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Sichuan Daily Journal and Blog.
Travel Writing, b log, Travelogue
Chengdu, to Zongdian, China
(Sept. 4 - Oct. 29, 2005)
|Sept. 3 - 14
||Chengdu. Mix's youth hostel, Pandas, Vince and
Jesse buying bikes. Buying jacket and tea houses.
||Chengdu - Qionglai. By the time we packed up and said
our good byes it was 11:30. Traffic was heavy, the sky overcast
mixed with pollution. It was not that hot but humid. Tim and Vince
were ahead of me in traffic most of the time. I had to work to keep
up but I always managed to catch them at the light. We rode past
the Wuhun Temple and two guys on motorcycles collided because they were
both looking at us ride by them. This was not the first accident
we caused and it always unnerves me when I see people get hurt because
they do not watch where they are going. The pollution was heavy
and the city seemed to go on forever. Somehow, during our time off
in Xian and Chengdu, I had forgotten how noisy the road can be.
Luckily, the road was relatively flat so we kept a good speed. We
rode 40 km before we stopped in a little town for lunch. We had a
great lunch of tofu, mushrooms, and soup.
We arrived in Qionglai and began looking for a hotel. We immediately
found one, Vince speaks and reads Japanese so he can read Chinese rather
well. I looked at the room and it was beautiful. The room had
a large double bed and the adjoining room had two single beds. It
also had a western toilet and hot shower, all for 80 Y ($10). The
only catch was that it was on the 5th floor, which means we had to climb
four flights of stairs. It was a very comfortable room. Food
has also gotten cheaper too.
||Qionglai - Yaan. The weather was cloudy and the sky
full of smoke from burning crops. It is harvest season and some of
the fields are being burned. Since it is harvest time the markets
and restaurants are full of vegetables. The terrain was much
hillier the I thought it would be. I knew that we were surrounded
by mountains by looking at the map but I could not see them due to the
weather and smog.
About 10 km from Yaan the road was out and we had to
take a side road. This road climbed steeply up a hill and the road
was slick with mud. So slick Tim slide out in front of me and I
barely got around him with out falling myself. Hmm I am not going
to like riding down the other side of this. We reached the top
with out a mishap, however going down the other side Vince got his first
Picture of Vince and Cindie fixing a flat tire.
We pulled over to the side of the road. We had a nice place to
pull everything off his bike. Some how a very large staple had
gone through Vince's tire. Tim jokingly advised him to watch where
he was going. It took a little time to repair the tire and it
began to rain lightly. Finally we were down off the muddy hill and
close to town, we only had 7 kilometers to go. Just when we
thought we had a fast run into town, Vince got another flat. While
he was repairing his flat it began to rain, only hard this time. I
got to try out my new jacket sooner than I expected. I am happy to
report that I remained dry while Tim in our old jacket was wet.
This does not make me very happy about our riding conditions ahead.
Tim does not have the proper jacket, the one we bought in Yangshou was
fake gortex and does not repel water. I will worry about him until
we get out of the mountains.
We looked at two hotels and they were too expensive. We
finally settled on a room for 60 Y ($7.75) for the night. We only
had to go up one flight of stairs. Yaan seems to be a pleasant
town, we found a great restaurant with dumplings and beef noodle soup.
There was also internet so we could check our email.
||Yaan - Tianquan. The weather cleared and the sky
was blue. A beautiful day we could see the mountains around us and
I am relieved to get out of the pollution of the big cities. It
was a short ride to Tianquan but I was ready for a rest. The
terrain is hilly but we have not started our climb into the mountains
||Tianquan. Stayed a day in Tianquan, we went to
the Sunday market. All kinds of things can be seen at the market.
Like these women getting treatment for their knees by applying suction
Photo of women with suction cups around their knees.
||Tianquan (850m) - km 2684 (1450 m) The scenery was
fantastic today we followed the river most of the day. Vince rode
ahead of us and we caught up with him for lunch. On the way Tim
broke a chain and we had to do a roadside repair. The vegetation
varied from hardwoods, to bamboo to evergreens. Somewhere in this
area are Panda wildlife sanctuaries. The small villages we rode
through were well kept and pleasant and the people were friendly. We
stopped at a small trucker hotel for the night. The room was musty
and the bathroom predictable (as in having an unbearable smell and
ghastly sight). The room and dinner for both Tim and I was 40 Y ($5).
The family was somewhat friendly, we basically landed in their living
room. They also had the cutest puppy who stole one of Vince's
gloves and started eating it. We retrieved the glove before any major
damage was done. We went to sleep early but were woken up in the
middle of the night by someone who turned on our room light. It
was difficult for me to go back to sleep after that.
||Km 2684(1450m) - Luding (1310 m) Morning came
quick and we were on the road by 8:30 am. The morning was
beautiful, misty and cool. We quickly began climbing and climbed
to 2100 m at a recently built tunnel. The tunnel was 4.5
kilometers long and I was delighted that it was lit. A sign in
front of the tunnel said no bikes but we rode through anyway.
Cindie and Vince preparing to enter the 4.5 km tunnel: Notice that the
sign indicates that bikes are not allowed but we had to get to the other side.
We climbed another 100 m on the other side of the tunnel and then
descended into the town of Luding. We stopped for lunch along the
way. A pleasant days ride but I was pretty tired at the end of the
day. Ascended 880 m (2886 feet) descended 940 m (3083 feet).
||Luding. When we woke up early today we realized
that we were not going anywhere. It was raining and it
looked like it was going to rain all day. So we decided to stay.
I was ready for a rest day anyway. This is a nice sleepy town, the
people are very friendly too. We found the internet cafe and
surfed for a while, although I could not open many pages on the cafe's
computers but could open them on our computer.
In the evening a group
of 30 people came in, they were traveling to Lhasa on electric bicycles
and motorized tricycles. The were all over the age of 50 and quite a
rowdy bunch. They left early in the morning.
||Luding (1310 m) to Kangding (2445 m). We got an early
start and it was a long climb to Kangding. We ascended 1345 m
(4412 feet) and descended 145 m (475 feet). The scenery was nice
and the traffic light. We happen to pass the group of electric
bicycles, one ran out of battery and he was pushing it up hill, later we
saw that his friends went back and got him. It just goes to show
that human power is more reliable than electric or motorized power.
We went through one small tunnel about 11 kilometers from town. I
have to say that I am getting over my fear of tunnels, China has more
tunnels than any other country we have been in. One thing this
bike trip has done for me is make me face my fears like tunnels and
dogs, once I repeatedly faced them their power over me went away.
When I have no choice but to ride on it forces me to confront my fear.
We decided to go to the youth hostel Black Tent because it was in
Lonely Planet and it got a good review. They could not be more
wrong. The price was inflated to 30 Y ($3.75) in a musty dirty
room with a broken window and door. The room was not secure at all
so we decided to leave tomorrow and find another hotel. In addition the
bathroom was smelly and shared by over 20 people so it was constantly
||Kangding. We found a very nice hotel thanks to
Daniel a fellow traveler at the youth hostel. The hotel is run by
a Tibetan family, is very clean and decorated Tibetan style. The
hotel is located less than a 5 minute walk up the hill from Black Tent.
The Kangding Hotel (very expensive) is located directly up the hill from
Black Tent, the first alley way to the left of Kangding Hotel is the
Tibetan Family Hotel. The beds range from 20 to 30 Y per night,
the bathroom is clean and the shower is hot all day. The
decorations of the room are uniquely Tibetan and the family is very
friendly. Can you tell that I recommend this place. This is
the kind of place that Lonely Planet should be looking for not the
rundown Black Tent Youth Hostel. Below is a photo of the entrance
to the Hotel.
