Road to Shangri-la

Trip Start Aug 01, 2010
Trip End Apr 30, 2011

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Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Friday, November 26, 2010

We leave Lhasa  heading for Sangri-la in China - it is going to be a long cold journey with 5 bush camps and 2 night drives. We are not looking forward to it.

Friday 19th November - uneventful truck day with a very cold bush camp, where possible we have doubled up in tents to keep warm.  Although it was colder than the Everest bush camp we are now better prepared and the altitude sickness is generally under control. No hanging around - early nights and early starts.

Saturday 20th - a good start and because there is a lack of towns on the Friendship Highway we stop at a small one street town and our guide arranges for us to have the regional speciallity Stone Bowl Chicken Soup - which turns out to be a full meal for 6 people out of a single bowl - includes chicken. bean curd, lettuce, Chinese cabbage and coriander - all cooked on a gas burner set in the table - it was wounderful and considering what happened latter in the day I was extremely glad I opted for the soup

We continue down the road - this is the main international route through Tibet to China. The tarmac soon runs out and the road narrows and is a muddy uneven track clinging to the side of a steep valley. It begins to rain for the first time for weeks, up till now the weather has been cold but dry. As the road gets narrower and the bends sharper our driver has us out to walk. While we watch him negociate an upward corner the backend of the truck breaks away and slides towards the edge.

One tyre is over the edge - the truck cannot move and the Highway is totally blocked!

After various discussions with local truckers who cannot move a 30 ton truck our guide contacts the police who arrange for the army to drag us out. All this of course takes time the road remains blocked and we gather an audience which includes Tibetan Nomands with hand carts, an assortment of 4x4s, buses and passengers. In the end an army buldozer made it up the road and pulled Tango to safety in a couple of minutes. We were standing about in the rain for 3 and half hours so I had reason to be glad of that soup.
The road doesn't improve much and there a number of bridges with 5 ton limits on them! The final bridge out of the valley is a nightmare very narrow with a roadbed made of rotten timbers and a 15 ton limit! No pictures as it was under army control who were very friendly and interested in where we had been and where we were going.

We eventually stop for a noddle supper at 9 o'clock - no camp as we have to drive through the night as the road is closed for roadworks during the day - as we prepare to leave at midnight it begins to snow. I am riding shotgun and it looks as though it will be a long night.

It snows large soft flakes all night - the roads stay clear but the going is slow with one tricky overhang on a very narrow road.

Sunday 21st November - We are in a white landscape at an altitude above 4500m. It is extremely cold we have to stop to let our driver sleep so the cook group makes porridge and very welcome it is.

Monday 22nd November - We stop for lunch and cook group shopping at a closed town and have to have a police escort to go to the market no one was allowed to wander around but we did manage to buy some provisions for our second night drive. As I had been up the previous night I slept through the night but when I managed to look out the window the view was dominated by soaring peaks and very deep valleys.  We had to stop to put on the snowchains at some point.

Tuesday 23rd November - After another cold camp with ice on the inside of the tents we continue to travel the Friendship Highway the scenery is stunning - we are still very high over 4000m. The going is slow as the road surface is poor. The road clings to the side of the mountains and winds with the rivers with terrifying drops. The only hold up we have is a small landslide which delays us for only a short time.

Wednesday 24th November - we continue to the Chinese border but come upon a stuck truck blocking the road with no way to move as he has no tow rope he was very please to see us as we have a steel tow rope as part of the truck kit. Once he is safely on his way we did a bit of road building to get Tango accross the dip. 

Thursday 25th - Last day - The day before the scenery had been magnificent and although the driving was slow it was not too difficult and we had crossed into China proper and taken a last look at Tibet from the high road...

This was to be the worst drive day not because anything awful happen it was just really hard. We have to cover 100 km to get to Sangri-la and the road is only open 1 day in 3 we have by dint to long days and night drives made our schedule and are not delayed but what a drive it turned out to be. All 100 km are road works the only tarmac is on the occasional bridge as we switch to the other side of a valley to crawl back along the valley - the pictures tell the tale. 

At the end of the road the landscape opens to a large valley which was flooded but we were all glad to have arrived. Only one more bush camp and then a hostel and a shower.


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fiona on

What an adventure! I loved reading this blog entry..some intense stuff and once again amazing photos! xxx

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