Thin air and cold nightsOne week ago I was disappointed that my plans to cross the plateau on the high altitude were not practicable (cause time was to short). And now I was on my way to reach there...
How did this happen?
As I told you I'm the last report I took a wrong turn. On my way through the quaidam bowl there was a highway under construction parallel to my road and so I switched to the almost empty brand new 'bike path'...
At one point I checked my position and realized that it was not correct... I choosed the wrong road at a junction I didn't even recognize 30km ago. On none of my maps (paper or digital) the road was listed.
I shortly thought about turning around but then my wish for adventure won and I followed it into the mountains. There were trucks coming from the opposite direction so the road must lead to some place!
In the night I checked it seriously and realized that I could cycle over the eastern wing of the plateau directly to chengdu and will arrive just in time to extend my visa, excellent!
So i climbed my first 4400m pass the next day and short after that I had a breakdown that killed the inner tube of my back wheel so I had to replace it. In the evening a snowstorm came over me so I had to hide in a truckers hotel next to the road. I shared the room with two Chinese guys who slept fully clothed and let the TV, that was constantly droning, running the whole night.
The hotel had also the most fucked up toilet on my whole trip! The positive point was the included electric blanket in every bed...
Next day I thought intense about crossing the mountains with snowy roads and decided to do it. So I cycled out into the white world. In front of me there was a 4700m pass and behind this the about 4000m high plateau. On the way up I met some yak-herds with their animals. 40km later short before the pass I had the next breakdown, again on the back tyre. The valve was (again) destroyed by the sharp edges of the valve hole in the rim. I didn't checked it seriously when I built the wheel. My fault... Cycling for today was done cause I didn't have a replacement anymore.
So I tried to get a ride while temperature was going down... The drivers of the cars coming down from the pass only looked strange while the cars up were happy that they still are coming forward on the slippery hill and won't stop for me. As I start thinking about pitching the tent up in this very cold region a pickup full of Buddhist monks stopped and picked me up. My bike on the back and me in their middle of them on the backseat. It was a bitter cold ride cause there was no heating and the only way to keep the Windows clear was to open some of them... After two hours and 150km later we arrived in the City of Darlag where I checked in a hotel together with the guys. Pure luxury but nice to have a hot shower after all that cold nights...
Next day I tried to find a inner tube in the city. After two hours I realized that there is no one cycling up here! At the end I found a mountain bike in a dark corner of a workshop and bargained for the two inner tubes.
After I fixed my bike I cycled up a valley heading towards the next pass. I crossed it the next day and took a second one right afterwards. The gravel road was rough but the panoramic view from the top was fine. The descent was rough but winding down very nice. Down in the valley I crossed a small village with a monastery and headed forward to the main road again.
In the evening I arrived in a town where more than the half of the buildings belong to monasteries. In the middle they started to build a gigantic stupa from concrete. Looks very strange to see this concrete in the middle of all this mud-structured buildings...
The nights stayed cold and my equipment reached it's limit. My mattress lost always a little bit of air so the cold came from the floor in the morning. Additionally my sleeping bag is not made for temperatures under -10 degrees. So I always felt cold during the night and waited for the sun coming back the next morning.
Finally I decided to get down from the altitude as quick as possible. On a hard long day I crossed 5 passes and pitched my tent 130km later in the lower terrain.
After that I never crossed 4000m again but still had to cross minimum a pass a day... This was a bit exhausting cause the air was still thin up here.
I crossed the province of Aba where you still can see the traditional local mudhouse architecture. Beautiful houses, supplemented by monasteries and when you look up to the hills you could see dozens of little monasteries up there.
The town of Aba is partly nice. Modern times arrived also here and changes it day by day. There are still two gigantic monasteries in town but one of them is 'under renovation' using tons of concrete...
A really beautiful part of my route.
After 9 days on the roof of the world the road led me down. I lost 3000m of altitude in two days, crossed (it felt like) 100km of (partly pitch black) tunnels and felt really small crossing the gorges leding me down to chengdu...
It went warmer what was good cause on Friday the 13th I lost first one of my warm gloves, than my cap and in the night the zipper of my inner tent quit it's job.
Globetrotter the shop where I bought it offered me to replace the tent and I will take this chance once I reached Thailand.
So think positive and keep cycling!
The last day showed me the uncontrollable forces of himalaya. First I had to handle a lot of washed away bridges, landslides etc. and then I crossed an area that got hit by an earthquake years ago. The Chinese couldn't control everything...
As I reached the center of chengdu after cycling 60km in the city area the hostel I picked was not longer existing. The neighbor brought me to another one and I was very happy to get off my bike (after 160km on the saddle) and checked in.
The Tibetan plateau was impressing specially the culture of the people that is still very alive. I was surprised to see so many pics of the Dalai Lama in the houses. Apparently China has reduced some pressure (?)
The 14 days with 1400km crossing the high mountains were very intense. I'm very happy that I can take a rest now and I will use the time to extend my visa.
But this and all the stuff you can see and experience in and around chengdu is part of my next story!