In 2011, together with 5 other friends, my wife and I went 2 up on the triple black to Yunnan Province, China. That journey took us till Shangri La County. The experience and scenery was really spectacular back then. However, our China guide casually mentioned that the views in Tibet and Xinjiang were much more stunning than what we have seen. That comment triggered the desire to find out how amazing the view is as how a local claimed. Yunnan was enchanting but I was determined to see China's best.
As soon as we completed our adventure in Yunnan, I started some sketch of plans on my next ride. Xinjiang seemed far fetch initially, but after few weeks of close study on the map, along with the countless emails exchange with our China fixer, I figured out 42 days should be sufficient.
Having had one riding experience in China and the costs involved, I knew that keeping the group small will result in having to pay a ridiculous amount of money. Well, if it is low cost to ride in China, Boten immigration would have been busy with riders from south. So i need to be realistic on the cost requesting the Chinese fixer every single breakdown of what we are forking out for.
And so...the search for riders with similar passion began . . .
Tiger Leaping Gorge, 2011.
Taken at Yulong Snow Mountain, Dec 2011
Preparation for Team Kashgar.
Plenty of meetings were held. Initially we set on the number of participants to 12. Soon enough all 12 places were rapidly filling up . In the meantime, plenty of emails and phone calls were conversed with the Chinese fixer on the routes to be taken. Midway through the planning, a couple of riders expressed great interest to join the adventure. However, these riders could not afford to spare 42 days of leave. Thus, the entire plan was revamped with an additional 8 riders.
A new route was then planned. The entire group will ride from Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand-Laos-Yunnan Province-Sichuan Province-Qinghai Province-Xinjiang Province. The initial 12 riders will ride from Golmud to Kashgar via the Southern Silk Road to Karakoram Highway-Kashgar-Urumqi -Lhasa-Tibet-Everest Base-Kathmandu while the other 8 riders will break away from Golmud and head on to Lhasa-Tibet-Everest Base-Kathmandu.
As the fixer set on the dates for the documentations to be submitted, the team got around on countless of meetings and discussions on logistics and working out on the cost.
We also got around approaching distributors who's caught huge interest in our run and offered significant knock off rates in support of our expedition.
What i started with.
The countless gatherings, mass orders of parts and essentials, visits to embassies, delegation of tasks, application of necessary documents and at the same time shuffling with day time job that we are holding, There was never a single session where all the riders were present in any of the meetups. Not until the last gathering which was 5 days before departure. That night, our good friend, Danial Hakim, a professional photographer, took the opportunity to photograph each and every rider.
From top left; Yem, Fazli, Shahrin, Alfie, Azrin, Taufiq, Zainal, Vinod, Sess, Kachuak, Dennis, Shahreel, Faizul, Hendra, Mustafa, Farid, Ejat, Kassim, Dr. Liang and Anwar
It's amazing to see these 20 enthusiasts of different professions and backgrounds coming together shedding differences in sync for one big journey together. This an exceptionally big group for me as I normally prefer to travel in smaller numbers.
Designed by Danial Hakim
Designed by Irdan Amran
15 August 2013 - The Advance Team
Our advance team of 3 left a day earlier where Fazlee and Kachuak on their 135ccs will be heading up on their own and rendezvous at Chiang Khong not after a little spin around the Golden Triangle. Yup you read it right, 2 mopeds along with the big trallies.
Doc Liang left the morning of 16th and will meet the rest later in Hatyai.
16 August 2013 - The Ride Began
16 August, the day of departure. Anwar had kindly offered to use Jurong West Sports Complex as the send off venue. A huge group turned up for the send off. Friends and families arrived that evening to bid the riders farewell and well-wishes. Very grateful we were.
A section of the carpark reserved for send off
Mo and wife
Kaz with his farewell speech
Rex of BHH
Muji of MW
Photo by Danial Hakim
17 August 2013 - Malaysian NSH - Hatyai - Chiangmai
Thailand's southern border of Dannok was busy as always on weekends so we opted out for "express service". RM15 should clear you off quickly and save you at least an hour of queuing up time. As soon as we cleared BKH - Danook border, we're headed for Hatyai Airport where the truck was waiting. The bikes will be transported to Chiang Khong and we flew to CNX on the same day. This arrangements allows us in preserving energy as our ride will only resume in Laos. Some had casually told me off that it's not adventure enough putting our rides on a truck. These people obviously haven't realized the effects of fatigue from serious long distance trips, and true enough, it started to affect us as we realized it later part of the journey. It's our 42 days and we chose our routes.
The boys had some time to explore Chiangmai. Lively city, big night bazaars and a great place to just explore the area. Some of our loved ones flew in to join us. But in the meantime, further north, the 2 mopeds traveled Northern Thailand.
Photo by Fazli
Photo by Fazli
Photo by Fazli
Photo by Fazli
Back in the south, in the wee hours along North South Highway.
Gurun R and R
Headed straight for Hatyai International Airport for loading of bikes.
