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Himalaya & Tibet


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Wilde Radfahrt durch den Himalaya nach Tibet

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6.06.2004 aus Ali, West-Tibet - 16'163km

Dear friends!

An almost unbelievable time has passed since I last wrote you from Kashgar...
In Yecheng, the last town in the plains of the Taklamakan desert, I joined up with Antoine, another Swiss. We decided back in Kashgar to cycle together through the first checkpoints. Impossible to describe our excitement, when we started cycling through the town and finding our way towards the G219, the forbidden road leading for over 2000km right through the Himalaya, including Tibet. We started under the cover of darkness... increasing our excitement even more! What a feeling - we're off towards Tibet!

The road started gently - the last pieces of asphalt had to appreciated. Then a 3200m pass already on gravel, afterwards a huge uphill lead to the Chiragsaldi-La, the first 5000m pass. In the village of Kudi the first serious checkpoint awaited us, run by the military and very difficult to sneak around at night. So, we decided to try our luck and 'play stupid' in front of the officer. Luckily, as last year, the military is only interested to check our passports... no questions about the compulsory Travel Permit, we didn't have.

The final 1000m uphill to the Chiragsaldi-La was rather tough for me. Some sort of intestinal virus made me vomiting very often. I could hardly digest... high altitude & virus not permitting. I felt like being on the diet of a super model, but doing some rough cycling at the same time. The arrival at the top was breathtaking... Antoine and me standing at 5000m with our bicycles! The downhill used up my last energy, I never felt so weak & exhausted back at the 'safe' altitude of 4100m.

The stark beauty of the landscape is hard to describe. We were camping just about 60km North of K2, a very particular spot of the world. Antoine also got problems with his stomach, alternating with me... but nevertheless we had great fun. Antoine was a perfect companion! Terribly stubborn when it comes to do some rough cycling - never the slightest thought of giving up.

Soon after Mazar, another military checkpoint, we cycled up the second 5000m pass, the Kakeate-La. My virus again decided to make me vomit... But it was already better than on the last pass. Again, we almost felt like reaching the sky... Undescribeable feeling!

The road changed from sandy to rocky to slippery to bumpy... but we got slowly used to it In Xaidulla, the only small town for hundreds of kms, we decided to stay for the night. Antoine still wasn't well, while I got already better. We decided to split up, as we both wanted to experience the road alone, despite the great time we had together.

So, I reached the Aksai Chin alone - a desert high plateau claimed by India, but quickly captured by the Chinese decades ago. A 5200m pass leaded up. A long uphill to the pass, but almost no downhill... the road would now remain for over 250km above 5000m.

I was very eager to climb a mountain. I melted a lot of snow to be autonomous for about 3 days, then I left the road and headed towards a beautiful peak... As soon as the road was out of sight, I was overwhelmed by the solitude of the Aksai Chin: no vegetation, no water, not a single spot of contrast... just endless desert and mighty peaks in the backdrop. On the next morning, hours before sunset, I headed off on foot. Before noon, I reached the summit... incredible! I was standing at 6070m!

Reaching the tent was pretty difficult, I felt the exhaustion after a 9h climb & descent. A snow storms started building up and visibility dropped to almost zero. Thanks to my GPS, I found back the tent, somewhere put up on a about 10 times 20km featureless desert plateau.

I continued cycling the next day. The beauty of the small clouds, contrasting with the deep blue sky was amazing. The seemingly endless cycling over the Aksai Chin will forever remain in my memories... I could hardly believe the beauty of the sight... ! The next day brought snow again, after a long day on the saddle, I reached Tielong. The only settlement after 180km. I met again Antoine (he overtook me while I was climbing). We had a very heartful evening... great to meet him again! He felt sick again, so I left him on the next morning. My visa started running out, I had to hurry...

With the end of the Aksai Chin, I reached Tibet. The land of my years-long dreams... The high pass leading towards that land of magical attraction was decorated with praying flags - a very emotional moment.

The remaining about 300km towards Ali, the only bigger town in Western Tibet, was marked with the encounters with the nomadic Tibetans: expressive faces, burnt by the intense sunlight, greeted my heartfully. The hardship of their life seemed all to visible. Again and again, the rough cycling was washed away by the undescribeable beauty of the barren landscape... beautiful lakes, high passes and desertic salt plains.

Today, I reached Ali. I quickly went to the Public Security Bureau (police) to find out about my future in Tibet. Luckily, the officers were very relaxed and I got a one-month visa extension without tough negotiations... enough time to reach Kathmandu, Nepal. In a rather serious tone, I got explained that I had been travelling illegaly through Tibet so far (yes, I know... ) and that I would have to pay 50 USD as a fine. Then, the faces quickly brightened up and I got handed out the Aliens' Travel Permit... to cycle legally towards the Ngari prefecture (Western Tibet). So, I will have a more relaxed time. Until I will reach Central Tibet, where I won't get a permit.

So, there's another month with lots of cycling ahead (health, police and bicycle permitting )... I'm looking very much forward to that last part of my journey towards Kathmandu, Nepal.

See you soon!


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