The gates of Tibet

In this article, climbs, cold, fatigue and difficulties... but also landscapes stunning and beautiful meetings, through a zone that once belonged to Tibet and where this culture was preserved.

Shangrila, suite and end

We have therefore left the last message to Shangrila. Two days beneficial to relax our muscles after a first week of mountains. This rest has helped provide our route to come - and realize that the road we wanted take initially... passes through Tibet, so we banned for us (and not the mind to defraud police checks).
We are ready, except that the day of departure, wake up... it is snowing! Crisis meeting! In the morning, other info arrive us on the poor state of the route chosen (through the) contact a French holding a guesthouse in the corner: thank you Estelle Achard!). In short, it was decided finally to continue northward, the new route being less difficult and less high. It takes advantage of this setback for lunch at our favorite canteen with Mary and David, two other riders arrived the previous day at Shangrila. We follow each other on the blogsThis is the first time we meet for real, we are too happy. The poor have some knee problems which forced them to swap their bicycles against good pairs of shoes for a few weeks.

On the road!

By early afternoon, we arrive to get back in the saddle. It's cold in this large plain constantly watered by the wind, and it is gray! After a few kilometers on a fairly busy highway, are mounted in a pine forest. Traffic is quiet, since a new more direct route - that there is on any map - passes in the Valley. Are pleased to pedal with this superb setting and this tranquility.
After 45 kms in the afternoon, we stop at the village of Nixi to find shelter for the night. Young people tell us a small garden with a Chorten at the end of the village. It will be fine! We will drink a tea to warm up, and then just dining side. When owners understand where it goes to sleep, they propose we put the mattress in the backroom. Top! You can spend the evening at the corner of the stove and sleep indoors.

Upon awakening, this Sunday, April 5, is 3 °. It covers as much as we can and we enjoy a 25 km descent. As often in China, the edges of the roads do not have much protection - even if there is a drop behind - it's a bit blase! And regularly also, we see carcasses of cars or trucks below.

More than 100kms of gorges...

After this beautiful descent you arrive lunch at Benzilan. We left Yunnan and entering Sichuan. It runs along the Singmai River, with mountains all around, its dry and rather hostile landscapes, its road which regularly includes areas of pebbles. After several days of gloom, the Sun is back. Truck and bus always exceed us in a concert of horns that annoy us... Fortunately there are not too many.
For the camp in the evening, residents of the village of Guxue (2900 m altitude) are not of the most caregivers... And that we are in gorges, not flat for camping in the surrounding area. Asked finally to the police station, which accept without problem! (In fact, these are rather of housing, and there's not many people) It is like camping: small lawn sheltered from the wind, hot shower, clothesline for drying laundry. For dinner, we are encouraged by the workers who sleep in prefabricated in the front of the police station. What better?

Our route continues the next day in the gorges to the arid slopes; at the bend of a turn appear in place of the small oasis: the villages are very green, beautiful Tibetan style houses surrounded by fields of wheat. The borders of Tibet were once so far, and it feels! Large cubic white houses, with beautiful paintings, prayer flags... It feels like in a movie... but not it is the reality that there are under the eyes! Everywhere of the yaks, pigs and donkeys roam on roads and the sides of hills.

After 65 km, it is 4: 30 p.m. when we stop for a break. It was nice walking along rivers, it grew well today! Legs tired. Random we send a gentleman who offers us to sleep at his home for 30 yen (€4,50) for 4, meals included. He lives in one of these large traditional houses. It's great to be able to visit one!
The ground floor is occupied by the yaks and pigs.
On the first floor:
-a room where the family sleeps.
-a large living room painted from top to bottom with dot colors, where it will spend the evening at the corner of the stove to discuss as can be with our guests and play with the children, and where it will sleep;
-a mini kitchen and a mini bathroom (but Phew! They have hot water!).
The upper floor, a terrace, covered home by tarpaulins because they host 16 Chinese electricity workers who work in the region. Blow when all workers return to the job, it is a little the attraction of the day!

Our host is the entire evening too small care with us, we repeat"Pengyǒu” (friend). In the morning, breakfast of champion: after our traditional hotpot "flakes of oatmeal-banana", they offer us tea with yak's milk butter and the tsampa.

We were very affected the hospitality we have received; live a moment within this Tibetan family was a very nice experience.