Then off to the airport
That afternoon, we caught a flight for Chiangmai while Vin and Zainal spent the night in Hatyai since there's a small glitch with another truck. They took an early flight the next day.
And he prefers the lobby
18 August 2013 - Chiangmai
Took the day for scrumptious Thai food plus visiting old friends.
with Phillip Gibbins
A quick run to the local dealers
19 August 2013 - Chiang Mai
2 nights in Chiang Mai and its time to move on. The 17 riders will head to Chiang Khong for collection and unloading of the bikes. All 20 riders will regroup there and head to Boten the following day. We hired 2 vans to get us there. Thanks to Francis Chua of Autocom for the arrangements.
While in Chiang Rai, we visited the white temple and hot spring before picking up Doc Liang who chosed a quieter place for his r and r.
Time to go
Off to Chiang Khong
Picked up Dr Liang along the way
Right along the mighty Mekong
Arrived Chiang Khong late evening. Finally the full strength of 20 riders gathered at Rimnam Guest House.
20 August 2013 - Chiang Khong - Boten
Phong, our Lao fixer
Our bikes arrived safely sometime in the afternoon. All except for a broken sidestand on the 1150GS.
Back at the GH ready to roll.
Getting the paper work done in Chiang Khong was exceptionally different from my previous crossings here. Apparently, now there is the custom conveyance form that needed to be completed. Laws that have been in place 20 years ago will be enforced from now on according to the officers. The last time I filled up those form were some 7 years ago in Chongmek border. It took us all 3 hours to clear the custom. Once all was settled, we rolled down for the barge.
Waited in line for barge crossing.
Kachuak & Pajee
Vin & Kachuak
Phillip Gibbins was there as well
After the barge crossing, the riders didn't have to wait long for paperwork clearance. The team had already engaged the service of a Laos guide who made prior arrangements for swift clearance. It is mandatory to have a guide in Laos if you are traveling in groups of 4 or more. This ruling was made known when I tried crossing Hongsa border earlier in January.
The charges for the Laos guide which includes caravan permit, insurance, easy clearance as well as police escort all the way to Boten was 2000 baht per person.
Along the way to Luang Namtha, a small mishap happened. A dog ran into Sess' path. Witnessing the whole ill fortune as I was 2 bikes away, there was nothing Sess could do to avoid it. The impact resulted in the rider doing a 360 deg flip once while the bike did a 360 deg flip three times. The poor dog died on the spot.
After some adjustments on the bike, it was good to go while the rider suffered some bruises. Apparently the Dainese took the brunt of it. The rider was still in high spirit though. Strong chap, and he continued the rest of the journey without a windshield and broken panniers. Well done Sess!! Not that the roadkill didn't matter much. But it was a big dinner for a family who picked up the poor dog.
Kids of Lao
Spooky encounter right after this shot was taken
Due the accident, the troop arrived Boten late. The mood was a bit somber but Sess assured us he's OK and ready to continue.
Total distance covered from Chiang Khong to Boten : 230 km
21 August 2013 - Boten - Jinghong
Bade goodbye to Phong
We set off early morning to meet our Chinese fixer, Mr Wang. Custom clearance was a breeze.
After clearing custom, we headed to Mengla. This is the town where we need to get our Chinese license. We arrived at the traffic police at 1145. Unfortunately, the office was closed for lunch from 1130 to 1500 pm. So the whole group along with Mr Wong had to wait till the office resume work after lunch. The process for the paperwork started at 1500 only. It was a long drawn out wait.
Mengla Traffic Police
In line for inspection
Catching up some lost time
It was slightly past 5 pm when all the processes and inspection of the bikes were completed but the licenses were not ready. Mr Wong sent the troop off while he waited for the license to be handed out. So the troop headed to Jing Hong to spend the night.
22 August 2013 - Jinghong - Jinggu
We set off from Jinghong as early as 0730 hours. The road we rode on were full of tight corners. There was also intermittent rain throughout the ride which leads to the road being very slippery.
A few hiccups occured along the way. There was another man-hit-dog accident. This time it involved Kassim. I was glad to see that this time both the rider and dog were safe.
A second accident involved Hazrin. He skidded on the slippery road resulting with his bike being dragged to the side of the road. Due to the accident, there was a hold up of 2 hours. Since we were behind time, we tried to ride on the highway only to be caught and escorted back to the next exit. Motorcycles are not allowed to use Chinese highway by the way.
We arrived in Jinggu at 1800hr after covering an estimated distance of about 300km. Checked in Gold Well Hotel for 600 yuan per room.
Route : Jinghong - Pu'er - Ning'er - Jinggu
Xingshuangbanna tea plantations
We sneaked into their National Highway but was escorted out soon after. Motorcycles are not allowed into their highways.
60 yuan per night
Gold Well Hotel
23 Aug 2013 - Jinggu - Nanjian
Our ride today was from Jinggu to Nanjian ( 80km before Dali ) via Zhenyuan and Jindong. A total of 300km covered. We rode through back roads with about 40km of dirt road. Lunch stop was at Zhenyuan.
