The Xinjiang Highway.

It was time for a little rest and Kashi is one of the best places in the world for it. Good food, rich cultural life and loads of interesting people.
Nadine arrived from Sweden and Andi from Swizerland, via Kirigzstan. Honza had developped kidney problems on Muztagh Ata and wasn't feeling well enough to go with us for the next part of the tour.
We decided to make an acclimatization trip, before heading for central Chang Tang. The idea was to go via the normal route into Tibet, i.e. via the Xinjiang Highway to Sumxi and from there head into the wilderness and over the Kerriya Shankou. A long descent to the desert, Qiemo, rest and then off for the big adventure - the central Chang Tang.

If you wanna make God Laugh, tell him about your future plans.

I heard him laughing his butt off.

explorer.jpg (73096 byte) At the former Russian consulate, nowadays Seman Hotel, raedy to take off.

A huge amount of gear for a minimalist biker?
The expedition members had left over 20 kg of high tech food and my bike was H-E-A-V-Y when I left.

oasis.jpg (71309 byte)

This may sound like a commercial, but go to Oasis Café in Kashi! You want get disappointed. A great place to chill out, plan and being beaten in pool.

Andi, Martin, Nadine and I, minutes before heading off.

kashiseller.jpg (111244 byte) Crafts seller in Kashi.
desertemptynadi.jpg (34476 byte) Some pretty hot cycling awaited us along the rim of the Taklamakan. 270 km through gravel desert, oasises and some smaller settlements.

Empty and relaxing after almost three weeks in buslting Kashi.

oasisbreak.jpg (70715 byte) A break in a small village along the way. We're all smiles and the picture is lying a bit. Andi didn't feel very well even when we started the trip and he raelized his health wasn't in order to go for a trip like this one. After three days he said goodbye to us and returned to Kashi to recover.
lotsofpeople.jpg (85499 byte) Loads of onlookers in a small town.
1.jpg (54871 byte) The forbidden areas starts.
A-ba and road marker # 1. A beginning of something new.

Full of anticipation!
sandtomtns.jpg (62884 byte) The sand dunes became bigger and slowly, but surely they came in hights of smaller mountains. Here is where the mighty desert meets the equally mighty Karakoram mountains.

The photo is taken from the first real climb.


flashfloodfull.jpg (90534 byte) Our trip almost ended in fast and horrible death after only four days.
Camped at a small river bed and was woken up in the middle of the night of an amazing racket. I opened the tent and only a dm away a raging river had materialized.
One of those flash floods you've seen in Hollywood productions. In my wildest fantasies I couldn't imagine a river could rise 3 - 3˝ m in a minut!
The litte white rock is where the tent was bfore we rapidly moved it in the middle of the night.


flashfloodempty.jpg (61841 byte) The next day the river sank to a trickle and then once again a wall of brown water arrived with insane force.

Check the little white rock on the left side, just at the edge of the photo, to get the proportions of it.

roadfucked.jpg (77527 byte) A small catastrophe for the locals. The road washed away, the fields covered with mud and even the main street was messed up due to the flash flooding.
fixingdam.jpg (134896 byte) Trying to save what could be saved and building dams to keep the water at bay a bit better next time.
trek.jpg (70998 byte) We realized it wasn't possible to cycle on that day and Nadine and Martin decided to go trekking in the hills around the river valley.
pass1landslide.jpg (115988 byte) Climbed over the first pass. Loads of landslides and rockfalls. Dangerous.
On the south side of the pass there was a massive landslide that had taken down half the mountain side. I crossed while it was still sliding and made it over before it was coming down thick again.
The guy with the little motor cycle wasn't as swift with his heavier load and had to give up due to massive amounts of rocks falling cm away from him.
cavecamp.jpg (113826 byte) The whole area was unstable and we decided to play it safe. Camped in a cave in order to avoid falling rocks and massive rain. There was a small trickle of water coming down the mountain side not far away from where the tents were pitched. Happy about fresh water close by and a place to clean our bikes in we feel asleep in our sanctuary.


rockonmartinstent.jpg (145337 byte) The night brought insane amounts of rain and the little trickle of water became a gigantic waterfall. The mountain side started to vibrate, resulting in rocks falling over the tents. The one on the photo hit Martin's tent.

