Lhasa in one day

Hi all,

I am in Lhasa now and even the PSB or the FIT (government-run travel agency) can not do anything for me. The FIT told me that they only issue travel letters to tour groups so I need to rent a jeep with driver which costs around 900$ :-o
So I either need to find more people to share the costs or I can travel to Latze by bus and hitchhike back to Zongba (the FIT suggested doing so and the cyclists Leonie, Andre, Didier and Dino suggested the same). I will thus do the last and I hope to find transportation in Lhaze soon. Fingers crossed again please :-) Tomorrow I will rush through Lhasa (a GREAT place to hang out for a while) to take some pics (Potala palace!) and then jump into the bus. If I have time I’ll post an update once I am in Zongba so stay tuned.

Kale sho,
A running Marc


Travel Troubles

Tashe dele all,

A rather stressed Marc here from Rikaze/Shigazte.

Everything is NOT going as planned thanks to bureaucracy :-( I tried to get on the bus to  Shigazte but they would not sell me a ticket and after a long discussion (I had to get VERY angry to get the final info) I found out that to travel independently on a bus in Tibet you need a letter from the police. RULES. So of I went to the police (one guy in a small shoddy leaking cold shed) and I finally got the letter but the bus was long gone by then so I had to wait for two days for the next one.
On the 28 I thus travelled to Shigatze to get my visa extension and visited the as always well hidden PSB (29 16.265N, 088 52.596E) but instead of the expected 30 days as I was as told by the PSB in Ali by the PSB they could only issue 7 days :-0 So I talked to the PSB chief and managed to get 10, not a lot more but still a little more air.
Now I “only” have to get back to Zongba but again they don’t want sell me a ticket (RULES) (ticket booth hidden at 29 15.970N, 088 52.91E) and nobody can write me a letter here (don’t ask me why, even the PSB can’t help, RULES) so I have to find a jeep or such to get me to Zongba and the best place is Lhasa, 250km away so I’m off to Lhasa tomorrow.  Then upon arrival in Zongba quickly to Shigatze and from there to the border. A lot of things to organise and a lot can go wrong and time is VERY SHORT so fingers crossed all please :-)
By the way, the Mount Everest is closed to individual tourist at the moment (RULES) so I will have to visit it next time or from Nepal.

Kale sho,

An organising Marc (Traveling Tibet by bus is like Monty Python 24 hours a day)



Tashe dele from New Zongba !

Time for another big update :-) After leaving Ali we had some days with great asphalt ahead of us but again the wind was blowing us back. The first day we had to climb out of the Indus valley into the Gar valley and because of the wind it was not an easy job. The wide Gar valey itself was easy to cycle although the Terko La (4801m) turned about to be a beast because of the ice cold Himalayan headwinds. We did not make it to a cozy hotel in Moincer as planned and had to camp in a tunnel. So the next day we took it easy in Moincer and visited the Tirtapuri hot springs (31 07.620N 080 45.141E and it was great, my first bath since my departure from the netherlands, a real bliss :-) Ultra clean and fit we set then of for Darchen to start the Kora around the Kaliash Mountain. We had a long climb ahead of us over a nameless 4822m pass but the road was good as the whole road until Darchen is being prepared for asphalt.

In Darchen we set out for the 54km Kora around the Holy Mountain and we had a great trip and weather. Deep blue skies and the huge Kailash next to me made me feel very small, no wonder this mountain is holy :-) The monks at the first monastery we staid were a friendly bunch but how they manage to live in such harsh conditions is a mystery to me, it must be the butter tea… The next day was a real though one with a climb over the 5648m high Droma La (highest point for me thus far) and it was snow sliding all the time for me as my cheap Chinese boots could not handle the iced snow. On the way down we met some monks doing the Kora the hard way, prostrating themselves every step and praying. This waythe Kora takes 2 weeks but leads to instant holiness (and ages all over the body). The third day it was an easy walk and after a great meal in one of the many restaurants in Darchen we set of the next day to the Manasarovar lake in the hope of enjoying the hot springs near Jui monastery.

The trip turned out to be tougher than expected (never believe the Lonely Planet, that thing is written for lazy backpackers) because of an high pass (4801m), road constructions after the pass and an unexpected blizzard at sunset. The 5 km to Jui took ages and on the way down I lost Patrick. I made it safely to the hotel but he had to stay in a road workers camp. The hot springs themselves were a big disappointment, they are totally worthless. They are not warm and the basins are old, dirty bathtubs where the whole village takes a bath, bweeeech. So no bath for us. On the other hand the lake was beautiful and I had a great stroll there.
After this holiday it was time to head onwards to our next big obstacle, the 5280m high Mayum La, the second highest pass during my trip through Tibet. The road was washboard all the way but the valley leading to the pass was beautiful, filled with wildlife (deer, wild donkeys, marmots etc) so it was a great trip but the night were REALLY COLD (-20 outside the tent at Gung-Gyo Lake, 4582m). The climb he next day was only difficult in the beginning as it was quit steep but the last part and the downhill where just great. We staid in a small deserted truck stop (Mayum) with the company of two cooky-loving dogs. The next day after 5km we had to pass a checkpoint but the bored soldier did not even ask for our ATP. Cycling became more difficult as the road turned into the most disgusting stony-sandy washboard I have ever cycled on and the landscape became more an more arid. In the end  we ended up in a prairie-like landscape with the Himalaya on our right side and loose sand roads below our wheels. So it was pushing time, no fun with 45kg bikes :-( fortunately we could stay with a family in a small nomad village to recover and after a (not so healthy, ask Patrick) sausage meal we set of for Paryang, a small village to replenish our supplies. The road was the same as the previous day and we were glad to reach the village for some relaxing and some lovely Chinese food. The following day the sandy washboard dirt track led us trough some real alien looking landscapes with sand dunes, lakes and the Himalaya over the Soge La (4725m) and a small 4650m pass to the valley of the Tsangpo, better known as the Brahmaputra. The last part was a short ride to New Zongba as this is the only place to catch a bus around here.