Another misfortune when one of the rider involved in a head on collision with another car. Rider and bike were fine but the car was not so. An early settlement was agreed on a handsome sum.
We had to forget about putting up in Dali and head for next town of Nanjian as it was getting dark . Checked in Xing Shi Li Business Hotel for 120 yuan per night.
Route for the day
Received a call from Doc about a head on collision
Shahreel got a welding job soon after
Quick settlement and 3 hours later we're on the move again.
The story of short pointy fingers
120 yuan per night
24 Aug 2013 - Nanjian - Dali - Lijiang
Today we rode from Nanjian to Lijiang with a stop over for Dali for lunch and a short walk in Dali Old Town. The distance covered was 348 km.
Dali Old Town
Dali Old Town
Dali Old Town
Dali Old Town
Dali Old Town
Dali Old Town
Lining up for Ice Cream
Lining up for shots.
Our Chinese guide, Mr Wang
We set off to Lijiang Old Town right after lunch, one of UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were hold up for a couple of hours when a rider accidentally filled up his tank with diesel. Took us about an hour to rectify that problem. It rained heavily upon reaching Lijiang. We had yak for dinner nearby and walked about the Lijiang Old Town.
Finding a spot
Off to Lijiang
Only for the brave
Chong Yu hotel @120 yuan per night
Dinner next door
UNESCO World Heritage Site
25 Aug 2013 - Lijiang - Shangri La
We spent the cool morning doing a bit of warm clothing purchase and enjoyed watching the locals doing their routine in Lijiang Old Town.
Lijiang Old Town
Taming the Llama
We set off to Shangri La about noon and made a stop to the Tiger Leaping Gorge. The scenery was simply breath taking.
Distance covered from Lijiang to Shangri La : 180 km
Gamba, a local delicacy
Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Then another tragedy struck, a local car was in one of the rider's path while overtaking and didn't manage to duck back into his. Big hold up. Rider broke his wrist and his triple clamp on his Triple Black snapped into two. Police and insurance representative came in and decided that the rider needs to be compensated but both parties have to head back to Lijiang for re- assessment.
Mr Wang ordered us to proceed further while he accompanies the rider back to Lijiang. It was not an easy decision but the rider realized his journey ends right there. He had to succumb to one fella's poor driving judgement. Said our goodbyes reluctantly and felt as helpless as there was nothing else we could think of for him to continue.
Dr Liang And Denise helping with translation
Discussing the options
Heavy heart when we left and couldn't stop feeling how unfortunate he was to end the trip prematurely.
We had quick dinner as it was late arriving Shangri-la. At a steady high elevation, some of us were already feeling the effect of AMS.
26 Aug 2013 - Shangri La - Xiangcheng
Today's ride took us to the start of bumpy road condition and unfavorable weather. There was the occasional drizzle. The first 80 km was a very big and good road with well-lit tunnels. After that the road gets bumpy with a few unpaved road. There was a junction where it splits the direction to Tibet and Sichuan province. There was a section of about 50 km where the road was narrow with many live-stocks roaming.
The last 100 km of the mountain road was slippery with tonnes of hairpin corners. The total distance of about 300 km took us to an elevation of 4200 m.
With all the rough terrain and weather conditions, we have the awesome and breathtaking views to compensate for.
We arrived in Xiangcheng town late evening at a low temperature of 8 deg C. There are a lot of Tibetan influence on the locals' homes and costumes.
The climb for the 5th floor was taxing. The thin air did not help at all
Chasing the bull
The day's route
Scenic route towards Xiangcheng
Take a right to Sichuan and left for Tibet. We chose the longer route.
View towards Xiangcheng
A Tibetan tombstone
Town of Pangzula
Not long after, we arrived Xiangcheng
Our stay for 160 yuan per night.
We had fruits for dinner instead since many eateries was closed.
27/28 Aug 2013 Xiangcheng - Xinlong
Our destination today - Xinlong via Litang. Most of the riders will remember Litang vividly. They should have plenty to say about this stretch. Some love it, some will give it a miss the next time. This 353 km route offers the worst road conditions by far. It was a record travelling time of 16 hours. There were sand...mud...gravel...ruts...rocks. However, it gives us the best scenery ever up to this point. Its like those you see in the National Geographic channels. We were travelling along the western of Sichuan where according to locals, were part of Xizang or Tibet once upon a long time ago.
We rode to an elevation of 4600 m and lowest temperature clocked in was 7 deg C.
It was raining as we made our way to Xinlong. The ride to Xinlong had many of the riders trying to keep our bikes upright. Among us , there was like a total of 15 drops.
2 riders took a wrong turn ended up 190 km away from the main pack. They had to put up the night in another town of Yajiang.
Another rider traveled half this journey on his own. At one point of time, there were like 5 separate groups , huffing and puffing trying to get to Xinlong.
