Eastern Tibet/Xizang - A brief first update.
Soon some more info will be found here.
A hot rumour, which was confirmed by a travel agent:
The main routes in East Tibet/Xizang will be open for individual travel later in the season. On top of that, there are plans about easing the restrictions for individual travelling along both the southern and northern route to Ali/Shiquanhe in the west.
According to the same source travelling along the Xinjiang Highway in between Yecheng and Ali/Shiquanhe will stay the same, i.e. restricted to travelers in a group, with the proper permits.
Put online 20030419
well, some news since I left Qamdo. took a taxi to Bamda airport, which is about 140 km from Qamdo and 70 odd km from Bamda and saw 2 barriers on the way there, one 70 the other 90 km after Qamdo( both before you climb up to the plateau, the whole road is paved too ). don't know if they're PSB checkpoints though. The flight to chengdu was awesome and lost me another roll of film. got the bike fixed in chengdu with no trouble at all ( you get everything there these days from downhill alloys to the whole shimano xtr set at a price probably not even a quarter of what it is in Europe, not to speak of the wages (10 Yuan for 3 hours of work ). they even have a first touring bike there, alu though and some odd 27" alloys but nevertheless. Go to Merida ( name of the shop ) if you have any trouble with your bike. must be the friendliest bike shop there is and they speak some good English there and one of the guys is a real crack in repairing just about everything. Took a bus to Kangding from there and hopped another one to batang altogether lasting 3 days. I should note that a bus ride however short in this area does more damage to your bike than the whole trip to Lhasa could possibly do ( lost some screws on the rapid fire and was lucky to see it in time before it came apart, the back derailleur was completely loose and a bit bend and I have managed to put it back so it's doing the job OK. the ortlieb system lost some screws too and my new downhill alloy got away with a deep scratch on one side.) From batang I rode the 30 odd km to the jangtse bridge (border checkpoint) and put up camp 500m away from the bridge after doing some recce( there's a truly mad dog there too at the beginning of the town). Crossed the bridge at 4am without light hiding beside a minivan going the same speed and crossing at the same time it's engine noise also covering the rattling of my panniers. There are 2 barriers there, one leaving the village some 30 away from the bridge and another one maybe 100m after you have left the bridge. they were both halfway down and the last one somehow caught me by surprise almost taking me off the bike as I was going without light. Didn't see any guys in uniform nor police cars of any kind. Rode the whole day and reached Markham just before dawn. The climb is a bastard ( about 60 km from 2650m to 4250m, even though the road is in decent condition some 10 km after the bridge. no trouble with the water there but just one restaurant at about 3900m, so take some! cookies. did half an hour of shopping in Markham before putting up camp just before the other pass. almost got bitten by 2 mad dogs there ( well, the ortliebs got ) and did a 200m sprint on 4000m leaving me choking for about 5min. did the other pass (4339m, rather short) the next day dropping into the Mekong valley, again at about 2700 odd m. Lost my sunglasses again there though this time no friendly Tibetan returned them to me. from there it's a nice climb to 3908m stretching for some 30 km before you drop into another valley at about 3400m ( got caught in a snowstorm on top appearing all of a sudden). Camped there after being chased by another dog. Bastards. From there it's a long way up to the next pass (35 km) at 5008m. Sort of underestimated it 'cos the bloody map didn't show anything like it ( I mean, they should include a 5000m pass, shouldn't they). the landscape pretty boring too and again no hot food there. Then it's some 20km down to zhou gong, where I'm sitti! ng now, wasting some time to pass Bamda at night. All the way from the border to here the road is in decent condition. They've done a good job on a concrete drainage system all the way up to the 3908 pass which should take some of the monsoon's force where there's no trouble with landslides. They're also doing continuous maintenance on the road although no paving effort in sight. ( they seem to concentrate on the northern route there ) Also not much truck traffic, but lots of army movement. I had 7 PLA convoys passing me the last 4 days ( total of about 400 trucks ), giving me enough dust to last for another life. Didn't see much police, only 2 minivans and one land cruiser all the way from the border to here and they were always showing me thumbs up. maybe 15 km down the 5008m pass the road gets paved and is pretty much flat all the way to zhou gong (and from there to Bamda as well as I was told). That the news so far on the southern route, hope to make it to Lhasa and send some more stuff from there. Of course you can put this stuff on your site, that's why I'm sending it. Oh, and I really like those funny bike photos of yours.