Sanctuary and safety, yeah right.

upchiragsaldi.jpg (131353 byte) Passing the deepest river valleys and the worst bottle necks we finally got some better weather and it was wonderful to begin the climb towards the first high pass en route. The 5000 m high Chiragsaldi, known for it's bad weather, showed us it's best sides and I was euphoric to be able to enjoy my birth day in one of my favorite places on this planet.
mazar.jpg (116282 byte) Nadine was hit by some altitude sickness, but it was OK after descending fast to Mazar. She is not the first person suffering from this illness and the restaurants in Mazar are always ready to help a person with AMS. What about sitting down and order glucose, intravenously!
They hook you up and sitting there watching a Chinese kung fu film, chain smoke and let the glucose filling your depots must be great. Lots of truckies did it.
sanchulipass.jpg (116758 byte) Next pass, another 5000'er, loads of switch backs in dry surroundings.


kabakto.jpg (151154 byte) Have dreamt about trying out the back roads close to the Indian border and it was time to fullfill those dreams. Our plan was to head over the Kabak pass and try to get all the way to the Indian border and the Karakoram pass, the mighty trade route pass that once linked Brittish controlled Kashmir with the highlands.
upkabak.jpg (69311 byte) Up we went. Fantastic views and after battling close to 60 switch backs we reached the summit of Kabak. A dry and sterile landscape and almost no drop met us on the other side of the pass.
The road had been in an excellent condition and we had early realized it was a military road. Kept a low profile and tried to hide when army vehicles arrived. Managed to do so until 6 km after the pass. Trapped on an open plain and a jeep came speeding at us at a too high speed.
Caught by angry military people who wouldn't listen at all to my explanations why i just had to continue along the road we were on.
Escorted all the way back to Xinjiang Highway. Grumpy and disappointed.

In retrospect, of course it was a pretty naive plan. The whole area was on high alert and in particular the areas close to the Indian border. We were probably lucky to had made it without any problems as far as we had and we didn't heard about any cyclist making it from the east to Kashi that year.

Anyway, it was a great plan and we tried it.
Kabak pass was one of the most beautiful climbs I have ever been on so it was definitaly worth it!

I will try it agian, next time I'm in the area, but that time I'll be a bit more careful.

nadikabak.jpg (81599 byte) Heading for the Kabak Pass.
lastswim.jpg (87944 byte) Returned to the foot of Kabak and had a nice break at a warm little stream, where I took my last bath in 32 days.
bleakpass.jpg (74598 byte) Headed further towards the plateau, here at a little bleak pass in between Xaidulla and Dahonglitan.
melonbreak.jpg (108865 byte) Melons, one of best snack you can get as a cyclist.

Still a bit vary about flash floods, we actually checked the river close to us before we sat down and relaxed.

Traumatized for life? :-)

sandstorm.jpg (60032 byte) Some minor sandstorms made our life ever so interesting after Dahonglitan.
sandalstoppass.jpg (65777 byte) I had to realize my favorite sandals were dead, not even massive amounts of duct tape could save them any longer.

They are to be found on top of the Aksai Chin Pass overlooking the first part of the barren plateau.

hailstorm.jpg (42452 byte) Aksai Chin  is infamous for it's bad and ever chnaging weather and we were hti by it immediately after the first pass. Nadine, the little yellow spot is speeding down the pass in order to avoid an extremely local hailstorm.
hailstomrmud.jpg (68258 byte) Nadine made it past the hail, but Martin and I had to make it through the aftermath of it. The border of where it had been hitting the plateau was razor sharp.

Martin walking over the streak of mud and water from the melting hail.

beer.jpg (73081 byte) Happy smiles!
I found a bag in the ditch and it was full of beers and a bottle of cola.

An early morning beer in the middle of nowhere.

sandy.jpg (76130 byte) There are places where you have 20-30 different road alternatives to choose from. Some are fine, some not.
corrugations.jpg (90983 byte) Alternatively, you can always follow the main road, but usually it's no fun at all.
floodaksaichin.jpg (49852 byte) Most of the time we were very lucky with the constant rain and thunder storms, but there were places with mud, water and to take off the shoes and walk through the mess was cold.
nadipacking.jpg (96870 byte) Packing the gear after a cold night on Aksai Chin
photographer.jpg (99509 byte) As usual, there's always someone out there who makes your trip look easy. This Chinese photographer from Wulumuchi had walked The Xinjiang Highway and planned to continue with that all the way to Kangrinboqe Feng (Mt Kailas).


Some days of the trip is not recorded due to a film failure during processing.
We went over three passes about 5300 m and looked for the "turn off" to Kerriya. We couldn't find it. I knew it was located on top of a pass and remembered the place pretty well, but it looked different. When I was there in 1997 I had stopped on top of the pass for a photo session and to my surprise I saw a road leading towards the horizon in the north. A truckie arrived and I asked him where the tracks lead to. His answer was:
Kunlun Shan. Kerriya Shankou. Kerriya!

Since that day I had had the plan on my mind to one day turn off towards the Kerriya Shankou.
Now it was time! 

Go to the next part of the trip - Kerriya Shankou   Back to main page about Xinjinag 2002