Xinlong is a wet and muddy town and majority of the people are Tibetan They probably don't receive much tourist on their own. We seem so alien to these people.
We stayed at Wang Jiang Hotel for 160 yuan per night. We had to park our bikes at a military camp as the local police assured us that it was not safe to park our bikes outside the hotel. One restaurant in particular waited up till the last group arrive. It was almost midnight by then.
Then the jingle starts
Notice the boulders
Tonnes of them
Pajee sneaked into some vegetations
We named this stretch, Land of Boulders
And claimed few casualties
Wang Jiang Hotel
The first group arrived just after sunset whiles the last, a couple of hours before midnight. All riders except 2 arrived Xinlong town that night. They apparently headed east towards Chengdu. After confirming that they are some 190 km away, and with the conditions of the road, we knew that it won't be an early departure for us the next day.
Next morning, the team of 8 set off early for Maniganggo while our group waited for the 2 wanderers. We spent the day taking a stroll over the small town of Xinlong.
We waited for the 2 riders to join the pack and by the time they arrived it was almost 4pm.
On top of that there was some issues with some of the bikes which was the result from the previous day's ride. The problems are such as front brake failure, battery problem, deflated tire, fork seal leak, broken mirrors, flying panniers, fuel pump failure and wet smelly socks. We tried to fix all the problem and to make matters worse there was a blackout in the town and the pump station could not work when we were departed. By the time the whole matter was resolved, it was close to 7pm. So we decided to spend another night in Xinlong.
29 Aug 2013 Xinlong - Maniganggo
We set off in the morning towards Gantze Town. We had some water crossing along the way. As always we were surrounded by magnificent views of snow capped mountains in the background. We stopped by a small town to charge the battery for one of the bike.
Gantze town brings a new traditional flavor of the tribes and minority. Their costumes look pretty much like one of the South Americans natives.
From Gantze, we made our way to another town of Maniganngo. Colours decorated this Tibetian Village. This unique town will have their electricity supply shut off at the stroke of midnight everyday.
We stayed at Manigangepani Hotel for 180 yuan per night.
The whole ride for today had covering a distance of 210km and to an elevation of 3755m. The temperature there was about 12.5 deg C.
We caught with the other team in Maniganggo
30 Aug 2013 Maniganggo - Xiza
Today's ride was another yet tough ride for us. The terrain were basically sandy..rocky... muddy due to occasional rain. The traction control on the bike was of little use. There were occasions where we are only able to ride at 20km/hr. No matter how skillful one is, we seems to have no control over the bikes on muds. Not to mention the number of drops. Among many bike issues were flat tires, starter relay problem and bikes with leaking fuel. Travelling on the mountain roads which were muddy and rocky had our bikes sliding.
The other group left a couple of hours earlier as we decided that we will wait for the power generator to come on. And up to this point Doc Liang was already two towns ahead. He has been pushing ahead from everyone else two days ago, alone.
We traveled along the mountainous road of the Tibet settlement of this western Sichuan Province to as high as 4000m . Not many foreigners traveled this road according to locals. They prefer the east area of Chengdu. As we travel close to the Tibet borders, the influence is apparent in the people, language as well as culture. And the scenery offered there was simply magnificent.
The difficult terrain is slowly taking a toll on us and the instances for photo taking were steadily declining.
Soon after we move off from the checkpoint, A GSA simply lost its juice. Numerous cranks and jump start wouldn't get it started. It took some close to 3 hours for us to troubleshoot and suggested that the cells should be the culprit. While the guys were busy attending to the bike, I received a call from the other group of an accident which happened to the other group. This time it sounded serious as the rider was brought to a hospital some 200 km north. Time was running out as we anticipated that it's going to get cold come nightfall so we hired a local tractor to move it to the next town much to the disappointment of the rider.
The X1R came next as we were about to move. Carburetor was heavily leaking petrol. Since it's a much lighter bike, we decided to tow it up. The Ducati volunteered. To make matter worse, it started raining and the earth became muddy and too slippery.
Again, it was difficult to maneuver in mud and the bike simply glided over when descending. No control whatsover. My road tires made it worse and the Heidanau K60 on others didn't fare much better. It became too dangerous even when everyone went easy on the throttle. As the rain kept pouring, the mud got worse and some even suggested that we seek refuge at a local Tibetan tent and continue the next day. The next town, some 50km away but that felt like forever. We got another tractor for the Yammie as it was too difficult for the Ducati to pull it down.
Wet and shivering cold, we reminded everyone to keep close till we get to the next town for the night. The rain stopped when we got to low land.
We checked in a guesthouse midnight in a tiny trucker town of Xiza. No shower facility, open air toilet with no supply of water. But those thick blankets were like god-sent. We cramped in 6 people per room.
Room for the night
31 Aug 2013 Xiza - Shiqu
Morning spent on fixing all the affected bikes while few of us took a short walk round town. The GSA needed a new battery and up the truck it went. The next big town will be in Xining. The GSA will have a stopover in a town of Xiwu. Since it was closed to 3 pm, and from Doc Liang's review of the road condition, I decided that the next stopover will be a nearby Shiqu. I asked the two most fittest rider, Ejat and Mus if they can accompany the GSA for Xiwu and soon after they suited up and was on their way along with the GSA.