Photo of Vince in front of Tibetan Hotel in Kangding, China
||Kangding. We took the day off to acclimate to our
new elevation. It was a good thing too, it is raining. We
found all the amenities we were looking for, restaurants, grocery
stores, and internet cafes. We also had the added bonus of a few
outdoor shops to browse for warm weather gear. We have to be
prepared for our 1800 meter (5900 feet) climb tomorrow. We all
bought some warm clothes to take with us. I am not feeling well,
Tim says it is the altitude but it feels more like the flu to me. Achy
and tired with a headache. Ok it might be the altitude.
evening we met some Tibetan boys (brothers ) staying at the hotel with
their uncle who is studying to be a doctor in Chengdu. The are
going to the middle school here in Kangding, one boy is 13 and the other
14. They spoke good English, compliments to their Canadian teacher.
They were telling us about Tibetan food and before we knew it the owner
of the hotel was making us Somba. It is made with a type of barley flour
mixed with yak butter and possibly vinegar. It is eaten with your
hands so we all washed up before we tried the new dish. It tasted
familiar and was actually pretty tasty especially after they added
sugar. I went to bed on a full stomach.
||Kangding. We were suppose to leave today and I just do
not have the energy. We decided to stay just one more day. The air
feels like it is going to snow, I hope that the weather clears for
tomorrows ride. We had a Tibetan breakfast of soup with lots of
meat, buns and yak butter tea. It was very filling. After
breakfast we went to the Tibetan temple across the street. This is
the second Tibetan temple I have been to, the first was in Inner
Mongolia, the Wudang Temple, it was a beautiful place but no one was
there. The Anjue temple is small but very active. One room
had a large pray wheel and about ten old women pushing the pray wheel in
a clock wise direction and chanting. When I poked my head in to
see what they were doing they invited me to join them. Ok I have
never done this before. I stepped in line and was whisked off to
another place. The wood on the pray wheel was well worn from being
constantly pushed by little hands and smooth to the touch, the women
were walking in rhythm to the low chant they were repeating. We
were walking in a small circle on a well worn path on the wooden floor.
As soon as I touch the pray wheel I could feel the energy of the women,
with each circle of the wheel I got more light headed (I think it was
the altitude). I could hear the clanging of a bell and our pace
picked up, soon I was walking in rhythm with the women, the pray wheel
and their low chant. It was difficult to pull myself away but I
was getting pretty dizzy. I thought that this experience was a one
time thing so later when I walked by the temple I ducked in to join the
women again. Again, I immediately felt the energy from the women,
I stayed longer this time and enjoyed the rhythm of their prayers.
I stepped away knowing I would return to spend time with these Tibetan
ladies. I will visit more temples as we enter the Tibetan culture,
I wonder if all temples have this same pray wheel, only time will answer
||Kangding. We were suppose to leave today but the
weather would not cooperate. At least in the morning. We woke to a
cloudy morning and then it began to rain. The owner of the hotel
sympathized with our sadness and sat us all down with a cup of yak
butter tea and pastries. He was right, it did cheer us up.
This was one day delay to many for Vince so he decided to get a bus
ticket for Litang, it would not leave until 6:30 tomorrow morning.
I am extremely sad that we are parting company so soon, I was hoping we
would ride together for a few weeks more but time is running out on
Vince's visa so he must move on.
In the mean time we met an Israeli
couple, Kolbe and Loletta and we all decided to go up and visit the lake
at 3700 meters. We hired a cab for 160 Y ($20) for the five of us.
About half way up the mountain we stopped at a ticket gate. It
seems that they are turning this area into a park and now charge
admission. A ticket cost us 38 Y ($4.75) each, an outrageous sum
considering we were only going to hike some and look at the lake.
Once again, Lonely Planet missed this in their new updated China book.
We all paid for the ticket we had no choice at this point. The
lake was beautiful, the sun was out and the scenery stunning. Soon there
will be paths and stairways constructed for the masses. If we had
known about the extra fee we probably would have stayed in town and
hiked somewhere else. When we returned the taxi driver tried to
charge us an extra 40 Y ($5) but we refused because that is not what we
negotiated from the start.
Since we had a large group we decided to go out and try hotpot.
Hotpot is where you pick what goes in the pot and cook it yourself.
We had a spicy side with meat and a non spicy without meat side.
We threw everything from mushrooms to lettuce to beef and chicken in the
pot. We stayed away from some of the strange things that we could
have thrown in like chicken feet, intestine and fish heads.
||Kangding to Highway work camp. We were all up
early, we had to pack and Vince, Kolbe and Loletta had a bus to catch.
We said our good byes, I hate saying good bye, we will miss Vince and
hope that his travels are safe and fun. Kolbe and Loletta were
suppose to catch the same bus but they only had one seat left so they
came back and will leave for Litang tomorrow.
We began our climb early
the weather broke and it looked like it was going to be a sunny day.
We began to climb immediately, traffic was stopped in many places along
the way and we had to ride around parked cars to make our way up the
hill. Since we had a lot of climbing to do we kept our breaks
short. The road meandered and was very steep in places. We
were still 600 meters from the top when we took a break before our final
push to the top. Up ahead of us was a highway work camp.
Just as we sat down to eat it began to rain. uggh. We packed
up everything and rode towards the highway workers. We stopped and
warmed ourselves by the fire. We asked the highway workers if we
could camp in their compound for the night. They agreed and we quickly
set up our tent. It had stopped raining long enough for us to set
up our tent and have a cup a tea and then the rain came again. Our tent
help up fine and our belongings all remained dry.
Pic of our camp at the Highway Workman's compound.
The engineers invited us in for dinner that night. We had beef
and potatoes and eel and cucumber. It was quite a shock to me when
Tim announced that he liked the eel. Of course he did not know it was
eel at the time. I pulled out my phrase book and the engineer
closet to me pointed to shanyu (eel) in my book. We turned in for
the night wondering if we would freeze in our little tent. It was
so foggy that we could barely see in front of us. The night passed
with us both staying warm and sleeping better than I expected.
Ascended 1300 m (4264 feet) Descended 140 m (459 feet)
||Highway Camp (3650 m) - Xinduqiao (3550 m). We
were up with the sun and drying our tent as soon as possible. The
engineers feed us breakfast, a bowl of noodles with onions, garlic and
cabbage. No surprises there. We thought that it would be an easy
day, a short 600 meters (1968 feet) to the top and downhill all the way
to Xinduqiao. It was 10 kilometers to the pass (4200 m, 13,776
feet) from the work camp. We passed the highway workers along the
way and they wanted us to stop and chat. Unfortunately we had to push
on. It was a relief to get to the top and start our descent down.
We covered the first 5 km quickly, it was paved and steep. We also
passed another highway work camp about 7 km from the top. Then the
road turned to dirt, just our luck. It was a bumpy dusty ride for
the next 35 kilometers. So much for a quick downhill. I am
glad we stayed the night with the highway workers instead of pushing on
over the pass to find a rough road. The climate changed quickly
over the pass, it was now drier. We passed little villages of
Tibetan homes and herds of Yak. We rode near a family crossing the
countryside with yaks packed with their belongings. Modern day
nomad meets the traditional nomad.
We finally arrived in the valley
and the road improved. We passed many hotels on our way into town.
We stopped at one and I looked at the room. They wanted 60 Y
($7.50) for a bare room with two beds, a dirty toilet and no shower.
No thanks, we rode into town where we finally found a hotel for 20 Y
($2.50) a night. We took a shower at the local bath house located
a couple doors down from our hotel. This town is like the wild
wild west where herds of yaks wander down the street and cowboys and
monks play billiards on the sidewalk. The buildings are made of stone
and decorated Tibetan style. This is the first place that I have
seen Buddhists from the red hat sect. Vince would have enjoyed
this town. Wish he were here too.
