trip dates 24.6.2005 - 15.7.2005
distance cycled 1070 km
repairs 0x

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Cycling in West Tibet is not collar bone friendly.

The plan was to cycle all the way from Kashgar (Kashi) to Lhasa on roads 315, 219 and 318 and optionaly to make a detour to Qomolungma (Mt. Everest) base camp.

The plans don't always come through, as it was the case this time. After 12 cycling days and 1070 km (1/3 of the planned route), 40 km before Domar, I fell and broke the collar bone. I took a ride with trucks back to Kashi and speeded home for medical attention.
General information
ROUTE: Road 315 from Kashi to Yecheng, then the road 219 through south-west Xinjiang and just a bit of west Xizang (Tibet).

ROADS: Road 315 is paved all the way. First 93 km of the Xinjiang-Tibet road 219 are paved as well as are 60 km around Kudi (from km 133 to km 194). The rest is dirt road of variable quality - from rather good dirt road (cycling up to 18 km/h) to the stones of the size of fist (cycling not more then 6 km/h), washboard pattern and frequent mud stretches. Many streams cross the road and you occasionaly have to take the shoes off to ford. I didn't run into sand. In many parts the secondary roads are much better.
All in all I didn't find the road to be such a disaster as often claimed on the net. The downhill parts of most of the climbs were actually quite fun. This is still a road, not a mountain track. However, doing 75 km/day or more means hard work, cycling 8 hours without much stopping and meditating. Don't count on daily average speeds above 12 km/h.
P.S. Chinese are surfacing this road in many parts. Between Kashgar and Lhasa there was ~820 km of paved road out of 3000 km in late 2005 and 1200 km in 2007. Soon this will be an easy ride.

MAPS: Map is not really needed if you stay on Kashi-Lhasa (or Kathmandu) road. This road is well documented by numerous cyclists - click the diagram icon above to download the compilation of this data. If you are not satisfied with that, there are copies of chinese road maps covering this region at Kreisel's site.

TRAFFIC: That's the good news: not much traffic. Mostly trucks (of which military ones come in the packages of 10) and few land-cruisers. The drivers were friendly.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: You can hitch a truck rather easily - usualy for a fee.

ACCOMMODATION: The best one is in your tent. The settlements with accomodation are about 50 to 100 km appart. Road repair stations (RRS) in Xinjiang are 50 km apart and will usualy give a bed for free.

FOOD AND WATER: I haven't had much problem here, even though I carried little food and I didn't cook. I ate when I came upon a village, RRS, etc. - which happend at least once a day. I did loose 4 kg in 3 weeks, but I put up 3 kg before the trip. I planned to eat 2 meals instead of one if weight loss would have become more serious. Water was easy to get from villages or clear streams. I used pen water filter rarely.

COSTS: Meal 10-20 yuan, dormitory 20 yuan.

VISAS: I had only chinese visa. That was sufficient to cross checkpoint at Kudi. I intended to get 'Tibet Alien Permit' in Ali. UPDATE 2009: The accsess to Tibet has been closed in 2008 for non-Chinese individual travellers and it seems it will stay that way for a couple of years.

WEATHER: I really hit some sombre weather in Xinjiang: rain at night, grey clouds in the morning and one to three rain/snow/hail storms per day. I wondered if the monsoon was already here. Surprisingly temperatures were high. Even at 4900 m it didn't drop below 0 C at night. Daily temperatures from 3 C to 23 C (38 C in the Taklamakan).

SITES: This must be the most scenic road in the world.

ANNOYANCES: I fell, injured the shoulder (broke the collarbone as it turned out) and had to break the journey. I think I also had sympthoms of altitude sickness: slight headache, "drunky walk", high hart and breath rate - I probably rode too quickly up to the heights. Proper acclimatization is very important. Beside the altitude sickness itself, you otherwise risk unpredictable consequences from accumulated tiredness.

