up up and away

Ok .. I know what I’m going to do .. there is no substitute for experience.  I’m going to sod off on my own today and try to avoid the inevitable shit fest that is currently kicking off in the hotel car park.  The guide has said take the expressway .. but nobody is listening .. “Are you plugged in?  Receiving?  Check … Monday?  Two lollies please?  25 miles .. East.. no west .. left … maybe right .. 2 hours .. 10 minutes .. ” Bugger this .. I’m off.

I’m riding out towards the expressway with a few of the others .. they’re all connected .. and travel like a 6 wheeled caterpilla .. and 2 out of 3 sat navs says turn right .. they peel off, ignoring the bright green expressway signs .. and go to their fate .. I get onto the expressway and I’m away..

It’s about an hour before I hit the first check point.  The old adage is definitely true .. he travels fastest who travels alone… I wander into the checkpoint .. wave my passport .. have a stilted chat with someone .. and I’m gone .. one down ..

Another hour .. another checkpoint .. and I’ve got 7 missed calls telling me to “come back”.  That’s not going to happen … I’ll give them a call in a minute.  The police are a bit more wary at this checkpoint.  They don’t want to let me through, and they get an english speaker on the phone for a chat.  “Where are you going?  What are you doing?  Where is your guide?” .. The problem out here is that all the towns have 3 different names .. another thing the guide forgot to mention .. and I’ve got a name that the bloke on the phone doesn’t recognise, and I can’t pronounce properly. . I suspect I have another problem too, in that outsiders are not allowed to stay at the place I’m telling them I’m going to .. another thing the guide .. you get the picture .. so I suggest I send him a picture of my destination on my satnav .. which we do .. and I’m through.  Two down.

So now I’m 2 hours up the expressway.. and I phone the group.  “You have to come back here.  We’ve been stuck at a checkpoint for 2 hours because we’re not all together” Really?  I’m shocked and stunned.. who would have thought it .. and are they on the expressway as instructed?  Of course they’re not.  The guide is with them, he’ll have to sort it out, I’m not going back.  “I’ll wait for you in [wherever]” and I’m on my way.

The expressway ends at a big checkpoint just outside a small city.  This one is going to be a challenge I think, but no .. he just points me to a police car and has a chat with the driver.  Lights on .. ‘follow him’ .. this is a city that they don’t want you anywhere near .. they don’t even want your wheels stopping here .. they want you out.  So off we go.. have you seen VIPs being blue lighted through cities .. one car peels off as another takes over and clears the traffic .. then another .. then another as they relay you through.. that’s me as we skip through the city.  I’m low on fuel so I overtake the car and point to my tank.. he stops at the first station and we try to get in.  The stations have barriers across to stop you, and not even the police can get through this one so he spins his wheels and scoots off up the road to the next one where he instructs the attendant to just fill me up ASAP as he waits nervously in the background.


It’s still stupid hot and I buy a red bull at the gate.. go to pop the ring but a little Chinese hand stops me and points up the road.  No time for drinking .. get back on the road with the police and out of town..  way way out of town .. it’s miles before he turns around and leaves me alone.  I find a spot ..stop .. lie down on the road .. wait .. fall asleep.

Two hours later and I’m awoken by a horn .. I peel myself off the tarmac and get vertical just in time for one of the other riders to get right in my face telling me he had to wait at a checkpoint for 2 hours because I blew through a police check and he’s really not happy.  A few years ago I would have backed down in this situation but now .. sod this .. I think he gets the message that he is chatting complete shit and that I’ve been waiting here for 2 hours because he can’t follow simple instructions .. and he’s quickly out of my face.  I’m not perfect .. and I’m nasty bastard sometimes .. and there are always 2 sides remember .. Anyway, turns out later that the guide had the wrong paperwork anyway and that the stuff he had with him said the group was going somewhere else entirely.. in a different direction .. so he had to get new paperwork sent to him .. Tibetmoto .. remember the name

So now we’re late.. we’re hungry.. and we’ve got a long way to go, across the desert and towards the mountains.