Photo of Tibetan Monk playing billiards.
Ascend 665 m (2181 feet) Descend 930 m (3000 feet)
||Xinduqiao. (3550 m, 11,644 feet) We took the day
off to rest our legs for the next days climb over another 4250 m (13,940
feet) pass. We asked if we could do laundry at the hotel today.
They have a peculiar way of doing laundry that I can only attribute to
superstition. We were on the first floor of the hotel and were
instructed to wash our clothes in the sink. We washed our clothes
upstairs while the family cleaned the sheets in a washing machine, well
kinda. They washed the sheets in the washing machine and then rung
them out in the spinner with the soap still in them. Then they
sent us downstairs to rinse our laundry in a separate tub while they
brought their sheets upstairs and rinsed them in the sink that we washed
our clothes in. It would have been easier for us to rinse our
clothes in the sink that we washed them in. If anyone knows why
the Tibetans do this please let me know.
||Xinduqiao to Yajiang (2750 m). I woke up and was
ready to ride, I was ready but my stomach was not. I felt nauseous
all morning, I thought that I drank too much coffee and shrugged the
discomfort off. I usually feel better when I ride anyway. We
were climbing along at a steady pace when a truck came skidding around
the corner in front of us. I thought for sure it was going over
the side of the cliff, the roads here do not have guard rails so going
over is easy. The trucker managed to keep the truck on the road
and sped past us. The whole scene was a jolt to my system.
Not too much later I was starting to feel quasi and as we climbed I felt
worse. I saw a place to pull over off the road, jumped off my bike
and wandered over into the bushes. I was sick, I hate the dry
heaves. Tim became concerned immediately. He said, "You have
altitude sickness". I said, "no way, I have never had altitude
sickness". He then made me lay down on the ground with my feet
higher than my head. The thought of laying in that position did
not appeal to me but Tim insisted. Whew, amazingly I felt better
after a few minutes and Tim said the color was coming back in my face.
In the mean time, he had removed the sleeping bags and extra water from
my bike and put it on his bike. We sat for a while to gather our
thoughts about what to do next. I said I could go on because I knew the
next town was lower and we were only a few hundred meters from the top.
We quickly made up our mind when two Tibetans on a motorcycle stopped
and asked us for money. We said we did not understand and that was our
cue to leave.
We finally topped the pass of 4250 meters, or is it 4412
meters like the sign said only to ride for another 5 kilometers to
finally begin our decent down to Yajiang.
Picture of Tim at a high pass, notice the extra luggage from my bike.
Thank you Tim.
The ride down from the pass was bumpy but at least it was not dirt.
I began to feel better with each switch back down. We were hoping
to find a restaurant on this stretch but we never came across one.
Plenty of Tibetan homes and a small village but no restaurant. We
had enough food with us, this is not a stretch to rely on local food.
Matter a fact, sad to say, this is the first place in China where people
were asking us for money. It always makes me sad to see this,
someone taught them that a foreigner will give them money. We
finally made it into town and had to make an extensive search for a
decent hotel. Tomorrow is October 1 and the week is a national holiday
so accommodations are going to be tight for the next week.
We met Dan while searching for a room. He is a part time
resident of Dali in Yunnan province. He owns a hostel or two there.
It was very enjoyable spending the evening with him, we went out to
dinner and a tea house. When we returned to our room, a private
Tibetan residence, we had difficulty finding it. Whew, a very
tiring day. One last thing, Tim was my hero today, he is my hero
every day but he took extra care of me today, he went extra slow up the
hill for me and carried everything he could. He always teases me
that he is the donkey well today he was the donkey. His bike was
piled so high with both of our loads it looked like a semi truck on two
wheels. Without his extra effort and encouragement I would
have curled up into a little ball and cried.
Ascend 940 m (3083 feet) Descend 1700 m (5576 feet)
||Yajiang. Today is the first day of the national
holiday week, the entire country has the week off so it will be busy and
difficult to find a room for the next week. We spent the day
relaxing drinking tea and visiting the internet cafe. We are
trying to decide whether to leave tomorrow or not. We have a room with
four beds and we are only using two beds. They wanted to move us to
another room but we had already paid double what the Chinese would pay.
We paid 20 Y ($2.50) per bed when they would pay 10 Y ($1.25) per bed.
So we were paying 80 Y ($10) for the entire room. We stayed in our room
and they found another place to stay. Normally we would easily
share but our belonging were all over the room and sharing our room with
strangers is something we avoid, always, we are always willing to pay
more for extra security and peace of mind.
||Yajiang - Roadside Hotel. The small hotel emptied out early, everyone was gone by
8 am. We decided to stay an extra day and told the owner we wanted
to stay. She said the entire place was reserved for the evening and we could not stay.
So we began to pack. Then she said that we could move to another
room for 120 Y ($12), the same room that she originally said was full.
Hmm she keeps changing her story. So we decided to go, we do not
like to get jerked around on the price of a room. Besides we were
all ready to ride. The weather was clear in the morning, and the
climb started immediately. For some reason I was struggling more
than usual up hill and when we came to a hotel two hours after we
started the climb, I wanted to stay. The room was clean, however,
there was no electricity, the bathroom was an outhouse across the street
built for buses stopping to fill up on water, and no shower. The
owner wanted to gauge us for a whooping 70 Y ($8.75) when the room
should have cost 20 Y ($2.50) at the most. We bargained the best
we could and he would not come down. We reluctantly paid the asking
price, we had no choice. Lucky we did because it started to rain
heavily after we got in the room.
Little did we know that the stretch between Yajiang and Litang would
be so difficult. It was only 135 km but the weather was difficult,
we were rained or hailed on daily. In between it all there were
very few hotels and virtually no restaurants, I recommend that anyone
planning to ride this section on a bike should carry plenty of food and
camping gear. Our kilometers are fairly accurate but our ascend
and descend log was not always turned on first thing in the morning so
that data is an estimate.
Ascend 690 meters (2263 feet) Descend 130
meters (426 feet)
||Roadside Hotel - Tibetan Home Stay. We woke to the sound of rain, a light rain. The
hotel owner was ecstatic that it was raining and expected us to stay
another night. Much to his surprise we packed up and sat and
waited for the rain to stop. The minute it did we were off up the
highway. The reason we left was that our map showed a village
in just two kilometers, we were banking on another hotel in that
village. When we arrived in the village it had no facilities at all, no
restaurant, no hotel, nothing. Opps, now I felt like we were out
there, no place to go, the weather looked bad, and as we climbed it was
getting colder. I have to say I was nervous, what were we doing
anyway. Tim on the other hand was optimistic, hey we will figure
something out. So as always I followed him up the hill. He was
right, three kilometers later, we came to a small town that was not on
our map. A good thing too, it started raining again. A
Tibetan man, a real character with a cowboy hat, thick graying hair,
sparkling eyes, and a big smile, ran a small store and he sold us 4
noodles for lunch. We asked him if we could take his picture but
he declined. Then the school kids came home and Tim was their
entertainment for the afternoon. First he played the hand horn, he
cups his hands and blows air through his fingers and plays a song, the
kids loved it. He has entertained kids all over the world this
way. Then we took pictures and showed them to the kids, they were
truly a lot of fun. A Chinese family on vacation from the city,
stopped to fill up on water and when they realized that we were
traveling on bike they started handing us food. Bread, apples, cokes, mmhh that was very nice of them. We ate everything they gave us.
It started to rain some more and we were in a dilemma on where to stay.
Two girls showed up
at the store and I asked one of them if they had a
room to rent and she said yes. Wow, that was easy, I took a look
at the room and was thrilled to be staying in a traditional Tibetan
house, it was clean and comfortable. We negotiated 20 Y ($2.50)
per bed. We stored the bikes downstairs and brought our belonging
up to the second floor of the three story building. The house obviously had electricity at one
time, but like the guy down the hill, there was no electricity now. That
was ok there was a great fireplace for cooking in the kitchen and we all
hung out around the fireplace. It felt good to get the chill out.