In the meantime, was in contact with the other group. Rider suffered 5 broken ribs and a punctured lung. Mr Wang was on the way to attend to him from Kunming. Plans for Medical Evacuation already in process.The bike was placed in a police station near Shiqu county and Mr Wang had asked our assistance to retrieve the bike when passing by.
Rode a short distance of 75 km from Xiza to Shiqu. Once again we had to ride on bad road with billions of gravels plus rain. This time the gravel was more difficult to handle. Shixu stands at an elevation of 5005 m; the highest by far. Arrived here shivering due to rain and wind, breathing was getting more difficult. Even mounting and getting off the bike was taxing.
Staying for the night @280 yuan per room
Had an early night as we are expecting spending more time next day at the police station and transporting it to big town of Xining.
1 Sept 2013 - Shiqu - Maduo - Qingshuanhe
Rode from Shiqu - Xiwu - Maduo - Qinshuanhe today covering a distance of 205km. Stopped for lunch in Xiwu town and met up with the other 3 guys who went ahead accompanying the GSA . Up till this point, we have officially crossed over to Qinghai Province.
The treacherous terrain we had to go through had resulted in some of the rider's trip ending rather prematurely. 2 bikes will be transported to Xining where the a transport company will send it to Kunming for shipment back to Singapore at a later date.
A little chilly
Retrieving the Katoom
Arrived small town of Qingshuihe
A small trucker town
Found a place for the night
30 yuan per person
Another trucker town where there's no shower facility and the toilet is at your convenience. The GSA came back to life after we swapped the KTM's battery. He couldn't be any happier and he rode happily until the worst case happened at Everest Base Camp.
2 Sept 2013 - Qingshuihe - Gonghe
The distance we covered from Qingshuihe to Gonghe was 520 km. No bike issues except for a side stand bypass on the 650 Dakar so we decided to push slightly further today. We haven't been following the itinerary for the past couple of days so another day won't hurt I guess. So Gonghe it will be, based on the recommendations of Mr Wang's driver.
The first 30km of our ride were off road full of light gravels and badly damaged broken concrete road, and the rest of it was a pretty good straight road. The highest elevation we rode for today was 4855 m. There was also a lot crosswinds along the journey. The scenery along this route was purely mountains and grasslands.
The petrol stations in Qinghai province requires all motorcycle owners to fill up a can and have them manually be filled with petrol some distance away. And as we later discovered, it applies in other provinces like Gangsu, Xinjiang and Tibet as well.
New problem for the Dakar
And we couldn't resist veering off into a beautiful lake
228 yuan per night
3 Sept 2013 - Gonghe - Xining
Today's ride was supposed to end at Zhangyu. Not to strictly adhere by it, we got the Dakar to fix it's leaking problem since Gonghe is a big town with big workshops.
Local girls apparently take a liking for dark Asian men
A local mechanic found the problem with the Dakar but needed few hours to fix it so we went for lunch.
The presence of Muslim are very prominent in this town. And many other towns as we discovered along the way. According to the State Administration for Religious Affairs, there are more than 21 million Muslims in the country while unofficial estimates range as high as 50 million.
We passed by many scenic areas including a range of snow capped mountains and managed to sneak into Qinghai International Highway but were stopped upon reaching Xining and were told to exit or risk being arrested. The officer warned us a few times so this time, comply we did.
We were already about 16 km away from Xining Town when we received a call from our guide informing us that it was snowing heavily up north in Zhangyu. His car was fully covered with snow and hence he advised us to stop riding for the day. We turned back to Xining town and checked into a hotel. 154 km for today.
A ruling in this province states that all foreigners must stay in hotels approved by Chinese government. Since all are starting to feel the fatigue, we decided to rejuvenate into a 5 star.
4 Sept 2013 - Xining - Zhangye
We had big spread for breakfast. It's nice to see everyone in jubilant mood during breakfast. Clean toilet and warm cosy bed, so nobody was complaining. They even asked if we could leave slightly later than normal. I was more than happy to oblige.
We crossed over to another province, Qangsu, for a town called Zhangye. Total distance covered today was 325 km
The road travelled today offers the best ride in China; perfect road, perfect view, perfect condition. Not that we dread off road, but we have been travelling through unpaved road most of the time in Sichuan province. It was quite refreshing to be presented with well paved tarmac.
We passed 4 snow capped mountains. It was a great feeling seeing everyone smiling when we reached the mountain where it snowed. Exuberant, everyone was seen hi fives. Don't blame us, it was the first for everyone riding in the snow.