To another strip of random buildings by another checkpoint.  Things are getting more serious now .. this is where the army begins to take precedence over the police .. This could be a really long day.  I’m a bit of a masochist and I’m hoping this is going to turn into a test .. a dare .. a real bitch of a ride.   Now here is the thing.. the destination we have for tonight .. we can’t stay there.  All the guides are mates and keep in touch with each other.  There is another group a day ahead that tried to stay at our destination and got a definite NO.  They had to ride something like 1100km non stop before they could find a bed.. but our guide decided we’d go there and try anyway.  All part of the fuckfest experience ..

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Through the checkpoint and we meet the mountains head on.  Proper bugger off mountains .. give me my breath back mountains .. proper awe inspiring mountains.  The roads are shit and dangerous, the temperature is falling, its raining hard and as we get to the top of a big pass the road is closed due to an accident.  Perfect ..

IMG_5069IMG_5070-2 P1010385 IMG_5005 IMG_5003I’m looking at the bike.. and I see oil on the brakes.. it looks like it has altitude sickness again.  I had another Adventure that pissed oil out everywhere when it wore the chrome off the stantions.  These stantions aren’t worn though .. just another headfuck the she Devil is playing with meIMG_4988Give the Chinese their due.  Back at home this road would be closed for a week.  People in yellow jackets measuring skid marks.. all manner of specialised lifting equipment would be bought in .. reports would be needed.. witnesses questioned .. but over here they just get one truck to tow the crashed truck into the ditch and out of the way ..and the road is opened in an hour ..

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The guide is back in the queue somewhere .. we’ll see him later .. we’re off.  It’s a difficult.. slippery ..shitty .. moody..  atmospheric and beautiful ride.  You could come through here a hundred times and it would always be different.  Get to our destination and I recognise it from previous trips.  An absolute shit hole based around an army barracks.  Just a few unidentifiable buildings, and a squat/hotel that we cannot stay in.  We sit and listen to the army singing.. eat some freshly carved animal and wait for the guide..

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Christ what a life.. what a shitty existence some people have.  I walk up to a hole and a young face appears.  My eyes adjust to the darkness and I can see a small room with a few boxes of cheap food items for sale, and this young girl just trapped inside.  I wonder what she’s thnking.  I wonder what I would think in her shoes ..

So it’s getting dark now and some people are starting to panic.  The guide isn’t here yet and it’s been 2 hours.  We know we can’t stay here, but some people wander down to the hotel and ask anyway.  Then they go to the police and ask them.  Then the police go to the hotel, and they ask the army.  And get the finger.. of course they do. There are different kinds of intelligence .. and I’m trying to work out which ones different people have.  A few of them realise the score.. you can’t fuck with the Chinese army.  You’re nothing to them.. you’re just noise..

Eventually the guide turns up, about 3 hours after we got here.  Its dark now, and he’s got a couple of riders panicing that they might have to actually ride up the dark scary roads where there are monsters waiting to eat them.  This is getting stupid now.  The guide is speaking to the police and army but they’re all saying NO.. definately NO.  We HAVE to go.  It’s 200km to the next town .. lets go… let’ just FUCKING GO. Some of the others want to go too..My riding buddy is fine.  He hasn’t complained about anthing .. we’ve just rode whatever and whenever..   but no.. one rider is really panicing now .. ‘tell them we’re old’ .. ‘tell them it’s too dangerous’ . ‘tell them we promise to be good’ .. and another rider is on the phone to Tibetmoto saying its too risky to ride at night ..

FUUUUUUUUCKKKKKK SAKEEEE… this is an adventure ride you fucking wombles .. NOT A FUCKING COFFEE MORNING .. grow some .. fucking just GROW SOME.  I keep a few spare sets in my panniers .. sometime when I’m really scared I take a big pair out and clip on an upgrade .. it helps me get through it .. I try and fit them onto the problem riders but they’re too big for them and keep falling off .. you know the kinds of people that leave a damp patch on a chair when they’ve sat on it .. the sort of people that if you offered them 2 identical shades of red .. wouldn’t be able to choose which identical shade of red they wanted .. Jesus .. I’ve done a lot of miles with a lot of groups but I’ve never seen behaviour like this before.