The college girl was studying English so between our elementary Chinese
and her English we had many conversations about family and life in
China. Late in the afternoon her father and brothers came home
from working out in the field and cutting wood. They looked wet,
cold and hungry when they arrived.
Photo of Cindie with Tibetan women in their kitchen.
We played our MP3 player on batteries and they all enjoyed the music
we played from America. We also looked at pictures on our camera
of the previous days ride. As the sunset and the house grew dark
they lit a Yak butter candle that illuminated the kitchen fairly well.
I wondered how many centuries this technique has been in use.
Dinner was made in the kitchen and we all ate fried potatoes and rice.
Soon after dinner we all went to bed, I fit snuggly on the Tibetan bed
but poor Tim had bruised ankles because his long legs did not fit on the
bed. I went to bed happy to learn a little more about what it is
like to live in a Tibetan home. One of the things I loved is that
all the family members were very affectionate with each other and every
one was genuinely happy.
Ascend 350 meters (1148 feet) Descend 50 meters
||Tibetan Home Stay - Saddle campsite 1. In the morning everyone was up and off to work early.
The only person left was the women who I negotiated the room with. Tim
insisted that I pay while the entire family was there but I trusted the
girl to be honest and that was a mistake. He warned me that she would
take advantage of the situation and I ignored him believing that the
girl would be honest with her family. Well she was not. When I went to
pay for the room and food she charged us an outrageous sum for the food.
We had rice and potatoes for dinner and Somba (barley floor and Yak
butter) for breakfast. She wanted to charge us 60 Y ($7.50)
for food. To put it in perspective that amount of money would buy
six more substantial meals including meat in the city. I am
more than willing to pay a fair price but that was taking advantage of
us. Tim was upset because he knew the money would not go to the
family and instead to buy something for herself when she went back to
college. I paid and was very disappointed about it, are we just
about money? I thought we had a cultural exchange instead now I
feel like we were invited in because we have money. With a heavy
heart we left, again in the rain. I must remember that her family
was very kind to open their house to us and that they were not aware of
what she did, the family works hard and I appreciate them for being open
with us. However, I learned that I had a hand in this too, I set
up the situation for her to take advantage of us and I will not let that
happen again. It may be human nature to take advantage of
situations when we can.
We finally made it up over the pass that took
us three days to climb. The sign said 4659 meters but Tim's
altimeter said 4500 meters, I believe Tim's altimeter, the altitude
signs are off about 150 to 200 meters it does not matter to me it all
feels the same. We set up our camp in a saddle before a whooper of
a storm rolled in. Our tent and sleeping bags are for Southeast Asia,
light and jungle weather. I am amazed how well we have kept warm
Picture of Cindie in our tent at our first of many campsites along Highway 318.
We camped in a saddle between two passes elevation 4150 meters (13612
feet) our highest camp ever. Chinese
families stopped by and gave us water and food. We had plenty of
food and water with us but it was very kind and generous of them to take
care of us.
Ascend 965 meters (3165 feet) Descend 485
meters (1591 feet)
||Saddle campsite to the Travis shack. We woke to a
heavy fog rolling up from the valley below. Our tent was wet and we
needed to dry it before we rolled it up. As we pulled out our
belonging to dry in the sun Tibetan and Chinese families came by to see
what we were doing. The Tibetan families were interested in are
tent they were perplexed by the tent poles, they could not understand
how they worked but loved the tent. They were all smiles and
thumbs up. The Chinese families wanted to take pictures, I was beginning
to feel like a celebrity and they would hand us apples, oranges and
water. We actually had more food when we left then when we arrived
at this camp site.
We rode over two more passes and along the way
passed a highway crew building but we pressed on to our third pass.
Just when the pass was in sight it started to hail, big hail balls too.
We stood in the hail discussing what to do next. We have been
caught in hail storms in the past and have a healthy respect for them.
We decided to turn around and seek shelter back at the highway building.
When we arrived there were numerous people taking shelter there.
Tim asked if we could camp there and the answer was no. No, yikes
now what do we do. We did what we do best, hang out. The area was
also a stop for buses and truck coming up and going down the hill.
Soon we were swamped by Chinese tourists who wanted to take photos with
us and our bikes. I now know what it feels like to be famous. It
certainly can be entertaining. This bit of fame helped us secure a
room at the bus stop. The man in charge decided to let us stay in
a wooden shack with our bikes. It was secure, not quite as warm as
our tent, but enough to protect us from the elements at 4350 meters
(14268 feet). We broke our record for highest camp site rather
quickly. I have named the little room the Travis shack, we
will sleep anywhere. Hey I am not going to argue.
Tim with a young monk and his dad, standing in front of a wooden shack
where we spent the night. The Travis' will sleep anywhere, we are
at an elevation of 4350 meters (14268 feet)
Ascend 785 meters (2574 feet) Descend 400
meters (1312 feet)
||The Travis shack to the Yak camp. We woke to a
nice sunny day. I wanted to pack up quickly but the altitude slowed me
down. I was out of breath after taking just a few steps. On we
pushed over our first pass that would turn out to be our highest pass so
far. The sign said 4718 meters (15475 feet) again I think that it
is too high. We were finally getting in some kilometers when we
started to climb over another pass. I was not feeling well, I was
struggling again. Tim took what he could off my bike and still I was
struggling. He wanted to take my rear bags and I stubbornly would not
let him. So he did the next best thing. He shifted down in a low
gear and slowly rode up beside me, placed his hand on my back and pushed
me up the hill. My god where does this man get his energy, I feel
like a worn out rag. He would push until he was completely out of
breath (me too). Take a break and push me again. Finally we made
it over the top.
I wanted to take a break but the weather looked awful cloudy and dark
so we pushed on to the town of Taziba. This town had a hotel but
we decided to push on, we would learn later that was a bad decision.
As soon as we arrived at the restaurant we were surrounded by the
townspeople. Every one was very curious about our bikes so we sat
outside the restaurant and ate lunch. The kids were all red
cheeked and had runny noses. Oh what I would do with a box of
Kleenex. Then a little old lady wandered over, she seemed as old
as the hills but had genuinely friendly smile. Then the cowboys
all descended on us. Tim said, "Here comes the leader of the
group". I said, "Oh yeah, what does he look like?" his reply was,
"Elvis". At that moment I looked over and there he was, a rugged
Tibetan cowboy with Elvis glasses and hair cut. I could do nothing
but giggle and this made everyone around me smile. I love these
guys. After lunch we decided to push on another 20 km to a place
where we thought would be a hotel. On our way we crossed another
pass and on the descent it started to rain. I wanted to take cover
put there was no where to go. We rode on in the freezing rain for
5 km to the intersection of two highways. There were restaurants
there but no hotel. I was cold, tired, and exhausted. We
asked the restaurant owner if we could camp out back and the answer was
no. No, we had to push on. At this point a Chinese tourist
helped us translate what we wanted to do. I did not want to push
on, the Chinese tourists on a private tour bus offered to take us to
Litang, just 18 km away. I was extremely tempted but I wanted to stay
with Tim, how would I find him if we separated. Besides the sun was out
and I foolishly thought we could make it Litang. I turned down the bus
ride, another bad decision for the day. So on we pushed towards
Litang, the restaurant owner said it was all downhill to Litang except
for one small hill. That one small hill turned out to be over 355
meters (1164 feet). A pass I did not have the legs to get over.