GEAR: I traveled ultra-light and minimalistic. For a list of gear items click the bike icon above. Despite the common preassumption that this road is strictly a MTB affair, my road bike with rather narrow tyres (700x28) performed superbly and flawlessly: no punctures, no broken spokes, no sign of tyre wear, no out of true wheels. It surprised even myself. Again, I contribute this to the just 13 kg of luggage - water and food included.

REPAIRS: For the first 100 km rack bolts kept comming loose all the time - already on asphalt. I bought big screwdriver and few spare bolts and nuts in Yarkant and from then on all the problems were gone.

LINKS: Res Blum has cycled from Switzerland to Nepal and India in 2003/2004 and has put up a splendid site with fabulous photos and e-mails (in German) from this part of the world.
Corax is a legendary Central Asian site with beautiful photos, travelogs, tips, route descriptions, maps, profiles, ...
Besides the reports of his own trips to Tibet Martin Adserballe has extensive list of further links on this subject.
The most recent accounts on cycling West Tibet that I know of: Christian's (august 2004), Dani's (2004), Betzgi's travelogue (2005), Franz's (Oct 2005), Korbinian & Paul 's (Sept-Oct 2005) and the 2005 north-route crossing.
A cycling invasion on Kashgar-Kathmandu apparently started in 2006. I gave up on documenting every web-site related to this route. The red line seems to be the toughness of this trip - mostly everybody took a transport for part of the route. Rich's travelogue from 2006 summed it up.
There's been some recent development. In 2008 (the year of Tibet closure) Corax, Nadine and Adserballe crossed Chang Tang on bicycles and got arrested when they came to civilization on nothern Tibet route. In 2010 three people on an amazing tour managed to cycle Kashgar-Ali, then got arrested and turned back.

S kolesom po Tibetu ... toda ne prav dolgo.

Konec junija in v začetku julija 2005 sem kolesaril po kitajskih pokrajinah Xinjiang in Xizang (ki je bolje poznan kot Tibet). Večina informacij okrog te poti je na voljo samo v angleški verziji.

Potovanje sem prekinl po 1/3 poti zaradi poškodovane ključnice. Je pa to slikovita pot, ki jo nameravam dokončati ob prvi priložnosti. Takrat bom dodal kaj več.
Splošne informacije
POT: Planirana pot: cesta 315 od Kashija (Kashgar) do Yechenga (Kargilik), nato cesta 219 čez zahodni Xinjiang (Uigur) in zahodni in južni Xizang (Tibet) do mesta Shiquanhe (Ali), gore Kailash (Kang Rinpoche), mogoče tudi do baznega taborja Mt. Everesta (Qomolungma) in z zaključkom v Lhasi.

ZEMLJEVIDI: Zemljevid ni potreben, če se giblješ po cesti Kashi-[Kathmandu]-Lhasa. Ta cesta je dobro opisana s tabelo razdalj in višin, ki so jo sestavljali številni biciklisti (glej povezave). Lahko jo naložiš tudi s te strani - klikni na ikono z diagramom zgoraj. Če pa to ni dovolj, si lahko sprintaš odlične kitajske karte s te strani.

POVEZAVE: Res Blum je šel s kolesom od Švice do Nepala in Indije leta 2003/2004. Nekaj fantastičnih slik in mailov (v nemščini) s tega konca sveta dobite na njegovi odlični spletni strani.
Corax je legendarna stran za Srednjo Azijo s fotkami, potopisi, nasveti, opisi poti, zemljevidi, višinskimi profili, ...
Martin Adserballe ima veliko koristnih informacij na svoji strani, vključno z dodatnimi povezavami.
Slovenci so, glede na svoje število, nenavadno avanturističen narod. Poglej kaj o Tibetu imajo za povedati in pokazati Gogi ter Luka in Manca.
Najbolj sveži zapisi o kolesarjenju po zahodnem Tibetu za katere vem: Christianova, Danijeva in Betzgijeva stran (september 2005).
V letu 2006 se je začela biciklistična invazija na Tibet, tako da sem obupal pri dokumentiranju vsem spletnih prispevkov. Slovenci tudi niso izostali: David & Klemen.