No.. its a definite NO.  Go.. its a definite GO.  So we get ready to go.  Its dark and cold and raining .. I’m looking forward to this .. then the guide goes to get in his car .. and spots something coming out from underneath it.  Oil.. gearbox oil.  He’s hit a big rock on the road and split his gearbox casing.. Oh yea .. it just gets better and better…

So now one of the riders is trying to get everyone to just refuse to leave.. to which the police rightly reply you’ll be breaking the law .. he asks me if I’m in .. “WHAT! bugger off mate” .. even the guide is suggesting we try that … EXCUSE ME?  You’re suggesting we break the law in this militarised zone about 100m from an army barracks!!!! What the actual FUCK?  More phone calls to TibetMoto .. who suggests we are not allowed to stay but we can ‘rest’ .. maybe ride into the mountains and ‘rest’ somewhere for the night.. without the guide .. yep.. good luck arguing the semantics of that with some Chinese army patrol in the middle of the night.  I suggest the guide just hitches a ride with a truck and we just ride though the night but that’s about as popular as a warm turd sandwich..

11pm.. we could have been half way there by now .. but we’re still here dicking about.  The police ask the army again .. as if that’s going to work .. but for some reason its a yes this time. What?  ‘yes.. but only if you stay on the first floor of the hotel.. the ground floor is too dangerous.. you might come out in the night’ .. One rider.. I genuinely thought he was going to hug the policeman and kiss him .. Me.. I’m just really embarrassed.  Rough tough bikers with a row of super expensive metal machinery equipped with helicopter searchlights, heated clothing, GPSs and big fuel tanks but without the balls to ride a few hundred km in the dark.  The locals are all fizzing about on 125 shitters with a candle for a light wearing only tatty jumpers and disappearing off into the mountains.. I wish I was going with them.  Even the Bitch agrees.. I can here her mumbling insults under her breath .. Last time I was here we reached this checkpoint at midnight in the freezing cold and rain, then we all just got back on and rode another 3 hours to our beds at the next town.. nobody complained ..nobody cried .. nobody died.  Fucking hell .. just FUCK.

Into the ‘hotel’ we go.. I even hear complaints about the price.. about £15 .. and that they were quoted about £5 earlier .. just get these people out of my face right now.. right fucking NOW.  My roomie for tonight is asking me what the problem is.. is he doing something wrong .. ‘yes .. you’re breathing’ comes to my mind but I just ignore him .. hammer some ear plugs in and listen to my blood rushing through my body.  I’ve not been this pissed off in years.

The next morning is a bit tense.  All I want to do is go.  Some poor bastard got a call and has driven through the night to get another car here for the guide.  I patch up the Bitch again and we’re off .. higher and higher.. climbing onto the Tibetan plateu.

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The only good thing is that it will be good to see what the next section looks like in the daylight.  Last time I remember roads of deep dust, sliding about and coughing, shivering and wondering what the fuck I was doing but also having a proper good time battling adversity and normality.  Perhaps I’m just not normal.  I certainly hope so..

Spectacular.  Another word dummed and over used to the point of worthlessness.  I don’t know any other words to describe these places though.  This whole region has to be my favourite place on the planet.  The best I’ve ever seen, I can’t say any more than that.  More muddy slippery twisty steep and dangerous roads with views that such a tiny number of people will get the pleasure to see.. they seem to have a calming effect at least and I can see my blood pressure drop and my veins contract and disappear back into my skin ..

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I just love this place.. who wouldn’t.. isolated and lonely.. inhospitable .. untamed … you’re there on it’s terms.. Get to the destination and a cold draughty hotel specialising in ‘damp art’ on the ceilings. No electric either, and a communal shower room ankle deep in fungal nail infection spores .. just the way I like it.