Besides it started to rain so we decided to make camp off to the side of
the road. While we were setting up I realized it was going to be
another cold night without a shower and I just cried, why didn't I get
on the bus. Tim on the other hand, said, look how beautiful it is
here and as I looked up the valley I saw a herd of Yaks coming our way.
Yaks, oh boy, I have not seen many up close and personal, that would
change quickly. The herd slowly made there way towards us and I
realized that we needed to protect our camp site or they would trample
our tent. So here I was, herding Yaks, they are about the size of
a cow but have huge horns and a long furry tail. I guess I am a
little rusty because a little one got by me to the right and he hit the
fence pretty hard, bounced off it and right into our tent. Good
thing our tent poles are flexible, the tent just bent away from him.
Our bikes got pretty rattle when the little guy hit the fence. We
were entertained the rest of the evening watching herd after herd of
Yaks, horses and goats walk by us. Then it was dark and we crawled in
our tent, it seemed colder than usual and we were lower than the night
before. Then it began to rain and rain hard for more than an hour.
After the rain let up some I could here the river loud and clear. Hey
wait a minute, I did not think it was that close. I looked outside and
saw a river of water coming down from the road, straight for out tent
and then veer off away from us. Tim had picked the highest point
around, another nightmare narrowly averted. Our bikes were not so
lucky, the river of water was flowing over Tim's rear wheel. I
tell ya that bus ride sounds pretty good right about now. We went
to sleep and it rained off and on all night.
Photo of Cindie herding Yaks around our campsite. One managed to
get through on the right, I guess Cindie is a little rusty herding Yaks.
Ascend 735 meters (2411 feet) Descend 990
meters (3247 feet)
||The Yak camp - Litang (3920 m, x feet). I opened my eyes and the
first thing I noticed was the shape of the water crystals on the tent.
They were not the normal round shape but diamond shaped. Oh no, it
was snow. I popped up out of my sleeping bag, opened the tent door
and saw snow on the mountains around us and our bikes. Our poor bikes
they were taking a beating. I moaned and crawled back into my
sleeping bag. We slowly got out of the tent and Tim made coffee.
We were once again entertained by the herds of Yaks, horses, and goats
going by only in the other direction. We had a young monk visitor
who was just curious, I made him a cup of tea but he had to leave and
chase his herd of horses. He was wet from walking through the
underbrush but he did not seem to mind. And here I was with my
high tech equipment and clothes complaining about the cold. He put
in perspective for me. I toughened up and packed to ride over out
last pass. It was a short 45 minute climb but I was mentally
relieved to reach the top.
At the top a Dutch couple and their three
kids and dog stopped and chatted with us, it is rare to see foreigners
driving in China. They were working in Chengdu, were residents of
China and that is how they got a license to drive. Greta
generously handed me a handful of chocolate bars and said that they were
once hiking in Iceland and some tourists handed them chocolate and she
said it was the best thing. Well I have to agree, I was nearly in
tears, chocolate, chocolate will cheer any girl up. What a luxury,
now all I need is a hot shower.
We made the quick descent into town. It was a warm sunny
afternoon. I looked at four hotels before I choose one, based on
the shower of course. We stayed at the Litang Hotel for 100 Y
($12) a night, private bathroom, hot shower and nice room. Just a little
cold, Opps I forgot to check for a heater. below is a photo of Tim
before the hot shower.
Tim first arriving in a comfortable hotel room in Litang after 6 days of
camping and hard riding at high altitude. He is ready for a hot shower and
Ascend 355 meters (1164 feet) Descend 490 (1607 feet)
||Litang. Rest day. I was so tired from the
last couple of days of riding that I just stayed in bed all day.
Besides it was rainy and cold outside.
||Litang. We went to Buddhist Monastery today, entrance
to the monastery was free. The place was relatively quiet however,
we did find a group of monks taking a break from their studies.
||Litang. We spent the day getting work done on the
web page. When we originally asked to connect at the internet cafe we
were told we could not. We went to two internet cafes and both
told us we could not connect. So we did the next best thing, we
went into the corner of the internet cafe and secretly connected our
computer. We spent the next three hours hiding from the internet
owners and the authorities. At one point a group of soldiers came
in and sat down next to us but they ignored us. We posted our
photos, you can see them now and left the internet quickly.
We found a
restaurant that had an English menu, Mr. Zeng, he is Tibetan and
Chinese. He cooks really good food, it is more expensive then the
other restaurants but very tasty. He is located a half a block
from the Crane Guest House. We met Luke from Australia there, he
is studying Buddhism. We met Luke the next couple of nights and
really enjoyed his company at dinner. We also met Richard a former
rocket scientist (serious) from the US who is sponsoring 4 different
Tibetan girls education. He pays for their high school education
and one of them is going on the Beijing University. I am really
impressed, I have to say that is one of the best ways I have see someone
help a group of people in poverty. I wish I got the name of the
organization he went through.
||Litang. Another work day on the computer.
||Litang - Cogsum (3600 m, 11808 feet) It took half
the morning to pack, the longer we stay somewhere the longer it takes to
pack. So we left about noon on hwy 217 and rode straight into a headwind. We
knew we were only going to ride 41 km because our friend Vince sent us
an email and said that there was a hotel 41 km from Litang. He did
not stay there but he recommended that we do. He pushed on and
ended up staying with nomads at a much higher altitude.
changed a few days ago, it is much drier now. It is nice riding
without worrying if it is going to rain. Traffic is light on
Hwy, 217, mostly local Tibetans going from village to village.
They all drive a machine with a lawn mower engine in front while they
sit in a trailer attached to it. If you have ever seen the movie
"Mad Max" with Mel Gibson then you would recognize this vehicle.
It looks like a "Mad Max" mobile. The Tibetans decorate them with
florescent colors, flowers, and elaborate rugs. They are the
friendliest bunch of people, every vehicle that passed us on the road
waved. It is nice to be acknowledged. It shows how little traffic
there is here.
We found our hotel at 41 km, the room was 20 Y ($2.50) and we could
roll our bikes right in the room. A large group of Chinese stopped
for dinner in the evening and we enjoyed an evening of hotpot with them.
Everything including hearts, feet, liver and gizzards were thrown in the
pot, I preferred the vegetables myself.
Ascend 385 meters (1263 feet) Descend 650 meters
||Cogsum - highest camp ever, 4585 meters (15026 feet)
We leisurely packed in the morning. I could not get Tim away from
the little puppy that wanted to constantly play. Just before we
left a group came in with a monk, seemed ordinary to me. However,
the monk turned out to an important monk and he really liked what we
were doing. So he blessed us and gave us white scarf. Wow, I have
never been blessed before. We also had our photos take with a
whole host of people. Tim decided to carry my extra weight from
the very start, we wanted to get over the pass today.
When we started
out our climb it was calm and no wind. About an hour into the climb the
wind started to blow hard. It was another strong head wind.
Uggh. Even riding behind Tim I was getting beat up by the wind.
The grade would have been easy but the wind made it feel like a steep
climb. After 13 km we took a break. The scenery is stunning, the
river is crystal clear, the trees are turning the autumn yellow and the
evergreens are a deep green and blue like a blue spruce. I feel
like I am in a National Park in the USA rather than China. Then of
course a Tibetan mad max mobile goes by and I realize that I am a
stranger in a strange land.
We carried on for another 2 hours, the wind had let up some on the
switch backs but we were both already worn out. So when a camp site
presented itself we decided to camp. our highest ever. When
we gathered wood we had to stop and catch our breath. We could see
the top but knew it would take a while to get there. We had water near
by, it was snow melt, yes it has already snowed at this elevation but it
was melting now. We are above tree line so there is nothing to
protect us from the wind. We thought that the wind would die down
eventually but it never did. We had a fire but it wasn't that warm.