The bike was steel framed road bike, with triple chainring (52/42/30), 8 speed cassette (12-24) and 28-622 tyres. Encouraged by good experience of light touring in Kyrgyzstan I cut down the equipment even more, regardless that this was the toughest trip so far. I distributed the weight between front (handlebar bag), rear (waterproof bag on rear rack), 'middle' (underseat bag, bottle cages, frame) and myself. Click here to find the list of things and some thoughts on weight reduction for the weight-conscious.

I never used: woolen cap, neckerchief, second dish washing cloth, sewing kit, spare glasses, spare tubes, spare tyre, spokes, duct tape, patch kit, hypercracker. I missed a spare bungee cord and some better quality rain gear: gloves, jacket, shoes.


Kolo je bilo dirkalno z jeklenim okvirjem, trojno šajbo (52/42/30), 8-prestavno kaseto (13-24) in plašči 28-622.
Na osnovi dobrih izkušenj iz Kirgizistana sem dodatno reduciral prtljago, četudi za zagotovo najtežje potovanje doslej. Težo sem razdelil po poziciji: spredaj (torba za na krmilo), zadaj (nahrbtnik), sredina (podsedežna torba, nosilci flaš, okvir) in na mene t.j. kolesarja. Za seznam klikni tukaj.

Route details

The data on distances, altitudes, accomodation, food, road quality, PSB, etc. included in this PDF file (150 kB) is all you need to navigate from Kashi to Lhasa. The data is a compilation from web-sites of several cyclists (Res Blum, Martin Adserballe, Janne Corax, ...) with a bit of my addition. Razdalje, višine, opombe o prenočiščih, hrani, stanju cest, PSB i.t.d., navedene v PDF datoteki (150 kB), so najboljše informacije za navigacijo od Kashija do Lhase. Podatki so vzeti od različnih biciklistov (Res Blum, Martin Adserballe, Janne Corax, ...) z nekaj mojimi dodatki.

Route profile

Cycling data

Day Date Trip Total Accom Notes (daily end-stop) ***
    d/m   km    km
0  24/6    0      0   a   to Budapest by plane
1  25/6    0      0   a   to Beijing by plane
2  26/6    0      0   a   to Kashgar (Kashi) by plane
3  27/6  153    153   w   in the desert
4  28/6  157    310   w   after Yecheng
5  29/6  127    437   w   5 km before Kudi
6  30/6   59    496   f   RRS - 12 km before Chiragsaldi pass
7   1/7   61    557   w   20 km before Xaidulla pass
8   2/7   88    645   h   Xaidulla
9   3/7   81    726   w   before Kosbel pass
10  4/7   60    786   f   RRS, before Khitai pass
11  5/7   72    858   w   near Tianshuihai
12  6/7   79    937   w   after Tielong
13  7/7   82   1019   h   Sumxi
14  8/7   51   1070   f   40 km before Domar
15  9/7    0   1070   f   to Tielong by truck
16 10/7    0   1070   h   to Yecheng by truck
17 11/7    0   1070   h   to Kashi by bus
18 12/7    0   1070   h   Kashi
19 13/7    0   1070   a   to Beijing by plane
20 14/7    0   1070   h   Beijing
21 15/7    0   1070   a   to Ljubljana by plane

Days Trip km 22 1070 Sum 12 1070 Sum, cycling days - 157 MAX - 51 min - 49 average per day - 89 average per cycling day
*** Legend 14 8/7 - cycling day 15 9/7 - non cycling or rest day Trip - daily cycling distance Total - cumulative distance Accom - accommodation: a:airplane; h:ho(s)tel; f:at a family; w:wild camping


Here are just few notes from this brief, misfortunate but still worthwile trip.

