, but I had two days less on my visa than Mirjam so I had the urge, but also the power to run. We said goodbye until Kathmandu and I kept the power going, going. Going for hours pushing just at my limit. I was healthy, I was strong and it felt so good, so damn goood putting all that energy out. After a few hours short tsampa stop at a house outside which two old tibetans sat spinning yak wool to yarn; lots of Buttertea and then back in the saddle; going up, up. Up just another pass, over it and down, no mercy for the bike, racing down a narrow valley, that slowly widened. Widened to give a view over a lake so close and huge, after it a plain so endless, just in the south boardered by some big ass white mountains. Among some others that is Shishapangma, the only 8000m peak entirely in Tibet and the first 8000m peak I see in my life! Whoooohoooo - so geil.. I scream because I'm so excited and keep going down, down. Down until I hit the bottom, get used to the view, have to go straight again or slightly up against a cold and strong sideways wind. The going gets tough and THE energy is gone - it stayed on that pass, I left it there, mybe it still hangs around over there and helps Mirjam who no doubt is making her way up right now.

I may have said it before - when cycling the travel gets just so much more intense. Both physical and emotional. The highs are higher, but the lows are lower also. And the intervals between high and low are much shorter, it's a rollercoaster of up and down. I like to believe, that because of that I get better in dealing with the lows.
In that very moment, when all I can see is sand, corrugation and stones until the horizon, when it seems I make no progress and have to go on indefinitely, I still know that it only seems like that. In reality everthing will pass. That's what Buddhism teaches and it's easy to believe. Actually I don't need to believe it, no I know it, because I experience it everyday. Just in that moment when going is tough it helps a lot to realize the temporary nature of things and feelings and whatever else.
But knowing that sometimes even evokes contrary feelings in me. When things are bad, inwardly I laugh about it as if it were past already; when things are good I dread the future, because inevitably the high times will go away too. Doesn't sound like a good deal huh? Less trouble with the hard times, but no enjoyment of good times. So living in the future is just as bad as living in the past.
But for some funny reason in Tibet everything worked out. I deeply appreciated the high times, realizing in that very moment that I will have fun with the memory for years to come. No fear of what is about to come, just the positive knowledge that things will keep going up and down and kind of a curiosity of how they will go up and down...

Ok, that was my 5 minutes philosophy for the day. I go on with the story now.


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Morning in ther herder's tent


The night came. Of course I knew it for some time, but kept going in the hope of finding some house to stay in. A night in the tent was always harder on my body because the cold just sucks up engery. I could see far, there was no river in sight, everything was dry on this plain, nobody would build a house here. And by the progress I was making it was clear that the landscape wouldn't change and there was nowhere to be reached. I was gonna give up and pitch the tent when I noticed some black dots in a distance. They were moving slow, which meant they're probably yaks. And where there're yaks there're people. And where there're people there must be some kind of dwelling.
That's exactly what I found. "Some kind of dwelling". The herders had cleared off stones in an area (not the droppings of their animals) and erected sort of a tent. It was constructed from two thin and holey canvas, streched over two poles, leaving a big opening in the top for the smoke to exit. It looked like a tent, but really, when they stopped burning yak-shit in the oven it was as cold as outside. At the same time the glowing remains filled the tent with so much smoke I thought I'd suffocate. I found a piece of clothes mad from yak skin, therefore plenty warm, and put it over me and the sleeping bag. That held me reasonably warm at night and I awoke the next morning to Buttertea being served in huge quantities. The herders had found some dirty ice somewhere and kept melting and boiling it. When I put my sleeping bag together I saw that I had literally slept in goat shit, which doesn't matter much, because freeze-dried the stuff doesn't stink and doesn't stick.


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After fighting through the plain until late afternoon, the 3 day long shortcut was eventually finished. I had reached the friendship highway which connects Lhasa and Kathmandu - in fact it is the only trade route crossing the himalayas. The ascend to the two main passes, Lalung La and Tong La, both about 5000m, starts exactly at the junction. There were about 2h of daylight left to climb 500Hm and descend into the ditch between the passes, where a road repair station promised shelter for the night. 'Should be possible' I thought, but first I had to stop in a lonely house near the junction to get some food - the good old instant noodles. Now it was a close call, but the prospect of seeing the range of Rolwaling and Khumbu Himal at sunset draw me up the pass.
I gave measured power, so as not to end up exhausted half way up. Over 11km I allowed myself three rest stops and everytime put more clothes on, eventually everything I had, including the down jacket. The wind blew icy and strong straight into my face. Up on the pass I caught a glimpse of the last sunlight on what I told myself must be Cho Oyu, but it might have been any other of the seven- and eightthousand meter peaks of the region. Deep inside me a very special feeling of calm and satisfied jubilation developed, just like the one I had when finally reaching Ayers Rock after long, long travels around Australia. But I'm sure nothing of it was to be seen on the outside because the temperature had dropped considerably since the sun was gone from this spot almost an hour ago, not to mention the windchill factor. When I took the damp bandanna off my face it froze in a matter of a few seconds. No exaggeration! I had to get down from there quick, otherwise my health was seriously at risk.
Down and out was the motto as I came to rest in some wrecked building of the road repair station. With me were two Tibetans that called the place there home. They even heated up the oven. Well, the yak-dung they threw in wouldn't keep burning, so every 5 minutes one of them poured a good dose of Terpentin in and - WOOOFF - lit it with big grins. Anyway, the warmth brought my feet back to life, so I won't complain. Good sleep too.