Put online 20030417
just typing this from an internet cafe opposite the PSB building in
some news on the north route from chengdu to chamdo via ya'an,
Kangding, dawu, garze, dege, jomda. set off from chengdu on the 12th of
march. the road is a dream in concrete ( my adventurous heart was a
bit disappointed though the biker's part didn't mind) till you reach the
first "pass" ( about 2300m ) before dropping down into Luding. they've
actually put a tunnel through there at 2300m ( looks pretty new ) and
left the old road to ruin. from that pass down to Luding ( 1300m ) and
all the way up to Kangding ( 2500m ) they are about to build a new
concrete road. For now, it's in a hell of a state. can't even call it a
piste. big stones, rocks, holes, very fine dust ... . From Kangding to
Dege it's mostly paved, except for downhill sections of some of the
passes ( seeing it from our direction) . The Chula Shankou was in a hell
of a state, though I must admit we passed at the wrong time of the day
'cos we had waited for the tents and sleeping bags to dry and therefore!
e made it more swimming than cycling up the top. while my partner
decided to stay up the top for the night to test his new cooker at 5050m
I headed down to Dege, only to be stopped 500m before the hotel by my
blocked, wrecked back wheel. no luck getting a new one there, so my
partner headed towards jomda by himself while I decided to hop a truck
to chamdo. No Luck there, but as life goes, I met this nice Chinese
traveller and a famous Tibetan photographer who smuggled me across the
border checkpoint in his jeep and dropped us off in the next village.
Our luck was still good and that Chinese girl arranged for a land cruiser
to take us to chamdo the next day. up and down the first pass the "road"
is in pretty bad shape, but it get's better from then on and after
jomda it's pretty much okay. just saw one checkpoint entering jomda
which was unattended and from there on no barriers, checkpoints ( mobile
or fixed ) till chamdo. Even there, using the old road over the 2
passes, I c!
couldn't make out any checkpoints entering chamdo. Then, going through c
hamdo at daylight looking for a hotel, stupidity ( though I didn't
really care ) took over good luck and unnoticing I passed the PSB
building. to make it short: got fined 200 Yuan, decided to fly back
chengdu instead of taking a bus back to Dege to get my bike fixed there,
since it was impossible to do it in chamdo. They wouldn't allow me to
fly to Lhasa to get it done there since I didn't have the bloody Alien
Travel Permit. Apart from making me stay in the flashiest hotel in town
(only one for foreigners, cheapest room 120 Yuan) while waiting for the
flight, the PSB was really nice. Helped me looking for a repair shop,
got me the ticket to chengdu ( 770 Yuan ), found me an internet cafe and
then let me do whatever I wanted. if it wasn't for the broken back
wheel, I would have had a go at leaving chamdo. While I was looking for
the hotel and later roaming the city to kill boredom I passed dozens of
policemen on foot and in land cruisers taking no notice. Anyway, thought
all a great joke although it def. blew the budget and had some fun
taking pictures of dusty me in that really nice hotel room taking a hot
bath ( really enjoyed it, first after 3 weeks ) with all those
portioned soap, shampoo, combs, toothbrushes& paste, bathing cap and
what not all. Found out today (4th of April ) that my pal got caught in
jomda and fined 100 Yuan. they put him on a bus to garze and while he's
going back southwards from there while I hopefully get my bike fixed in
chengdu tomorrow we hope to rejoin on the southern route (318) soon to
give it another go.
hope to make it to Lhasa and to katters from there and to contribute
some more stuff after we've made it or get caught again.
good site you've got there
Two more mails from cyclists who have cycled in the eastern parts of Tibet.
Put online 2003 01 20
It's been awhile, but I thought I would send over a
hello and tell you a bit about some cycling action
this summer while I was working on some photographic
projects... I set out in early sept, from Xining, got
basically worked by lots of little snow storms and
truly frigid winds most of the way to yushu. I was,
to say the least, rather shocked since I thought it
was still early in the winter, but this whole area
around Maduo is bloody cold. The Xining - yushu road
should be completely paved by summer 2003, as it was
almost done a few months ago. From yushu I headed
over towards Serxu and the Ganzi area -- this road has
mostly been paved now, which surprised me since it was
completely unpaved last year. From the first pass
(which is also the Sichuan border) the road is
choppily paved most of the way to Ganzi except for the
passes and a few odd stretches. From manigango I cut
up over the pass to dege, which I should note is a
truly grand climb, one of my favourites for certain.