Life hasn't changed much here in Kashi. After 1 year I am sitting again opposite the Seman Binguan and looking at the familiar sight of Uigur men getting progressively drunk and mildly aggressive - but never beyond the point of physical conflict. It all usually ends with a piss at the tree on the other side of the street and a wobbling walk back home. I should be going to bed myself, but the prospect of the big adventure which starts tomorrow keeps me awake despite the three sleepless days which I spent criss-crossing the Western and Eastern Paleartics. In the morning I wake up at 8:00, assemble the bike by 9:00 and get ready by 10:00, so a plan of a monster 200 km starting day has already gone down the drain. Even with this late start, I caught myself half-asleep on the bike and several times I gave myself a big slap. The problem that occupied my mind for the first two days was how to fix the rack bolts which were constantly loosening. If this happens already on asphalt, then what could I expect on the horror of the road 219? Finally in Yarkant I bought a big screwdriver and few spare bolts and the problem vanished. This part of the road consists of long desert stretches between poplar-lined oases. It is essential that you stock with water regularly, as I realized too late, with just 1 liter on the verge of the heat stroke in the mildly heated Taklamakan oven blowing hot wind instead of refreshing breeze. I rode topless until the evening and slept right under the stars, braving few lonely mosquitoes rather than the suffocating heat of the tent.
The next day was quite similar - hot and flat. For two days now I've been puzzled by the sight of a number of streams and two or three enormous rivers. Huge amount of water was coming from the mountains and I was afraid that the highlands were flooded and impassable. In the afternoon of the second day I was standing beside the significant road stone: G 219, km 1. The ouverture was over.

The km 93 stone marks the end of asphalt - finally the adventure starts. Slowly the road rises and climbs the first pass. Just above 3000 m, it was rather easy and joyful. And the downhill was exceptional. Not too fast - 26 km/h was maximum that I allowed, I was still sceptical how my thin tyres would react. To make it more fun, I raced with the red truck carrying the road crew. Down at the valley there was another pleasant surprise: asphalt returned. This was really a cream on top of this fantastic day: smooth riding aided by the tailwind up the valley of a raging river which claimed several bits of a newly constructed road. The delightful ride lasted almost to Kudi, where, 5 km before the village one big stream blocked the passage. After consulting two shepherds, I decided to wait until morning when the water would presumably drop.
Kudi - the place of my fears was ahead of me. If they turn me back at this checkpoint, the great adventure would turn into a dull vacation. I stopped in the village for a lamb soup and water refill. 500 m further there was a red-white barrier and seemingly deserted booth. I tried to sneak around the barreir and was stopped by three fierce dogs. Then a young soldier came shaking his head, saying the word I'd rather not hear: "Permit". I kept the calm and said I'd show my papers in the booth. There, a senior officer came and after browsing through my passport for half a minute, he said "hao". The young soldier raised the barrier and I raced beneath it holding the passport in my teeth. Yesssssss, Tibet, here I come! The feeling pushed me 30 km upward, until the hairpin dirt road of Chiragsaldi pass reminded me that I was at the altitude above 4500 m, that I had a gearing of a road bike and that my acclimatisation was totally lacking. After only 57 km I was dead tired, and when I came to the RRS, I decided to make it my home for today.
During the night I was suffocating like a fish on a shore, had hardly had any sleep and in the morning I noticed some symptoms of altitude sickness: dizziness, headache, high hart beat rate and - scary - a hazy eyesight. I continued slowly up to the summit (around 4900 m) and the symptoms started to disappear. Downhill was fun again, I was swerving, vasling, dancing, joying with incredible sights of amazing landscape of colorful cliffs and river beds.