Passed a snow capped mountain
Officer up for a chat
Sharing the road
5 Sept 2013 - Zhangye - Jiayuguan Great City
The weather was about right. Temperature was 21 deg C and it was comfortable to ride without the thermals. The 240 km which we traveled today took us through barren land to the Jiayuguan Great City. We're expecting the desert anytime soon. Checked in a hotel in Jiayuguan town and soon after we started the engine again for a short ride to nearby Jiayuguan Great City. Few of us dumped the bike for a camel ride.
The parking attendant demanded we pay the price equivalent to a car's charges on every bike. After a 10 minutes squabble, Dennis managed to half it.
Fork seal leak on the 800.
Village of Panzula
6 Sept 2013 - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang
Before we left for Dunhuang, we had a stop at The Great Wall of China. Some history lesson by Mr Wang, the last bit of western GWC ends in Jiayuguan. We spent some time there and left about 130 pm. We took the secondary road which were half gravel and half broken road but managed to sneak into Gangsu National Highway for about 120 km. However, one of the Duke kept losing air pressure so there were quite a bit of hold up time.
We arrived Dunhuang town rather later than expected but were greeted with colors decorating the town. There were lots of activities with people walking around and hanging out in eateries way past midnight.
The Great Wall
From Wiki: Jiāyù Guān; literally "Excellent Valley Pass" is the first pass at the west end of the Great Wall of China, near the city of Jiayuguan in Gansu province. It has also been called "Jiayuguan Pass"; however, this form is redundant since "guan" means "pass" in Chinese. Along with Juyongguan and Shanhaiguan, it is one of the main passes of the Great Wall.
Sands of Gobi
140 yuan per night
Dunhuang is located in an oasis of the Gobi desert at the historic junction of the northern and southern Silk Roads.
That night, we got news of the other group who set foot on Mount Everest Base Camp.
7 Sept 2013 - South Gobi Desert
We were greeted by 3 Chinese Beemer riders this morning who learnt of our presence in Dunhuang town and came by for a visit. Spent sometime getting acquainted with them.
Since the Duke won't be out so early, and the next town some 500 km away, we decided that we will spend another night in Dunhuang and use the time for sightseeing. We swooped hotels with the ones with WiFi and after lunch, we went for the sand dunes of Gobi desert.
It's pronounced as BAWMA
That flat on the rear
Was fixed by afternoon
One of the many Muslim restaurants
We took a track off the city for about 15km away to get to Southern Gobi desert. Lots of fun playing sand.
Team SG flying it high
Pose for Gobi
After our sand play session, We head back for Dunhuang city for a nice coffee session. A real nice change from the everyday tea that we drank.
8 Sept 2013 - Dunhuang - Huatugou
For the next couple of days over 1500 km, we rode across the desert much to our excitement. Now although 90% of it are good tarmac, the desert offers a different kind of challenge. Hallucinations, mirages, heat exhaustion and shadows of weird things. The crosswinds were some the worst I've experienced.
For today, we rode a total of 530 km, to the town of Huatugou. The temperature changed drastically over the day. It got freezing cold in the morning and blazing hot by noon.
9 Sept 2013 - Huatagog - Ruoqiang
We set off for our next destination right after breakfast. Today we are heading to Rouqiang, 350 km away. According to our guide, Mr Wang, the route we took today is still along Gobi Desert. According to him too, after we passed by a place called Miran, we will be travelling on the Ancient South Silk Road.
The first 60 km of our ride was on very vast sandy road plus construction passage. We took about 2 hours to clear the 60 km.
We crossed over to Xinjiang Province today. Police checks became more frequent. Passed through some of the best scenes of Xinjiang.
Breakfast with the staffs
Road tires didn't help
Having a bit of fun
Along the way to Ruoqiang, we noticed that all the road signs includes Chinese and Arabic writings. There's quite a distinctive look on the local Uighur too.
Chanced upon a Muslim fast food restaurant.
We had our fix of burgers and pizza which was a big welcome from the daily dosage of Ban Mian and Chao Fan.
Now the Dakar had too many problems. But most times, they're resolved in no time. True enough, the head mechanic of BMW Singapore, singled out this thumper as one he's not too worried about.
Neon lights up the town
10 Sept 2013 - Ruoqiang - Minfeng
Another day of riding along the desert field. Big distance distance of 560 km today. Arrived Minfeng town late afternoon.
Another day in the desert
Look out for the antes
Another drama arriving here
We thought the worst unfortunate was over but more surprises awaited. While being stopped at a police checkpoint, 15 km upon reaching destination, a rider realized his passport was nowhere in his possession. Again Mr Wang had to come into action. He made numerous calls and we suspected that the passport disappeared at a petrol kiosk some 300 km away. That was when it was last seen by the rider. Mr Wang suggested we checked into a hotel and wait for a reply from the police who said they were going to retrieve footage from CCTV.
Gathered for dinner
Briyani rice. Different but much to our liking
Last light at 9.30pm
Mr Wang finally got a call and the police confirmed that the bag which contained the passport left the kiosk. The footage saw the rider placed the bag in his jacket.