In early oct. the pass was open and the road clear,
but there was plenty of snow all along the sides of
the road. The daobans on the pass have a good set of
snow clearing devices.
From dege I headed over to baiyu and then circled back to Ganzi. The dege - baiyu road is interesting in that it is, err, really flat...sort of a rarity in those parts. It's also quite warm since it's around 3000m. The last 100km of the baiyu - Ganzi road are ohhhhh, really good, with loads of views of massive jagged peaks, especially on the climb up to the pass before you drop to the Ganzi valley. The baiyu - Ganzi road is paved in the first stretches and then for about the last 15 km or so, but it, like most of the main dirt roads in these parts is in good shape. From Ganzi I made a little detour down to Kangding to meet a friend, took a bus back to Ganzi and then cycled from Ganzi back to dege, well sort of. Around October 27th or so we camped 30km below the dege pass and got thoroughly worked by a snow storm that probably put at the least a good foot of snow on the ground. The pass was still open, the trucks had chains on, but we didn't want to wait around for the snow to clear so we hopped a truck to dege.
From dege we took the road back towards baiyu, slept on a hill across from the road leading towards Qamdo and made a 4am mission on the checkpoint there. I've got some more detailed notes on the road after that, but for now I'll just note that the checkpoint there does have orders to not let foreigners past, as does the checkpoint in jomda (of which there are two - one in the beginnings of the town and one near the end). The road is in really good shape all the way from dege to Qamdo. From topa to Qamdo they've actually constructed a completely new road, which was open for cycling when we went through in early nov., but cars couldn't yet make it since they are still hacking boulders around and digging holes everywhere. If you've been on the old road to Qamdo, which cuts over two high passes through amazing scenery you'll probably be a little stunned to hear that the new road is flat, almost downhill, all the way...very weird. For now vehicles are sticking to the old road, but soon they'll start using the new one I imagine and the old one, which is rather susceptible to snow and landslides will probably be left to ruin since there are not really any settlements in that area.
The important thing to note here is that the new road brings one into Qamdo from the north (I think?) and it's really like you just end up all of a sudden in the city, whereas the old road drops you in off the pass and you can see the huge sprawl of Qamdo in the valley below long before you get anywhere near it. I have no idea what happened...but somehow when we were going through Qamdo at night the police came roaring up on us in a minivan with lights blazing and everything. We'd actually been overlooking the city and watching the police fly around, but we didn't think it had anything to do with us. I have no idea how the police knew we were coming, but it really seemed as if they were waiting for us. I remember when I was cycling through the east last year I got sort of surprised by the amount of police vehicles that passed me and never said anything...I guess this year I wasn't so lucky? There's really no telling I suppose. We got fined 150 Yuan each and then, after much arguing, shipped back towards dege in a bus. In jomda the police stopped the truck outside of town, and dragged all of our gear and us out of the bus. I think they were especially pissed since they knew we had snuck through their checks unnoticed. A monk lost 20 000 Yuan on our bus, so when the jomda police took us to the station we also got to watch everyone on our bus get strip searched, which was, needless to say, good fun.
The jomda police gave us a ride, for free, to the border with Sichuan and then dumped us out of their jeep and let us do whatever we wanted. Unfortunately we were out of cash...but somehow in dege we found this fellow who drove us to chengdu and let us pay him there. The best part was it was in a police truck! We had a good time convincing villagers that we were the police, got in a car crash, made it to chengdu, acquired some cash and flew over to Lhasa the next day, which I was rather loathe to do. I'd made a date to meet my dad in Kathmandu though so it was either fly to Bangkok and then to kat or just fly to Lhasa and cycle. Whatever. All of the flying to Lhasa stuff is ridiculously easy and quick. I think it was 1750 Yuan or something like that and it was no trouble at all to take the bikes or all the millions of ortliebs on the plane. Spent a few days in Lhasa, then set out towards Nepal around 20th of nov. Lhasa was empty of white devils in comparison to last year when I was there in late sept. The weather was sparklingly clear every single day, pretty nice and warm most days and then damn frigid at night...which was quite a nice change from the east where there was a good amount of snow and the days never got too warm. We didn't get any permits, except to go into the Everest area, and there was no trouble with this at all. I think the only checkpoint now is right after shelkar and before the turn to Everest and all they wanted to see was our passports. I didn't find the trip to shelkar from Lhasa overly exciting in comparison with a lot of the other places I've been, but the trip up to Everest base camp and especially the route from there to lao tingri I really enjoyed. Whatever, you know how it goes from there.