It was a cold a blustery night. Again, the scenery is stunning,
sheer rock cliffs with snow in all the crevasses. These rocks have
obviously been glaciated, they ridge was carved into sharp points that
resembled the shape of an ice cube. I managed to get warm and some
sleep, the altitude was daunting, I woke up several times gasping
Ascend 930 meters (3050 feet) Descend
||Highest camp ever 4581 meters (15026 feet) - Sumdo
(4000 m, 13120 feet). I opened my eyes and saw snow crystals on
the tent. Brrhh and the wind is still blowing. I got up and kept
moving to stay warm. We packed and tackled the pass in no time.
The wind was once again in our face. After the 4700 m (15416 feet) at 31
km from the hotel, we descended into a high valley. We saw nomad
tents in this valley, this is where we think Vince stayed the night when
he rode through. The valley was short and we were on another
climb. Our map said that the pass was 46 km from Cogsum. It
was hard to determine where the pass was, we were above tree line still,
the terrain was granite boulders with water flowing everywhere, it would
be very difficult to camp up here, possible but difficult. The
grade down the other side was gradual, it would have been a great ride
if the wind was not blowing so hard in our face. Going the other
way would have been better, even up hill. Oh well the scenery is
beautiful and the canyon we dropped down into was very pleasant.
Again, a clean flowing river, evergreens that smelled wonderful the pine
smell reminds me of Prescott. The Yak herders have moved down from the
high country and now are in the canyons. We watch a herd on Yak
cross the river, Yup these are China's cowboys alright.
Just before we
arrived in Sumdo we passed the Shengpi Temple, an beautiful Buddhist
monastery. In Sumdo we stayed in the only place the had rooms, it
is called, "The First Manor". The cost was 10 Y a bed. The
restaurant was nice but the bathroom was beyond typical. It was
overflowing. Tim took a picture of the men's side but I do not think we
can even post it on the net. it was nasty. In the evening a group
of truckers came in and were extremely noisy, they even tried to break
in our room, they thought the door was stuck. Nothing like bolting
out of bed when someone is breaking down the door.
Ascend 555 meters (1820 feet) Descend 1065 meters
||Sumdo 4000 m (13120 feet). We took the day off the bike
and did laundry. Tim worked on the bikes for hours, cleaning and
tuning, he keeps our bikes going well. It was a nice sunny day so
it was great day for cleaning.
||Sumdo - Icicle campsite (4000 m, 13120 feet). The women
at the hotel told us it was 14 km to the pass, she was wrong it was 17.6
km to the pass. It does not sound like much of a difference but at
high altitudes we can ride as slow as 4 km an hour, so it was an hour
more of riding. We were lucky that the wind was calm in the early
stretch. As we approached 4400 m ( x feet) I began to get light
headed and was having difficulty breathing. It is always a
struggle for me to get over these high passes, even when Tim has taken
most of my weight. We took a break and I laid down with my feet up
because I also felt nauseous. I began to talk about catching a bus
and Tim said, "Oh no, a Travis never quits", and walked over and grabbed
my rear two bags and put them on his front handle bars. I said,
"No way you can ride your bike like that, and Tim said," watch me" and
he did all the way up to the first pass which took an hour on the dirt
Photo of Tim carrying my bags as well as his up over the high mountain
I felt better, I could breath because I was not working as hard.
On the other hand I could hear Tim breathing hard but he just pushed on
up the hill. He continues to amaze me with his athletic ability,
he says it is all in your head, the minute you start to think about
getting on a bus you give up. I believe this is partially true, I
also believe I have hit my limit and he has not. I truly
appreciate him taking my bags and encouraging me to the top. We
still had to ride on another hour but by this time I had gotten the wind
back in my lungs and could ride on. Over the pass the decent was
fast and easy, the road was paved less then a kilometer from the pass.
The canyon was absolutely stunning, going downhill is always pleasant
for me, the air gets heavier and I can breath easier. We camped at
an elevation of 4000 meters. We had a nice flat place for the tent
and an excellent camp fire, the wind did not interfere with our comfort
this time. The camp fire made all the difference. We would
never have had a campfire in Central or South America, it is too
dangerous. Here in China, at least this part, it is common and no
one bothers us.
Ascend 860 meters (2821 feet) Descend
||Icicle campsite - Xiangcheng (2920 m, 9578 feet).
Another cold night, we had icicles hanging off the tent in the morning.
Hurry Tim, light that camp fire. We cooked our breakfast of bread
and tofu sticks on the hot rocks. hmm it tasted better than it sounds.
Since we have been at high altitude I have lost my appetite, I suspect
that this may be the source of my troubles with high altitude. It
is not my nature to lose my appetite, in fact, in my old job I acquired
the nickname " Chuck wagon" because I always carried food with me where
ever I went. I suspect that when I get to a lower elevation that
my appetite will come back and I will be eating a whole months worth of
food in one sitting. Riding at high altitude is the ultimate weight lose
program, I do not know how much I weigh but I know my clothes fit
We headed down the hill, I thought that it would be a nice
easy day. We dropped out of our high valley and into another
canyon, the relief from the bottom of the valley to the high peaks
ranges from 3,000 feet to 9,000 feet. Nothing like feeling
incredibly small. Tucked in the valley are Tibetan villages, large
white houses with ornate doors and windows. I assumed that the
Tibetan homes would be small, I assumed wrong. The typical Tibetan
home is three or four stories tall. The bottom floor is for the
animals, so it feels like walking into a barn when you enter a Tibetan
home. The second floor is the main living area, a very large
kitchen with a huge fireplace is the main source of heat, the living
room is ornately decorated, the Tibetans are incredibly artistic.
The third floor is used for drying hay and other harvested crops.
Since it is autumn the third floor is filled with drying hay and corn.
We stopped at a road side hut and had noodles for lunch. We
showed the owner our flyer explaining that we were traveling around the
world on bike and he was thrilled to have us in for lunch. He gave
us each a Pepsi and vegetables for our soup. Lately, people have
been giving us food when ever we stop, the people here are extremely
friendly and generous. We only had 24 km to go to town but it
seemed like an eternity. My legs felt heavy and my energy level
was way down. Tim was tired too, but I could understand that, all that
extra weigh he is carrying and then my rear bags to boot at the highest
pass we have climbed yet. We rode into town, it seems the entire
town is under construction. We met a couple from Shang hi and they
showed us a nice little family run hotel. We had our own private
room, more like a bedroom, with the bathroom next to us. It had a
western toilet and hot shower, luxury. We paid 60 Y ($7.50) for
the night. I recommend the hotel, it is located in front of the bus
station, the tile on the front has a large tiger, there is no sign that
says hotel but just ask for a room. Anymore we prefer to stay at
family run hotels than the big impersonal hotels.
In the evening we went to a nearby restaurant and met Weng and Kay
from Scotland. They are here with a group of botanists and are
collecting seeds to bring back to Scotland. They are hiking and camping
at high altitude as well. They were extremely interesting to talk to, I
am not sure how they do all that hiking, I am out of breath climbing the
stairs. I much prefer my bike to my feet lately.
Ascend 435 meters (1148 feet) Descend
( 4953 feet)
||Xiangcheng. We found the internet cafe, it is
slow but steady. I wandered around town visiting the market and
various stores. I found some cheese, it is fresh cheese, I bought
some but decided not to eat much of it later. I decided it
probably was not pasteurized. I am still resting from the epic
ride here. Tim is fine and does not seemed to be phased much by
the riding. We met the group of Botanists and friends at our
favorite restaurant. We also went for a beer with them. The will
renting horses and trekking at high altitude. The horses will be
carrying their gear while they walk. What an adventure. They
have also been to the pass that we will be riding. We now know that it
is at 4125 m 13530 feet.
||Xiangcheng. We did our laundry today, the family
let us use their washing machine, I did three loads. The wind was
blowing so strong that everything dried in an hour. I also ran
around town buying provisions for the next couple of days of riding. The
selection is not as good as Litang and Kangding but will get us through.
||Xiangcheng to overlook camp 3850 m (12628 feet).