A bus?? Yes, I have to go to Shingatze to get my visa extension and I have to take a bus I time is to short to cycle :-o So after some great weeks of cycling together I said goodbye to Patrick (he has a 3 month visa) but I will probably see him again in Kathmandu.
So tomorrow I‘m off to Shigatze and then to the Mount Everest. The next update will thus be in Kathmandu in 3 weeks so see you then! In the meantime enjoy some more pictures from amazing Tibet :-)

If anybody wants to send parcels for Sinterklaas or Christmass you can do this by sending it to: Marc Johan Steigenga, Poste Restante, General Post Office, Kathmandu, Nepal. After 2 months of Tibet I’ll probably be starved, HINT HINT :-)

Kale sho!


Touching the sky

After leaving Kashgar together with Daniel and LOTS of food we first set of for the Taklamakan desert, our first obstacle on the way to Tibet. The part of the Taklamakan we cycled through was flat like a pancake, a real serir and there was not a lot to see but that left me with lot of time to think about the last 6 month on the road. Most of the days we had a lot of wind including lots of small whirlwinds. In Yecheng we got some wrong road information from the chinese and took the wrong junction and we ended up in the wrong part of the Taklamakan so we had to cycle 20km back. So beware of the Chinese and look for a signpost with 219 on it. The 219 leads all the way to Ali high up in Tibet and after three days in the Taklamakan the landscape became more and more mountainous as so we were on the right track. In Kudi we had our first checkpoint but we could cross without any problems and could continue to our first pass, the 3258m Kudi La. It proved to be harder than expected as upon leaving Kudi the asphalt ended and the climb was quite long. I also had an off-day so we camped before the pass, not a bad thing as after this pass it is not possible to get below 3000m to get rid of possible altitude sickness. The next day we succeeded and from the top saw the Chan Tang range, high 5 and 6 thounders separating us from the Axai Chin planes.

The next days we climbed to the the 4988 Chiragsaldi La, struggling with the roads and the lack of oxygen. The following days were a little more relaxed as we followed the wide valley of the Yarkan He through the Chang Tang to the top of the Kirgizjangal Daban. The climb was hard and consisted about of dozens of serpentine and the road was bad because of thick layers of loose rocks and dust. So we took it easy in Xaidulla, a small village to replenish our supplies and to recover as our next main aim was the 5120m high Khitai Pan, the last pass separating us from the Aksai Chin Planes. It was a thouggh trip, mostly because of the strong head winds causing strong dust storms. Just before the pass we staid in an abounded road station, nicknamed “cyclist’ inn’ as most cyclist stay here before the long climb to the 5120m Khitai Pan. It was a comfortable place and we made ourself immortal as Tibet travellers by putting our name between the many other names covering the walls of the room. The climb itself was loooong and cold and the lack of oxygen made it quite though but the view from the top into the axai chin was fantastic and after a short brake we headed down to the planes.

The axai chin, what can I say, it is high (4000m+), cold, VERY windy, snowy and dry with the most amazing views I have ever seen . Cycling on these heights surrounded by small hills (all 5000 and 6000m+) and the deep blue sky really gave me the feeling hat I could touch the sky, an unbelievable sense of freedom. Because of the arid character f the planes we encountered some water problems as we had planned to replenish our supplies in Tielongtan but this village turned out to be located 40km further than shown on the map, a bad thing (cyclists BEWARE).

In Tielongtan Daniel left me for another cyclist (Boris) because he wanted to cycle faster and longer distances (where did I here that before?) so I went on alone towards the highest pass in western Tibet, the 5380m high Quishan La. On the way a saw a lot of wildlife, gazelles, marmots, eagles etc etc, it’s full of life if you now where to look. The climb was though because of the ICE COLD, REALLY ICE COLD bone freezing headwinds so I took a short brake in Sumshi and set of for the final climb. The last part to the top was hell as because of the lack of oxygen at 5000m my legs gave out but in the end made it :-) The next day was the coldest I have encountered sofar with snowstorms so I was happy to reach domar after some days of cycling to relax a little.

To my surprise I encountered Patrick there (He previously had cycled with Boris who now cycled with my ex-cycling partner Daniel) so I cycle with Patrick now.
Our main aim Ali was getting closer and closer and I was beginning to stink more and more (21 days of not washing) so we tried to Rush to Ali. the bad washboard road lead us over multiple days trough amazing valleys with salt lakes and sand dunes all the way up to Niak Tso where I finally could take a bath, humanity was saved :-) The next day we reached Rutog, a small Tibetan Town where we could recover and buy some supplies for the last part to Ali. We expected it to be easy as from Rutog to Ali the road is asphalted (YES!!) but the Tibetan ever present Tibetan headwinds blew us from our bikes and our plans our plans to bits.

But finally, after 23 days of cycling I reached Ali and I stay now with Patrick in the Chin Hotel (32 30.186N 080 05,365E) and the last days we enjoyed the luxuries of a hot shower, a bed ,a western toilet and LOTS and LOTS of food :-) And after paying a 30000Y penalty we also organised our Alien Travel Permit at the FSB office (32 30.405N, 080 06.662E) as until Ali we where illegally in Tibet.

Tomorrow we will leave for the holy mountain Kailash to do the Kora (Pilgrim walk) and our next aim will be the Mount Everest. We will have internet in 3 weeks in Saga but I do not know if I have time to update the site so if not see you all in Kathmandu, Nepal! In the meantime enjoy the new pictures

Cycle the world,