The counter of the bike shows - 1 ° (this is where is remembered where sleep workers...). Fortunately, the temperature rises with the appearance of the Sun.
On the road, it passes in front of a large Buddhist monastery that we stop visit. It joins the villagers that make the lap (counterclockwise clockwise, caution!) by turning the prayer grinders; and then we spend a little time to observe and exchange with all these people who are gathered here as on the central square of a village.
We're just before a pass that we quickly reach: 3500 m, the first and smallest of the series of passes that must pass to reach Xiangcheng. The descent is splendid, the mountain switchbacks. Found below a river on the edge of which, a little further, it was decided to stop early in the afternoon. Taking advantage of this free time, the boys leave fish with Jeremiah hardware. Too much content the Thomas! They caught 6 fish, but too small to be eaten (at the same time, given the pollution of nature and in particular rivers, not sure they would have been very good...)
And to top it all, on cooking a good meal, and dessert... pancakes! Yum!

Go above... even higher!

Wednesday, April 8: 2 cols await us today. The road is relatively asphalted except by location, where on some 50 metres, it is transformed into a mixture of stones and Earth. The first pass is going rather well, is discussed, we advance without too. To 12:30, it was 900 m elevation difference on away: we at 3800 m! It beats the record!
We go back down to the village of Raj where there are surprised to find a restaurant. OWL, was expected to have still eating Chinese noodles in bag!
For the 2nd pass, my motivation is very average. The landscapes become somewhat redundant, it's cold, there's wind, and one still has 800 m elevation difference on 19 km. Emilie and Jeremiah depart before, Thomas remains alongside. I advance as long as I can. The landscapes become more beautiful as it rises, but these are the legs that tired. In the distance, there is rain - will it happen on us? Fatigue, tension... morale is in socks and the voices. 4 km before the arrival, 4020 m altitude, Thomas hangs a tension between his bike and mine... Phew, it's going better, we come to the end: 4150 m altitude! In the end it beats 2 times our record in the day! Apart from cold (3 ° c) and the wind, no hassle with altitude. It must be said that one lives in the vicinity of the 3000 m for several days!
At the Summit, it is very beautiful with hundreds of flags to prayer, an impressive view of the opposite mountain ranges. Our efforts are rewarded by a descent of 25kms in snakes along this mountain and with always this beautiful view.

We get to Xiangcheng with sunset, for a well deserved rest day! During this day, we go to police station to learn for the renewal of visas: not possible here, but come, we invite you to lunch! They are cool the cops here!

A day at extension...

The next day, 5:30, we are front of the bus that should take us in Kangding, the capital of the County, where we will be able to renew our visas. 12: 00 bus ahead. We get to bring 4 bikes and 19 bags in the bunkers, and at 6:15 on the way!

We pass a first pass at 4700 m above sea level, then the high plateaus and small passes occur; It still remains in the vicinity of the 4000 m altitude. The landscapes are arid, large herds of yaks are struggling to find what grazing: the rivers are partly frozen. These landscapes are very impressive; given the cold and the altitude, we are happy with not trying here to bike.
After the city of Litang, it crosses dozens of Chinese cyclists who go to Lhasa. Make this road bike seems to be a pilgrimage for Chinese cyclos, as are the paths of Compostela for hikers in Europe.
Little by little, snow points its nose. After a lunch break, pass a pass at 4400 m altitude on a completely rutted road, full of holes and mud tar; everything course on a small road just mountain wide enough so that intersect two bus. Nice!
It is 4: 45 p.m. when we come to the last pass, 45kms of our destination. Snow falling again increases its intensity and a traffic jam stop us; We are at 4000 m altitude. The driver drops the strings; It is 100 m, and it stops again. We see that off the cars seem do not fit the collar, or very slow trickling. Our bus takes a shot of nerve and is 200 m to the left by doubling everybody, hand connected to the Horn; regular cars do the same thing... Hmm, very intelligent...
The night begins to fall, it has not much advanced. And with the night, the cold also happens: it fetches duvets and large socks in our saddlebags. at least we are equipped for the cold, unlike other people. Fortunately, the driver is nice and back regularly on the engine to suddenly heating. It is unclear why it crashes. Is it just frozen road or is there another reason? And since the Chinese have a level of English near zero, impossible to have more information. Then it waits wisely (or almost!) all four.

In short, it is 8:50 pm when all of a sudden the queue of car and truck is shaking and begins to move slowly on this frozen road. Two hours later, we in Kangding Road station... In the rain, we ended up finding a correct hotel to spend the night. Phew, that's it, to the dodo! But ultimately, the trip to bike - and the galleys that it causes sometimes - done well relativize this type of difficulties: it was dry and relatively warm, there was space to move, a good supply of cupcakes,... It was long, but not so uncomfortable that much!

For continuation of the program, it is still fuzzy, but probably our bikes will be slightly set aside. We stay here in Kangding a few days time to make our Chinese visa extension (Yes, it will already make a month we are!). Then direction Chendgu, in transit. Our goal is to reach Beijing by train, it would then attempt to involve perhaps a small part in cycling, but it is not safe.

In any case, China, it really is a huge country, and it's frustrating not being able to do more biking!