The following days were rather undescriptive. The characteristic was somewhat depressing weather. Gray clouds hanging close to the ground, frequent rain during the night and several rain, snow or hail storms during the day, which usually left me soaked. I met another cyclist, a Chinese Michael Liu who had about 5 times as much luggage as myself, all complete with the steam pot, where he cooked glass noodles with pork rolls - a genuine Mandarin delicacy out of a military rations, which we devoured in the evening and the next morning, complemented with delicious stewed lichee. Thanks Michael!

It was the most miserable day of the trip. I started with 12 km climb up the pass at 5050 m, the one that brings you into Aksai Chin. The day seemed good at that moment, despite some steep sections where I chose to push the bike. At the top the sky closed and then opened. The rain storm battered from ahead. After the brief sun interval it continued from behind. I was soaked, my gloves wet, and hands cramped started firing unusual nerve signals. When I came near Tianshuihai I was lost between two roads, pedaling forth and back in the rain, searching for a refuge. Finally I decided to retreat into an abandoned building. To came to it I had to drag the bike up a muddy escarpment resulting in clogged brake bridges and a kg of mud on my shoes. I was now under the roof thoughtless, soaked to the bones and dirty. I looked around the house: dust, rat shit, rotten potatoes and a smell of death: there was no way I would spend the night here. I waited for the storm to stop. Half an hour later I returned to the road, acquiring another kg of mud on my bike and shoes in the process. After 15 min another storm began, but now, I had it over the edge, I was furious. In the middle of the rain I put up a tent and crawled in trying not to worry how I will be able to continue tomorrow. From the warmth of my sleeping bag the things didn't look that desperate.

The following days were similar: a wet-dry combination. I was mad at the storms and rejoicing when the skies cleared. In the dry intervals I enjoyed a fantastic sense of freedom in this vast, desert, silent scenary.

This was a sad day. The day I had to break the trip. I woke up in the military tent in Sumxi. A dozen of soldiers were still sleeping inside. The snow was falling while I oiled the chain and then ate the breakfast, trying to delay the departure in such a weather. When the snow stopped I went towards the highest pass of the whole West Tibet road, at 5250 meters (some say even 5400 m). The rains from previous days left a mark on the road. There were lot of muddy stretches, including the one at the very top of the pass where dozen of trucks were stuck. I elegantly walked past them and resumed downhill. Yesterday I entered Tibet, which looked considerably greener than what I was used to in Xinjiang. Then again, a storm. I tried to hide from it behind the escarpment, which sometimes works if the rain is swept by the wind. Not this time. There was a tent in the distance and I approached. A young women with a child on her back invited me inside. My first encounter with Tibetan nomads. Inside the tent it was heaven: dry, warm, soft carpets on the ground and warm bowl of something that I hoped was a yak-butter tea. It was good. The old man, with a look of wisdom, indifference or ignorance, poured the tea, swinging his little praying wheel. Just the two young men who were teasing each other couldn't fit into this joyful serenity. It was utterly un-Tibetan, I guess they were not past their initiation period. After a while the rain seemed to have stopped and I took a farewell. As many times before the clouds closed around me in a form of a horse-shoe, leaving bright skies ahead, which I chased into a drier land. I found an excellent secondary road that lead into a gentle decline. The tailwind was with me to give me speeds of up to 30 km/h and I started to believe that Domar is within the today's reach. Not only Domar: Ali and all subsequent places now started to seem attainable according to my plan. The world was good.
Suddenly I was lying on my back. A memory of a previous portion of a second was fading in my head - I just caught the thought that the bike was abruptly stopped and I was catapulted. I felt my legs were OK and I stood up. My left arm was OK too, I felt the pain in the right shoulder. I stripped the jacket and the jersey and saw that the shoulder joint was unusually displaced. I tried to swing it back into position, but it didn't work. I could not lift the bike with my right arm. I realized the game was over.

P.S. Two months later, having been thinking a lot about it, I'm certain now that the accident occured when - mostly due to lack of sleep and rest caused by poor acclimatization to high altitude - I lost consciousness for just a moment.