We were all resigned to the fact that his part of the journey ends here. He has to get to the Chinese embassy which is located at the other end of China, Beijing. But here's the tricky part. The rider needs to get letters from police station of 3 different locations in order to board a plane to Beijing. One near the kiosk where he last saw his passport, the next one the county's police station and lastly the district's. It's just the law according to Mr Wang. The last one is located 1,300 km away from our location.
My sympathy for Mr Wang. Half of the journey he haven't been travelling with us tending to the other two major accident cases. And this time he has to accompany the rider to 3 locations.
Later in the night Mr Wang told me to think of how to settle the rider's bike.
11 Sept 2013 - Minfeng - Hotan
We wished Mr Wang goodbye and the affected rider best of luck as they left Minfeng for the start of their 1,300 km journey in a chartered car. I can see the disappointment in his face but he tried his might to hide them as kept saying he will be all right. My last parting word " Let's hope that some kind soul will return your passport in the meantime."
So we immediately look for a truck for hire.
We head back down to the police checkpoint as suggested by Mr Wang as all vehicles will stop there for we should have a bigger chance of finding a truck.
He was arrested for trying to smuggle livestock
After a couple of hours wait, we realized that most trucks will only arrive town later in the afternoon. But Mr Wang's resourceful driver called us saying he found a small pickup in town heading towards Kashgar and the driver was willing to accommodate.
By then it was almost mid day, so I suggested we fill up for lunch. Then off for a 280 km to Hotan.
The night market offers refreshing cultures of Uighur people on display. The enchanting whistles played on flutes by the streets and the costumes they put on along with their unique and exclusive features doesn't give you an impression that you're in China.
Back in the hotel, I rang up Mr Wang for updates.
Mr Wang: " Sess left for Beijing"
Me: "So fast? So when are you joining us?"
Mr Wang: " Not so soon. Your friend didn't give me any transportation fare. I am now in a cramped bus on the way to Kashgar"
Me: " What? Did he pass you his share of payment for the trip?"
Mr Wang: " No!! He told me to collect money from you! You're to pay for his share!."
Me: " What??!! How could he do that??"
Mr Wang: "I don;t know. I see you in Kashgar to talk about your friend."
As soon as the line was off, I called Sess up. Not answering. Something's definitely wrong. He wouldn't do such things. Decided to sleep it off and try again tomorrow.
12 Sept 2013 - Hotan - Kashgar
Covering a distance of 490 km from Hotan to Kashgar. Our ride today took us across Taklimantan Desert, where the landscape was a simply vast formless desert stretching out to the horizon. We had some sightings of a few camels from a far distance. Other than that it was just oasis and a big spread of desert sand. The highest temperature recorded for that day ride was 38 deg C. Not that we complain since we wanted to ride the desert so much, but the blazing heat and the absence of clouds made this one long stretch to the pinnacle, a little bit demanding.
Headed for Kashgar
Tempted for a quick dip
Turning up in Kashgar, I sensed everyone's joy and satisfaction. Words of encouragement and wishes of congratulations were going around. A big achievement for everyone.
Setting up for night bazaar
270 yuan per night
Kashgar, during its days, was the main trade hub of the ancient Silk Road, and was also the region international commerce region where Chinese and foreign merchants gathered. It is also the Silk Road hub that connects China with Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan via two high altitude mountain passes.
In the meantime, Sess was avoiding all my calls.
13 Sept 2013 - Day trip to Karakoram Highway and Karakul Lake
Today's ride took us about 190 km away from Kashgar to the famous Karakoram Highway and Karakul Lake. The scenes were magical. True to its mystical features, every turn of the road was coming into us. There was never a dull moment. We traveled close to Afghanistan and Tajikistan boundaries.
The locals as we discovered were of Tajikistan descendants . We managed to get up close and personal with some of the animals too.
Brief info on Karakoram Highway as described by Wikipedia
The Karakoram Highway is the highest paved international road in the world.It connects China and Pakistan across the Karakoram Mountain range, through the Khunjerab Pass at an elevation of 4693 m. Due to its high elevation and the difficult conditions in which it was constructed, it is also referred to as the 'Eight Wonder of the World'. The highway cuts through the collision zone between the Eurasian and Indian plates, where China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan come within 250 km of each other.
We had a hold up for almost 2 hours at this police checkpoint for failing to produce third party insurance documents which Mr Wang was holding on to. But he managed to get in contact with the police chief in Kashgar who eventually made us wrote an indemnity letter. It was worth the wait as later, we were presented with many of remarkably mesmerizing scenes of the journey.
We're headed back to Kashgar with a regret of not staying the night by the lake. I told them to save it for Everest Base Camp.
Arriving back in Kashgar, while i parked the bike at the hotel, heard a whistle directed at me from a distance. It was Mr Wang sitting at the hotel's cafe. There he was, and I thought I have to offer him an apology for what he's been treated by one selfish individual. While walking over, I caught a glimpse of the person sitting next to him. Startled, I paused and gave an astonished look. Both of them immediately burst into laughter.