IMG_5045 IMG_5054 IMG_5052 IMG_5057But on the plus side .. it does have disables access ..IMG_5055

We’re still not into Tibet.. the next day is the day.. up onto the roof of the world we go .. along with a good percentage of the Chinese army.  I’ve made a break for it again .. and I’m running fast along a infinite straight road.  Something is coming from the right.. a Chinese Humvee .. and there is a load of armour parked up .. getting behind a group like this is like riding behind a rolling roadblock so I light the afterburners and beat the Humvee to the road .. the others aren’t going to be so lucky ..  I get to the next checkpoint and there is no way I’ll get through this alone.  I tell the guard the guide is behind and it down to wait .. again..   An hour and a half later the others arrive.  The Humvee had closed the road for some live firing exercises.  You can never fortell these things .. and I remind myself of that as we come across a line of stopped traffic just 10 minutes down the road.  Go to the front, soldiers in full mountain camo across the road.  nobody else in sight.  What’s going on here then?  Then suddenly whoosh … .whoosh whoosh whoosh and small vapour trails appear in the sky from behind the nearest mountain.  SAMs.  They’re firing SAMs.. of course they are.  We’re watching a very grown up fireworks display ..

Kashmir.. we’re in Chinese Kashmir.. I’d forgotten that.  India is currently fucking about again in Kashmir.. turning the clamps up on the locals .. and China is rattling its sabres.. just reminding the Indians exactly who this area belongs to.  Fuck do these things move.. you’re lucky to catch one with the naked eye.. they’re gone in a fraction of a second and into the clouds and a drone target way off in the distance.  Pretty impressive .. for the first hour at least.  After 3 hours .. not so much.  And while I’m waiting I see the other fork leg is pissing out oil as well.. oh joy ..


Never mind.  I have to adopt a kind of fatalist attitude on these trips.  What will be will be and all that.  I’ll just have to try and deal with whatever happens later.  For now lets just enjoy the ride.  Across the plain and up to the Tibet border.

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Get to the Tibet border post on the lake where the clouds just bump along the mountain tops.  We’re at about 5000m and still climbing.. the place is just bloody incredible


Its getting proper desolate now.. down below freezing.. sleet and snow .. doing everything it can to dissuade us from going any further ..  IMG_5204-2

But once in a while Mother Nature gives us a prize for our persistence..

IMG_5206Before turning up the shit storm to 11 and challenging you to a big windy water fight.. it’s’s inevitable..  put your head down .. just pull in your body and run the gauntlet .
P1010519P1010518Get the next checkpoint in the storm and run for cover.  We’re in the police station and it sounds like someone is tipping a truck load of bolts onto the roof.   The bikes are just a blur out the wndow but then the curtain of rain retreats and lets the sunshine have another go.IMG_5155We don’t know where we’re staying, we’re waiting for the guide.  Apparently one of the riders is a goldfish.  Despite all the antics of the other evening, he’s asking the police about a hotel room .. I look at him .. incredulous..  he might as well be saying “wibble wank bollocks tits and a pink rubbery arse please” .. it would make about as much sense to them, and even if it did he would be getting the finger.  What can i say?   I’m looking forward to saying goodbye .. that’s putting it politely ..

Guide turns up and takes us down to our digs.  Some rooms above a small row of shops.  Now we are in the middle of absolutely nowhere, way up in the mountains of Tibet, 100s of km from anything and anyone.  Someone came through at some time with few lorry loads of human infrastructure, tipped them by the road, then fucked off back to humanity.  The rooms have clean beds.  That’s a bonus already.  No electricity at the moment but an inside toilet .. of a sort .. of a ‘fuck what’s that all over the floor.. and that smell is burning my eyes’ sort..  and there is no running water or shower but who cares… I’ll tell you who cares .. the fucking traveling wimpberries I’m with that’s who.  Not all of them.. just the usual suspects.. moaning again about the price and how can you have a hotel with no running water and this place is a dump and .. and this and that and the other.  In a couple more days they’ll be drinking lattes and walking round hotel rooms in soft towelling robes where this lot will still be shitting in the ditch and drinking from puddles.. Fuck them.. just have a giggle with the locals .. thank them for their hospitality and thank your lucky stars that you can leave..

