Kerriya Shankou Part 1

After missing the turn off, we continued to Sumxi to ask some locals. No one knew about the "road" towards Kerriya. We turned back and found the turn off, excactly where I remembered it since 1997. Couldn't possibly understand how we could've missed it the day before.

flagsnadi.jpg (87651 byte) We left the main road and the real adventure begun.

This is pass is the last one with a pass marker and prayer flags. From this day on, there were very few signs of civilization whatsoever.

tentsbluelake.jpg (68391 byte) A camp at one of Xizang's blue lakes.
volcanicpond.jpg (88545 byte) Ponds with hot water.
They seemed to be bottomless. We dropped small stones in this one. Watched it sink through the crystal clear water until we couldn't see it anymore.
volcaniclake.jpg (94527 byte) Warm water in bottomless volcanic ponds
eatingonroad.jpg (68445 byte) One of the few times I've been sitting in the middle of the "road" I'm traveling on, feeling safe.

munchie.jpg (88354 byte) The cute little hole makers you'll find all over the area. Sometimes they are a real plague in terms of perforating the ground, to a point where it isn't possible to cycle anymore, wheels cutting through the ground into their catacombs.
plains.jpg (40184 byte) Heading for the Kerriya Shankou.
attack.jpg (43961 byte) Antelope horns all over the place.

The barbarian viking genes in me was awaken.

lastpeople.jpg (83544 byte) The last humans we saw in 15 days.
waterfill.jpg (109849 byte) We didn't had much trouble to find water, but it was always better to play it safe and we usually filled up our bottles when we had the chance to do it.
Here in a little pool of fresh water.
lasttracks.jpg (88404 byte) The last tracks. Most stopped dead here, some doubled back from where they came from and some lead straight towards the heart of the mighty Chang Tang. Intrigued to make a go for it!


iron.jpg (74171 byte) A red and strange smelling spring. Probably lots of minerals in the water around here.
first5300.jpg (76393 byte) A new sensation - to walk up and down a 5300 m pass in river beds.
nadicyclinginriver.jpg (68215 byte) We had hoped for some sort of tracks on the other side of the pass, but nothing cyclable was to be found. Too muddy on the sides, Nadine found the only good way to do it - to cycle upstream in the river.
yellowcycling.jpg (47397 byte) No roads.
bookburning.jpg (82644 byte) We started to feel the seriousness of the situation. No roads, a long way to civivlization, none of the roads promised by the "mountain guides" in Kashi, a fast disappearing food supply and rougher conditions by the day.

Burning some gear we didn't need.

icycrossing.jpg (97404 byte) Not a favorite occupation in the morning. Off with the shoes and socks and into the cold river.
icyfeet.jpg (108588 byte) Trying to get some circulation back.
tsampa.jpg (54328 byte) Tsampa - the stuff to bring. Not that it's good in any sense, but it keeps you going and has quite a high content of nutrition.
We mixed it with anything from lemon electrolytes and blueberry soap, to noodle sachets, milk powder and yak cheese.

Good stuff Nadine reckons, Martin doesn't agree.

bloodyhands.jpg (55201 byte) Fixing the dinner, hands bleeding all over the place. If you get a crack during these conditions on high altitude and very dry air, your wounds don't heal.
greyriver.jpg (64612 byte) Our guide towards Kerriya Shankou. The mighty river we followed up to an altitude of 5450 m before heading north and the pass.
snowmorning.jpg (98668 byte) The pass itself was not a pass in the tradtional sense. Just some hills at the foot of a huge glacier. We camped at the southern brink of the Kunlun Shan and a minor blizzard brought snow and cold weather overnight.

In a way we were quite happy about the freezing temperatures. We could CYCLE again on the frozen ground.

nadideepsnow.jpg (68530 byte) other times quite a lot of snow.
nadiicehacking.jpg (66939 byte) - 17 C.

If the ice broke on the small streams, we had to spend lots of time hacking off the ice from the bikes.

intothevoid.jpg (25462 byte) Sometimes we had no real clue what we were heading into. Snowfog and bad visiabillity made the walk in the high valley a mysterious undertaking.
chiru.jpg (44537 byte) Big herds of chirus was our only company. At one point a saw a group of 60 animals. Up here on altitudes over 5500 m they were probably safe even for the most hard core Tibetan poachers.
kunlun.jpg (35792 byte) All of a sudden the sun appeared and we realized we had a range of 6000-7000m mountains close by. We were crossing the Kunlun!
corsunny.jpg (68676 byte) The all of the sudden got really splendid. The temperature rose over 20 C in a quarter of an hour.
hub.jpg (75741 byte) Which of course was nice in some ways, but not in all...

My hub.

spokes.jpg (80737 byte) My spokes.
nadiwalkingclear.jpg (75934 byte) We realized we had to go for it. The whole valley was transformed into a big field of rivers, mud and melting snow.
melting.jpg (81847 byte) Steaming on 5500m.
chirubike.jpg (69678 byte) We made it to some higher grounds in time and also avoided a blizzard which had been on our heels all day. It hit in evening and brought quite a lot of snow.

Chiru horns - what could be better than that to clear the bike from snow?

walkingrey.jpg (58422 byte) An endless walk started. More rocks, more snow, higher altitude and no real way to determine if we were on a good track or not.
rockyhighlands.jpg (83198 byte) Like the day before it cleared up in a very short time.
nadizink.jpg (44146 byte) Zink paste.
corcloseup.jpg (51369 byte) Zink paste or burn!
5670.jpg (53836 byte) One of the highest spots I've been with my bike fully loaded - 5670m.
victory.jpg (69079 byte) Victory!

Finally, after a day on altitudes ranging in between 5500 and 5685 m it started to drop in front of us.

downfrom56.jpg (69228 byte) A perfect downhill. The snow was deep enough to stop a too fast descent. Heading for the lowlands at 5400m.

We felt like we were back on sea level and I was walking around barefoot in the end of the day.

tracks.jpg (59106 byte) Glad for small things.

Found some tracks, probably made by domestic animals. We could actually ride our bikes in parts that day.

mudorhigh.jpg (83929 byte) It was very important to choose the right path or direction. I had a tendency to stay high up on the hill sides, while Nadine and Martin rather walked lower down. Here, I'm watching them in a muddy area from above.
redpass.jpg (82264 byte) The worst pass ever for me. "The Red Pass" or Kax Tax Shankou at 5555m. Very steep and sandy. Took three-four steps, rested for half a minute, three steps etc.

Nadine arriving at the top and we realized we were on the right track for certain when seeing the little cluster of rocks.

POWroad.jpg (54841 byte) "The P.O.W road".

Koumingtang war prisoners worked and died here constructing a road towards the highlands. Mao had plans for uranium and also to get a more direct link to the disputed areas higher up, i.e. Aksai Chin.

A fantastic feeling to ride on a real road again. The road was never completed and fell into oblivion, even before any motorized vehicle ever traveled it.

proportions.jpg (59918 byte) Gigantic mountains all around us.

Check out if you can find on Nadine on the photo. It'll give you a hint on the proportions in the area.

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