I was stumped but at the same time happy to find Sess seated next to Mr Wang. Almost immediately, Sess pointed his fingers at Mr Wang " It was his idea!! " , claiming his innocence. Mr Wang did nothing but couldn't stop laughing for the next 5 minutes. They had pulled a prank on me. This old man got me.
Apparently, a young shepherd found the lost bag containing the passport and all documents and returned it to a police station. The boy managed to get in touch with the police before Sess flies to Beijing.
Luck was sure on his side as his bike was still somewhere in Kashgar. He managed to piece all in time to continue on with the team. One soap opera, not so much on the prank although knowing that I could have slept better the night before had I know everything will turn out good.
That night i accompanied Sess to retrieve his bike.
14 Sept 2013 - Kashgar - Urumqi
We spent the first part of the day exploring Kashgar Town before catching an afternoon flight to Urumqi. We visited the Id Kah Mosque, the biggest mosque in Kashgar. Id Kah Mosque was first built in 1442. It is distinctive for its yellow walls and Central Asian architecture.
Today also marked the beginning of our R&R and our bikes be transported down to Lhazi before catching an evening flight to Urumqi.
Info on Kashgar by Wikipedia
Kashgar or Kashi is an oasis county-level city with approximately 350,000 residents and is the westernmost Chinese city, located near the border with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Arriving late night, we checked into the Bo Er Ta La Hotel for 300 yuan.
15 Sept 2013 - Urumqi - Almaty
We spent the day going round the capital of Xinjiang province and caught an evening 24 hours sleeper bus to Almaty, Kazakhstan.
That night was a long bus ride to the border of Huocheng.
16 Sept 2013 - Urumqi - Almaty
It was early morning at the border. We were ready to cross over but somehow they were some problems with the documentations. It was not very clear then as English was rarely spoken. We waited like 6 hours just to clear both customs. The Kazakhs seemed to have brought a lot of luggage from China and the baggage clearance was chaotic and disastrous. Lots of shouting and shoving. We didn't have many problems though as they treated foreigners very well. By the time we arrived at Almaty was very late at night.
17 Sept 2013 - Almaty
Spent the day just exploring the city of Almaty and it's beautiful people.
We were wandering aimlessly after lunch since a visit to a travel agent bore nothing since they don't speak English. Luck was around when we bumped onto a group of local students majoring in language, they were on a way to a scenic spot of Koctobe and invited us to tag along. The boys didn't refuse.
18 Sept 2013 - Almaty - Urumqi
Today was a visit to a big wholesale market of Barahoke before catching an evening flight back to Urumqi. Kazakhstan was totally a different culture, language and lifestyle.
Almaty, in my opinion is a clean city with lots of beautiful people. The people of Kazakh possess unique and exotic outlook of Korean, Arabic and European look. They appear to be apprehensive at first but they were more than helpful once they know of your real intention. They speak mainly Russian or Kazakh.
It was a 5 hour transit from our next flight to Chengdu so we sprawled around.
19 Sept - Urumqi - Chengdu
We boarded the first flight out of Urumqi to Chengdu for another evening flight to Lhasa. Mr Wang has arranged for our Tibet permit to be handed before our flight to Lhasa. All tourists heading to any point of entry into Tibet needs to provide this precious document where prior arrangements was made 3 months earlier. Chinese government has strict requirements on all entrance into Tibet. The actual plan was to arrive Lhasa on the same day.
Our flight to Lhasa was unexpectedly cancelled at the very last minute due to bad weather in Lhasa. The airline put us up at a nearby hotel and will inform us of the next flight to Lhasa. Immediately we worked out the next possible itinerary with the fixer.
They checked us in a hotel set in a similar Hongkong Gangster Movie 'Young and Dangerous'. Too many vice activities going around. The dinner nearby was good though.
20 Sept - Chengdu - Lhasa - Lhazi
We received news from the airline that our rescheduled flight will be at 0630 hours. Great we thought. Not much to make up for lost time.
We arrived in Lhasa surrounded with banks of peaks and 11 eager individuals craving to run Tibet after the much appreciated recess. Our rides were waiting some 230 km away in a town of Lhaze. So in the meantime, we go public but not before a visit to the famous Potala Palace. Quoting Mr Wang's convincing refute; “You haven't been to Tibet if you don't visit Potala Palace".
Earmarked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, the historic site offers inspiriting insights of the history of Dalai Lama(s) and his teachings. Due to the overwhelming enthusiasts they receive every day, all visitors are only given an hour of pilgrimage of the site.
A chartered bus prearranged by Mr Wang awaited us as soon as we left the palace.
Our Tibet guide, Phun Tsok greeted us at the airport. Now another regulations for visits to Tibet will require all tourists to engage a Tibet guide. Not any Chinese guide but a local Tibet guide and on top of the existing permits entering China, Tibet also calls for additional permits like an 'Alien Travel Permit among a few.
Click here to continue on Kashgar Adventure .... journey continues