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I’m up.. I’m out.. I’m off .. running alone .. clearing my head .. cleansing my soul.. detoxing my lungs with thin cold clean air.. its down near freezing again and raining hard.  This is the wrong time to be up here.  The monsoon season.  I didn’t think they had monsoon way up here but clearly they do.  Soooo cold and bleak.  A few days ago I was roasting my tits off and now I can only just show enough skin to hold with 2 fingers when I piss.  The road is wet and slippery and there are a lot of big fuck off wild dogs wandering about in the road.  They’re Tibetan mastifs and they’re proper hard bastards with a coat thicker than an elephant sandwich.. about the size of a small pony and built like an armoured vehicle, you wouldn’t want to hit one.. or upset one either.  We go through the last military checkpoint and to the first proper town for a while.  My forks are still pissing oil out.  I go down and push a seal scraper up the stantion to remove any dirt.  as soon as I break the seal I get an ejaculation of liquid all over me .. the change in altitude has increased the pressure in the forks to such an extent the oil is pissing past the seals.  I’m with my usual riding buddy again now and he says I should bleed the forks.  I go back down.. open the bleed screws and hear a small sigh of relief as the forks depressurise.. I guess I should have thought about that myself.  I didn’t even know I had bleed screws!  None of the other ‘normal’ bikes I’ve ridden this route with have ever done this though. Ho hum..

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Tibet is huge.. Tibet is diverse .. Tibet .. in places .. is a lot like parts of the grand canyon.. don’t believe me?  I didn’t believe me either.  I didn’t see it last time but there is a small town with some historic ruins way way off the main route and we’re taking the diversion to go there.. go over another couple of freezing 5000m passes on unmade roads and suddenly it’s like stepping into anther world

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From 5000m sleet and snow you descend to 3500m warm and sunshine and spend the afternoon playing silly buggers on the brand new tarmac, all on our own,  a very big, very impressive private playground..

We (almost) all get to our agreed meeting point, a fuel station just outside the town and checkpoint.  Looks like we nearly had a full house at this morning’s listening test.. but .. it only takes one.  One rider has been seen turning round and heading off up a track some time ago .. so we wait.. luckily .. entertainment is on hand ..

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An hour and a half later the rider still hasn’t appeared.  A couple of the riders go back back to search for him and we head into town to the hotel.  I walk around town and past the big dark gates of the military compound where they sound like they’re busy killing each other.. I’ve think I’ve got a couple of people I’d quite like to throw over for them to practice with ..

IMG_5496IMG_5361 IMG_5387 IMG_5390 IMG_5396If we thought yesterday was mad, then today provides the most diversity I’ve ever seen in a single riding day.  First climb out of the canyon.P1010609 IMG_5592 P1010633spend an hour screaming across a flat grassy plains then come across an almost alpine set of valleys..
P1010654wobble and slide around for a few miles in some roadsworks ..
through some mountains where Mother nature keeps her colour palette P1010685pit your skills against a set of slippery clay switchbacksP1010693and join back up with the G219 towards Mt Kailash.  We’re all running on empty and jump into the santuary of a lonely cafe.  I walk through the kitchen to go to the ‘toilet’.. the steps are steep and literally running with oil and grease.. the walls dripping with water.  If you walked into a kitchen like this at home you’d walk straight out and phone the local authority but here you just stand and watch culinary magic emerge from the dirt and chaos.. IMG_5498 IMG_5514 IMG_5507 IMG_5511 IMG_5518IMG_5507

Mt kailash is a real God magnet with loads of different claimants.  With every God comes a squad and they’re attracted from all over the globe to spend 3 days trecking round it’s base as a pilgrimage.  I was expecting the town at the base to be full of shiny hotels catering for wealthy pilgrims trying to buy their tickets to the after life but in reality it is just another scrappy collection of dirty buildings with a lovely wild west feel.

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I really like this place.  If there are Gods floating in the air, then they make me feel very welcome despite my total disbelief in anything other than fate. Still .. they make sure to give me a beautiful send off the next morning .. and for that I’m very grateful

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It’s difficult to believe you’re just  few 100km from Everest up here.. other than the feeling that you’re up near the ceiling of the world.. and you sometimes have to dip your head to avoid bumping it on the clouds ..

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Get to the last big town before Everest and it’s tourist central.  Our hotel is is like a huge pot of accents mixed in a pot, boiling and bubbling and popping, filling the air with excited words in a dozen different languages.  Russians.. Indians.. even some Japanese ladies.  Just goes to show that religions don’t have a single face I guess…

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We wander about the town and try to find something substantial to expand our ever contracting stomachs.  I think my winker stinker is in danger of growing over .. See a place advertising burgers.. just advertising them you understand.. not selling.  They’ve had menus printed with 90% of items they don’t actually sell.  “Rice burgers?”.. a nod .. a thumbs up .. a banknote .. and something like a festering wound from the back end of a yak appears..