I met a few people this year who came up from kat towards Lhasa and had to throw down some serious cash for permits and what not.
The best part of it all though is that within 24 hours of being home in san Francisco my bike got stolen. yep.
I've got around 20 rolls of medium format film from some portrait sessions I had out in the east which I'll scan and put at http://www.benjaminbroad.org in the next few weeks. I've also got some more detailed notes on some of the routes which I will look at and do something with...one day.
You can do whatever you want with any of this info, I don't mind.
Where were you lurking this year?
One more thing I meant to mention, but somehow forgot, is that Qamdo is absolutely crawling with more police and army action than I have ever seen anywhere else. I'm not sure what this is all about; I guess Qamdo is the main base for the east...but it is really madness. We spent three days there wandering about in the city waiting to leave and I was continually shocked by the sheer numbers of police men roving about the streets and the endless parades of soldiers. Very odd. There's a barrier/checkpoint on the new road into Qamdo, but there's nothing going on there really. The old main road - I think - has one too, though in both cases they are not on the edge of the town but more so after quite a number of buildings. In either case it's pretty sketch having to make a undercover run through the place no matter the time of day it seems to me.
Alright, hope you're doing well and plotting some devious adventures....
I'm Patrick, one of the bikers who cycled from KTM to Lhasa this spring in the group with Urs and Joachim and the others. We split up in Lhasa and left the city individually on different routes.
In Bamda me and my girlfriend decided to cycle north towards Chamdo instead of east towards Markham or south to Yunnan, since this route seemed to bee culturally more interesting than the one straight towards Chengdu via Markham. Also we already cycled around northern Yunnan and western Sichuan four years ago and preferred the latter.
We found no information abut people who cycled the road to/from Chamdo online, so it was even more tempting to investigate some time this less explored route. So here you have a few lines about, well, not so fresh news from June/July 2002 on the Sichuan Tibet Highway North:
There is no more checkpoint in Chamdo, and the city seems to be open these days. We spent several hours for lunch and buying food. We even found some 26" tyres there. A friend of us stayed 3 days there just a few days before us without any problems.
The only critical point was Jomda, the last city in Tibet before the border to Sichuan. There is a barrier at the western end of the city, but nobody was there while we cycled around it. In the center of Jomda we were chatting for a long time with a very well English speaking lama, and this not very careful directly on the main road. A coming by police jeep immediately stopped and four cops left the car. The officer wanted to see our passport and then our permit, which we hadn't, of course. Our friend exchanged a few phrases with the cops, after that they whispered bye and left us alone. It turned out that the lama is a very good friend of the PSB chief in Jomda!
So if somebody intends to cycle this route, do it very careful there, or at least less stupid than we did, especially if you head west into Tibet.
There is another Checkpoint just before the bridge over the Yangtze at the Tibetan border with Sichuan. We saw nobody there and could easily drive through it under the half closed barrier. There is no possibility of going around it and if you come from Sichuan and try to enter Tibet here, you should approach extremely carefully, and preferably at night. Bring some cookies for the loud dogs!
Looks like almost all roads in eastern Tibet are being upgraded this year, with many road worker camps sometimes every few hundred meters. So there are a lot of people and trucks around and in some cases it was rather difficult to find a decent and quiet camp spot.
Road 317 is the Sichuan Tibet Highway North from Chengdu (km 0) via Chamdo to Nakchu, norht of Lhasa. It looks like it will be upgraded in the next years to two lanes, at least wherever that's possible. I don't know if it will be paved or not. We saw many depots with sometimes hundreds of asphalt barrels, many of them empty. But I have no clue what they are doing with it. Some sections are already smooth and fast, but without pavement. So one can imagine how they will look like at the end of the monsoon.
Bye then PeeWee