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no comment


I was looking forward to the worlds longest downhill section starting after the last 7km ascent to the Tong La pass. From there the road would plunge from 5055m down to 740m in Nepal. But erstens kommt es anders, und zweitens als man denkt!
After enjoying the even better views than the evening before, an initial steep descent soon eased into almost level terrain. With a storm approaching from the south this still meant ardous labour to cover 56km to Nyalam, which I reached in light snowfall long after night had fallen. Luckily now on 3700m the night temperatures were in a pleasent single-digit range - still negativ though. Nonetheless, spring was in the air. I could feel it, but never would I have guessed what an unbelievable transition I was about to undergo.


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View over Rolwaling and Khumbu Himal from Tong La Pass. First signs of the approching storm


Now it was really downhill time - the road from Nyalam wind itself 2000Hm in 40km of endless serpentines down to the nepalese boarder town Kodari. I think the number of sensations cannot be truly appreciated in a closed vehicle, but on a bicycle it was absolutely overwhelming. The arctic winter of the barren high desert gave way to an eventually subtropical landscape with warm springtime temperatures in a matter of just a few hours. After having not seen any green at all for the last 6 weeks I almost couldn't believe there were such things as trees. Along the steep walls of the narrow gorge more and more vegetation developed resulting in a lush green as the predominant colour. Banana palm trees on the side of the road, birds chirping and the sweet smell of unknown exotic flowers unfolded in a mild air which wunderfully stroked the skin of my face. It's getting hot, I stop again and again to strip layer after layer. I notice girls having done the same :). Gone are the inch-thick, curve covering clothes of the north. I'm unfreezing; the wonderful warmth of the sun reaches my core; body and mind feel liberated; life is starting a new cycle. Woooooow!


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Descending into Nepal


As I'm racing down the first icy, then muddy and later dry again road my brakes have less and less grip. Just after the boarder I stop, get out the tools and adjust the rapidly worn brake pads. Motorcycles are buzzing up and down the track. I have to get used to traffic and an amount of people on the street like I last saw in the bazars of Kashgar. The wheatherbeaten, mongolian type faces of Tibet disappear almost altogether and give way to the soft, slightly dark skin with even darker eyes typical to the people of the indian subcontinent. The widespread appearance of colourful and hippielike painted "Tata" trucks further mark the geographical and cultural proximity to India. But what really strikes me is the realization that the complete hill on the other side of the gorge is covered in little plateau-fields, a picture I associate with Thailand or Vietnam - I have made it to southeast asia on not more than two wheels. Bloody !@#$ing hell I'm proud!


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I thought 'What a nice welcome, I like this country!' about the general honking and waving of people in any vehicle coming my way. After a while I realized that just anybody honks most of the time and after another while it dawned on me that they do honk more when they see me. Not because I'm such a pretty sight, but because I'm driving on the WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD! It's left-hand traffic in Nepal ... ooops.
So a bit more careful I made my way to Barabhise, the first town after the boarder and at 870m sealevel a really pleasant place to stay. It's absolutely free of tourists, but by chance I met the american dudes Chris and Erik who are trying to set up their own little NGO (non government organization) to help clean up this lovely, but immensely littered little town. The nickname for their organization was to be "The Incorruptables" and hints at the big problem of this poor, poor country. It's a sad fact that, despite huge amounts of money being poured into thousands and thousands of NGO's little progress seems to happen.


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Hanging out with new friends in Barabhise



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Garbage bin project


They convinced me to stay in their appartment for a few days in exchange for helping them with their first "Garbage collection" project. I loved the time and it was a good intermediate step on my way from lonely Tibet to overcrowded Kathmandu. Besides, Chris and Erik had come from Tibet themselves, after teaching English in China for a while. Crazy enough, they had bought motorcycles somewhere before Lhasa and managed to get them out of China and into Nepal. One of them was broken and currently not used which of course immediately raised my interest. Wouldn't it be cool to have a look around the country on a motorized two-wheeler for a while?
My proposal of fixing in exchange for borrowing it free of charge was welcome and accepted, so here I go. I set off for some easy riding on the 9th of December and havn't gotten around doing much else than chasing Fruehlingsgefuehle since :)


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Un- or maybe fortunately, I'm still at it. All well. Cheers, Andi.

Posted by Andreas Naumann at 11:46 AM GMT
 
 

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