Get on the road early and out the back door of town.  There is a long way round and a short way round to Everest from here.  We went the short way last time and it was a 60 mile ride from hell to the main Everest/Nepal road but in the last few years the tarmac tanks have rolled through and beten the landscape into submission.  Not another vehicle in sight. the Chinese investment in their roads is just ridiculous.. if only they would invest in more than the odd fuel station every 200km .. what a ride though .. what a ridiculous bloody ride.IMG_5871 IMG_5875 IMG_5882 IMG_5890 IMG_5883

Tingri.. you should be able to see the peak of Everest from here but there are waves of clouds and rain going through.. looks like it will be a toss of the coin wether the weather will open a window for us to see Everest or not.

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Stop for a quick lunch.. pull back a thick heavy curtain and get hit by a wave of lovely heat from the stove.  Feel your body and brain start to fight over if they want to stay here in the warm or go out into the cold.. I’ve not come all this way again for nothing  though.  Go for fuel.. fill to the very top.. every drip counts out here.  We’re ready.. we’re steady.. but we’re not going .. one of the other riders comes out from the village and tells us there is a problem with the RT.  It’s refusing to start again.. perfect.. absolutely perfect..

First.. try and jump start it.. getting the battery out the RT is like a tiny woman with narrow hips trying to deliver a 10lb baby.. it’s not a straight forward procedure.  These situations are like natural selection at work.. lots of cooks vying to be head chef.. arguing and pontificating about the problem.. coming up with a long list of potential problems .. I put my hands up .. I’m just as bad myself but I’m standing back, hoping there will  be a quick solution and we can get on our way. Or not.. It doesn’t want to jump.. the voltage showing on the dash is only slowly climbing to 12V.. and the starter is dead.. I’ll give it 10 minutes .. there is a motorcycle shop 20ft away as luck would have it but they don’t have the right battery .. fancy that .. they only have small 6V batteries .. 5 minutes .. I suggest they get a car battery and run some long leads from the luggage box to the battery .. nope, they don’t like that idea ..  2 minutes .. there is a lot of discussion as to what the problem is.. and not a lot of proposed solutions.  I’m not a mechanic and I hate electrics but these situations demand some sort of systematic approach.. I’m not some big hero swooping in with a solution .. but this approach is not working and we’re quickly running out of time so I just grab the big chef’s hat and my jump leads and dive in .. jump leads.. not to the battery terminals but to the actual leads to the engine.  Engine jumps straight away, but take the jump leads off and the bike stops immediately. The battery is completely fucked  Take the battery out the equation.  Buy 2 6V batteries, connect them in parallel and sacrifice my jump leads to make leads to run from the panniers.  We quickly get it all connected up.  The batteries are only intended to turn over a engine with a tiny yogurt pot of a piston and they don’t have the amps to turn the RT but jump start it and it will now run on its own.

IMG_5816 IMG_5832 IMG_5840 IMG_5849 IMG_5855We’re running late now and the weather is overtaking us.  We get to the gate at the start of the Everest road, buy a ticket to ride and head off and up.

IMG_5858 IMG_5863 IMG_5910 IMG_5911 IMG_5915Its a slow, wet, slippery and freezing cold ascent.  A complete contrast to the last time I was here.  If you’re coming.. do yourself a favour and do it earlier or later in the season.  Get close to Everest and you suddenly see that big brother has beaten you to it.  More cameras and more checks.  And a big new carpark. Unfortunately since the last time I was here Everest has gone all ‘Disney’.  20km out you have to park and board electric coaches to take you up to the camp.  No more pictures with that epic backdrop  .. what a bloody shame that is ..