We thought we would have most of the day for riding, however, when we
pulled our bikes from the locked room I had a flat front tire. It
was impossible to find the cause of the flat. At close inspection
of my front tire there was glass, rocks and thorns embedded in my tire.
My tire is getting old. So we slowly checked the entire tire. This
took more than 30 minutes but we have learned in the past that it is
better to take the time to find glass and thorns than it is to throw a
new tube in and then repair a flat a couple of kilometers up the road.
We had breakfast at our favorite restaurant before we left town, the
cook there was fantastic and charged reasonable prices. After breakfast,
it was a steady climb towards our pass but the grade of the road was not
as steep as we were use to so it was not such a grind. The highway
is called XV09 and starts in Xiangcheng. We were planning on going
over the pass today, but as we climbed and came to a nice camp spot near
water we had to stop. When we stopped we immediately had company.
Two cars with about 10 Chinese people who must have belonged to the
camera club because they had more cameras then people in the car.
They must have taken at least 40 pictures with us, it was hard to set up
camp. Camp was nice, no wind and warm in the sunshine. The
weather is changing and it is getting cold, so I know it will be a
matter of weeks and our lovely campsite will be covered in snow.
We had soup for dinner, noodles, mushrooms, and pickled bamboo shoots.
I bought a can of stewed pork that turned out to be bacon. It all melted
into fat when I added it to our soup. It turned out that it did
not taste as bad as it sounds, maybe I am just hungry. The night
was warmer than usual because of the cloud cover and you know what that
Ascend 1040 meters (3411 feet) Descend
( 394 feet)
||Overlook camp to small Tibetan town with checkpoint.
We woke to cloudy skies, it was warm but I could see the moisture coming
down the valley. Bummer I was hoping for a sunny day. We still had
to get over our pass. Just as we were eating breakfast it started
to rain, not hard but enough to send me running to the tent for shelter.
I was feeling better today so I took back most of my extra load from
Tim. He has been carrying the extra water bottles and sleeping
bags since I pooped out on the last big climb. Thank you Tim, he
was now showing a little wear so I thought I better jump in and grab my
own weight. I was glad we camped where we did because there was no
water at the top of the pass. Nice camping but no water. The
botanists warned us that there was no water at the top and there wasn't.
We knew we were at the pass when we saw the prayer flags, there are
always prayer flags at each pass. At one pass I saw a truck driver
throwing little pieces of paper with prayers on them out the window.
I guess it is a type of blessing. The prayer flags at this pass
seemed to be new, they made quite a sight fluttering in the wind.
We stopped and took a photo of us in front of them, and yes it is cold.
My feet froze on the way down the other side.
Photo of Tim and Cindie with prayer flags in the background, we are at 4125 m
The ride down was fast and fun, except for the occasional land slide.
We were amongst the Tibetan villages just in time for lunch. We
knew there was a place to stay at 55 km because the botanists did a home
stay somewhere over here. We continued on to town and stopped for
We walked into this restaurant and it was like walking into the bar
in the Star Wars movie where everyone is an alien. OK we were probably
the aliens to everyone else with our black riding tights and helmets.
The restaurant's back wall was made of earth, the roof was made of
plywood and plastic with rocks holding down the plastic. The floor
was earth and well beaten. A big potbelly stove was in the middle
where big pots of who know what was cooking. The first man I saw
had a weathered felt cowboy hat on. He had at least two coats on,
one a modern wind breaker and the other one made from a sheep, the sheep
coat was on one arm while the other arm dangled to the side. In
his left hand he had a huge Yak horn, later I would find out it was full
of snuff because he offered Tim some. He declined. In his
right hand were beads, Buddhists beads that he twirled in his fingers.
He smiled at us and we decided to sit town with him. I ordered two
bowls of noodles and a cup of tea. The tea had a strange taste to
it and the glasses looked like they had not been washed in this century.
So we passed on the tea. The noodles were pretty good except for
the spice that numbs our tongues. I think it is a type of clove.
We met this man in a small restaurant, he has a snuff horn in his right hand and
beads in his left.
During our lunch it began to rain outside. That pretty much took the
wind out of my sails, besides I knew we had to climb another small pass
after town. We found a room across the street for 20 Y ($2.50). We
were invited around the pot belly stove while the owner cooked us up a
couple of slices of potatoes. They were good and tasty. We
also shared the room with two dogs and a chicken. Yes a chicken.
He never left the room and the dogs never touched it, amazing.
Ascend 440 meters (1443 feet) Descend 825 meters
( 2706 feet)
||km 57 to km 106. We were up and over our climb in
no time. The descent down was dizzying. Oh I saw so many places to
camp but we had to keep moving. The weather was on and off with the
clouds and rain. We rode through a few small villages. We
were now down at the river at 2800 m. We had dropped 1000 m and it was
much warmer here.
The valley looks over grazed and most of the trees have been cut
down. If this area ever has an earthquake these small villages will be
very vulnerable to landslides because of the huge amount of
deforestation. I think of this because of the recent earthquakes
on the other side of the Himalayas in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.
I look around here and think that this is not the place to be.
We have three maps of this area, one Chinese, one German, and one
Canadian. The Chinese map is old put it at least has the village
names on it. The German map is way off, it is the Nelles Maps for
Central China. Normally these maps are pretty good but this one
needs to be redone, I do not think that the Chinese in charge allow good
maps or something. The Canadian map shows elevation and
surprisingly has been the most accurate for elevations.
We rode along the valley and started to climb again. Our map
showed that it was 5 km to the next village. It was up yet another
pass. I voted to camp and we camped among a summer dwelling area
along the creek. We had a few visitors, a road crew who gave us
some walnuts. Tim showed them our stove, something they have never
seen before. A stove that runs on gas. They also watched us put up
our tent. They tried to summon a ride but no one would take them. They
would all stop to look at us and then drive off when the road workers
asked for a ride. Hey, these guys are taking care of the road for
you, the least you could do is give them a ride down the hill.
Ungrateful drivers. In the end the road crew had to walk down the
hill. We had soup for dinner and went to sleep at sunset. It
was a warm night and it began to rain towards morning.
Ascend 725 meters (725 feet) Descend 1125 meters
( 4953 feet)
||km 106 to Derong. Well it looked like we were
riding in the rain today. At least for the climb. Once we
were over the pass the roads started to dry out. We heading down
hill and the wind was heading up hill. The very strong head wind
slowed our progress.
At one point I saw our road go up and over
another pass at least 400 meters up. Oh not another climb. I wanted some
food before we tackled that climb. So we stopped at a little store
with barely anything to eat, cookies and potato chips. I was
hoping for something better. Tim kept telling me that was not our
road and I kept insisting it was. It turns out that it was not our
road, it was a side road. To my delight we went screaming past the
The canyon was pleasant to ride down however I kept thinking going up
would be easy with this headwind.
The hotel in town was fancy. When I walked in each table had
bowls of candy and cigarettes (no kidding) at each table along with
liquor and soft drinks. I was not prepared for such decadence in such a
Ascend 460 meters (1148 feet) Descend
( 4953 feet)
||Derong. We took a stroll around Derong today, it
is a small town with some Tibetan homes and then the typical Chinese
concrete block buildings. We stopped in a restaurant for lunch, it was
located near the bus stop. Many, many people came by just to take
a look at the foreigners in the restaurant. Not many foreigners stop
here. The town seems to have more young people then adults. There
is a high school and middle school in town and many kids from the
surrounding area go here. Some of the kids practiced there English with
||Derong. We decided to rest our legs one more day.
||Derong - Thorn Camp. The weather is clear and the road
is paved. What a nice day to ride. We expected to get through the canyon
today with such a nice road to ride. Someone told me that there
was only 10 km of dirt on this stretch. That information turned
out to be wrong. There is actually 35 km of dirt. The province of
Sichuan would not let go of us for another day. We hit the dirt
after km 42. I have no idea why they stopped paving the road, the
sides are prepared for paving, the project was just abandoned. Is
this a sign of economic slow down or a change in project priorities, we
will never know. The result is the same, dirt road. We
decided to make camp in an area where we could get water. As we
descended down the canyon it became more desert like and water started
to become scarce.