P1010922 P1010929And Everest is playing hide and seek anyway.. occasionally pulling back the veil of cloud to show a glimpse of shoulder .. a flash of neck .. a spot of cleavage .. just teasing and tantilizing..  it’s there.. it’s right there .. P1010928Just retire to the cafe.. use the wi-fi.. yes really .. and retire to our cold cell for the night.  I sleep like the dead in these places.. I absolutely love themIMG_5965Get up before dark and walk up the road to try my luck again but the Everest is obviously a late riser and has the blanket wrapped tightly around itself.  I can’t say I blame it.IMG_5968

Get back to the car park and the BMW is proving a bitch to start again.  See the listening thing again .. I said yesterday you need to put the jump leads to the copper of the leads to the bike, not on the battery terminals as they’re just soaking up every last amp like hungry little birds in a nest.  Two of the riders fuck off despite the fact their mate is in the car park with a dead bike .. thanks for that .. but we press the jump leads to the copper and it’s off.. ready to rock.   A couple of damp cold hours later we’re shaking hands and saying our goodbyes.. more with relief than sadness .  I’m like a service station sandwich.  I’m lovely on the outside but completely shit on the inside .. and I know it.

I’m looking for our new guide.  The group is splitting here, one group heading east to Lahsa and Laos and three of us going west into Nepal.  The guide is going east.  We have a driver.  ‘Where is our guide?’ .. he’s 250km away on the border town with Nepal .. of course he is .. so we’re on our own.  They know there are no checkpoints between here and there so they save their money and let us loose alone.  I doubt it’s legal and I don’t really care.  I doubt we’ll need the guide between here and there.  What could possibly go wrong..

Well for the first 30 minutes anyway ..

We’ve ridden back to Tingri, into the petrol station, and they’re empty.   The next one is 250km or so.  The driver is with us but he doesn’t speak any english.  We ride into the village and the guide has a chat with some locals.  This obviously happens quite a bit and the locals hide a bit of fuel away.  We get an offer .. 20 litres .. for £80.  400% markup.  Now I don’t mind being exploited to a certain degree.. but 400% is way beyond my threshold.  The little bloke has run off to the get the fuel but he’s been gone an hour already and he’s obviously trying to scrounge fuel from other people and make his cut.  Christ only knows what he could be putting in a can.  We’ve had enough.  I’ve got  bit of fuel in my rotopax.  We leave the driver with £40.  Take it or leave it when the bloke comes back.  We need to leave.  So we head out into the wilderness at 50mph to see how far we can get.

We’re doing well.. holding our nerve.. eking out the fuel .. but I chicken out just before another big mountain pass to stop and share my can out between myself and the Tiger800. Ok.. let’s play


The Chinese tunnel moles are busy burying themselves under this mountian and so the road has been left to go to rack and ruin but things like this are always fun. Then get to the bottom and spend the next hour running along a smooth and sinuous strip of black cut through a gourgeous gorge.  Nothing .. absolutely nothing stop the Chinese road builders.

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We’ve still a way to go and I think the bulb in my fuel light is going to blow it’s been on so long now.. when we come round a corner and there like a mirage is a fuel station.  Our guide can’t have been this way as he said there was no fuel before the border.. Perhaps it isn’t real.. or has no fuel.. or no electricity .. but it’s all good and we all pile in and let the horses take a good long drink.  You don’t realise how tense your body is until you release it.. my shoulders come down from my ears .. my lungs breath all the way out .. my bladder decides it has 2 gallons it needs to get rid of.  We saddle up.. get the whips back out and beat the beasts down the road towards the border.

Get to the town and the electricity is out all over.. lots of dead neon and generators banging away in the streets.   I’ve really enjoyed this section despite everything.  I hope everyone has.  Tibet is one of the most amazing places  on the planet and I could never get tired of it.

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Next morning, the sun is shining and we’re of to the border with Nepal.  The scenery has changed again.. all lush valleys.  Yesterday I woke up at Everest base camp, this morning looks more like Austria.

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Get to the border with our new guide.  I think he’s just helping out .. he is too efficient to be associated with the others we’ve met.  We think we’ll be through in a moment and on our way but there is a problem.  Luckily I still have one more empty page in my catalogue of disasters that Tibetmoto have provided me with.  Apparently now our guide has been sent the wrong paperwork and we need to get some more sent over from Kashgar .. excellent… Tibetmoto .. I won’t tell you again..


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