We decided to camp on an old abandoned field, it was
the only flat place we could find. We checked out the site and
nothing looked bad about the camp, that is until we moved out bikes down
and then realized that it was full of thorns. We call them goat heads,
they were a bit smaller but just as sharp. I ended up patiently
picking out all the thorns out of our tires. Uggh this could be a
While we were preparing our dinner of noodle soup we had a visitor.
He said her saw us from his home way up on the hill by pointing up to
his home. He had some prayer beads and tried to give them to Tim.
Tim politely declined. Then he asked Tim for his shoes by pointing
at his shoe and then Tim's shoe and showing a sign that meant trade.
Tim politely declined the trade. He continued to asked Tim for his shoes
many times as if Tim would change his mind. Then he showed us his
picture of the Dali Lama that he wore around his neck. It was in a
beautifully carved silver case, something else was inside, I could only
guess what lucky amulet was in there. He asked Tim for his shoes
again and told him he could buy another pair in Zongdian. Finally
he got the hint and realized Tim wasn't going to give him his shoes or
anything else and left. Tim has shoes that are very difficult to
find in China they are a size 48 (13) besides we do not hand out
anything to anybody. I feel it is just wrong to give out money, it
corrupts people and takes away their dignity at the same time.
Unfortunately, some tourists give out something and then the locals
expect it from every other tourist they see. We have seen this problem
in many improvised parts of the world.
Ascend 425 meters (1394 feet) Descend 735 meters
( 2411 feet)
|42 km road
12 km dirt
||Thorn Camp - Xiaduo. We rode for 13 km and saw
pavement. Yes pavement. It was the town of Zhalantong where
we stopped for lunch. This town has quite a few hotels and it looked
like it would have been an interesting place to stay. As we rode
out of town we encountered dirt again, a rude reality. Dirt for
another 10 or so kilometers. All the while we could see pavement
on the other side. Our Lets Go guide book said you could take a
ferry from Zhalantong to Benzilan but I did not see any boats going back
and forth over the river. Ah well.
Pavement finally came and we
climbed to the town of Xiaduo and found a room for 20 Y ($2.50).
The toilet was across the street, down the road, and across the river.
Ascend 375 meters (1235 feet) Descend 390 meters
( 1280 feet)
|23 km dirt
5 km road
||Xiaduo - Pine Camp. I woke up all excited, we
were going to ride to Zongdian today. A mere 65 km away. Sounded
easy. We had read another bike journal and it said the pass was at
3100 meters (10168 feet) and we were at 2100 meters (6888 feet).
So that did not sound so bad. The road seems relatively new and
has a nice grade. We climbed for over 3 hours and then we saw the
pass. It took us another 45 minutes before we reached the pass.
I thought we would find a restaurant but we didn't all we found was a
small store, but it at least had noodles and hot water. The pass
was at 3250 meters (10660 feet).
We were now riding in the pines, oh I
loved the smell of pines. I could tell that Tim wanted to stop and
camp. I wanted to ride on, we could make it to Zongdian. I was
dreaming of a hot shower. I did not want to camp. So we
compromised, we carried enough water for the solar shower and we camped.
I got a hot shower and Tim got to camp. It all worked out.
It was such a beautiful view too.
Ascend 1165 meters (3821 feet) Descend
( 246 feet)
||Pine Camp - Zongdian. We leisurely packed up
thinking it was an easy day of riding, we had already conquered the
pass. Wrong again. We rode into a valley and past a small
town with lodging. Then we saw the real pass up ahead. Hmm
the bike journal I read did not mention another pass. Ah well it was a
sunny day, we had a slight tail wind. A good day to ride so we took our
time on the climb. The pass turned out to be at 3650 meters (11972
Then we dropped into a wide broad valley with tons of Chinese
tourists riding horses in the open valley. It reminded me of when we
landed in Yangshou over six months ago. We rode from the middle of
nowhere to tourist central in a matter of a kilometer. It is more
of a shock to the senses more than anything else. I really do
mind, when there are over a billion people in the country there are
going to be a lot of tourists, that is all there is to it.
We headed to the foreign tourist end of town. I was wanting
some western food, Tim suggested a noodle shop and I could not stand the
thought of another bowl of noodles at the moment. I have had more
noodles in the last month then I can count. No thank you and we
went to a restaurant with western food. Nothing looked good on the
menu, so I ordered broccoli and a chicken dish. That was good enough for
me. The western food was too expensive, I was having sticker
While looking for a room I saw another cyclist so I decided to stay
in the same hotel. A Tibetan hotel right next to old town. I could
see a very large prayer wheel from the window of the hotel. That
decided it for me, I have developed a fascination for pray wheels.
Ascend 855 meters (2804 feet) Descend 720 meters
( 2362 feet)
|Oct 30 - Nov
||Zongdian 3350 meters (10988).
SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to 9-15-06
December 16- January 16, 2005
Cambodia and Angkor Wat
Poipet to Tien Bien, Cambodia
Best Place to see Pictures
Cambodia Thumbnail Pictures
(January 16 - February 17 , 2005)
Tinh Bien to Cau Ganh, Vietnam
Tim's Emailed Newsletters
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South Vietnam Thumbnails
May 22 - June 27, 2005
Guizhou and Hunan,
Zhangjiajie National Park China
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Pictures of Guizhou, China.
(July 16 - Sept. 3, 2005)
Inner Mongolia and Shanxi, China.
Beijing to Xian, Shaanxi, China
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Thumbnail pictures from Inner
Full size Picture
Beijing to Jining, Inner Mongolia.
Grasslands of Jining, to Wuchuan (near) Hohhot
to Bautou, Inner Mongolia, China
Bautou to Yulin, Shanxi, China with Photos from Genghis Khan's Mausoleum.
- Yulin to
Yanan, Shaanxi, China
Chairman Mao's Headquarters and Residence in Yanan, China.
- Yanan to
Xian, Shaanxi, China.
Terracotta Warriors #1
Terracotta Warriors #2.
(Sept. 4 - Oct. 29, 2005)
Chengdu, to Zongdian, China
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Sichuan Thumbnail Photos
Full size Picture
- Giant Panda
Breeding Center #1
- Red Panda
in Chengdu, Sichuan, China #2
Chengdu to Kangding.
Sichuan, located in Southwestern China.
Mugecuo Lake near Kangding, Sichuan, China.
Xinduqiao to Tibetan Home Stay.
Home Stay to 4718 meter (15,475 feet)
Litang, Sichuan, China.
Litang Lamasary Tibetan Buddhist Monk Monastery
to Sumdo, Tibet
- Sumdo to
Xiangcheng to Derong, Tibet.
Sichuan Province to Tibetan Shangri-La, (Zongdian)
(Oct. 30 - Dec. 24, 2005)
Zongdian to Mohan, China
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Yunnan thumbnail photos
(July - Sept. 15, 2006)
Malaysia #3 and Singapore.
Taiping, Malaysia to
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Malaysia #3 and Singapore
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Pots and Pans
Preventing Flat Tires
Bike Touring Shorts
Have Learned On The Road
Injustice of Poverty
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