Hitchhiking 15 000 km through China (2/5); Tibetan Mountain Roads

Truck in Himalaya, Bergstraße Trampen

10.05.2016, 22:44, Shangri-La

I started to hitchhike into the mountains this morning. My day was a bit confusing. I have a headache because of the altitude. Meanwhile I am above 3500m but can’t say how high exactly. I try to summarize what happened.

I got a ride directly to the place I wanted to go. Shangr-La. From there you access the mountains. I was with a truck. Fucking slow. This was because the road became one laned at a certain point and we had to go together with other trucks, which where much slower than we have been. But the main reason was my driver, who was a bit unable to change gears. At some point during the last mountain we heared a fizzling from the back and the truck broke down. Actually I was quite happy about this, so I could find another car.

Two Chinese ladies took me into Shangri-La. Nice city, i have to admit. At least the part, that did not burn down 2014 during the big fire. I met some Czech guy in the streets and as it is between people with backpacks, we started to have a short conversation about the trip and so on. Meanwhile his hostel landlord arrived and offered me, impressed by my journey, to camp for free in the Buddhist monastery behind the hostel. I wasn’t ready for this. There was still daylight, I was at the wrong end of the city and wanted to proceed into the mountains. So went for a walk. Stroll through the town with my 12kg backpack. It took me around two hours till I reached the other end, where the mountain road into the Himalayas began, so that I could start the next morning. My personal sightseeing experience.

Schangri-La

On the way I encountered a really really sweet child with brown beady eyes in a traditional Tibetan dress. Unfortunately I could not manage to take out my camera and keep this moment. Sometimes I am a bit irked, that I miss those pictures. But you got to learn from your mistakes. Therefore I, of course, took a picture of this sweet boy, who was shitting right on the street, a bit later on my walk.

Auf die Straße scheißen

My sleeping plan was as followed: Either Buddhist temple, police or tent. No more temple crossed my way, that I can tell already. It was dark and I started hitchhiking in the night to get into the mountains. My first ride have been two men with hats who dropped me somewhere in the middle of nowhere. My problem was, that I haven’t eaten much all day and the altitude really fucked me up. I even wrote with Google translate, that I am looking for a place to camp and something to eat. I was so desperate, usually I never communicate those things. And then they drop me at this abandoned junction with this „Bye bye then, have fun!“ attitude and I found myself in total darkness.

Somewhere in the Himalayas and no lights on the horizon. I was in a very bad condition, I even would have approached a house. Tent was anyway not my first option, as there would have been around 5° outside and this was way to cold for my summer sleeping bag. No police. Yeah, what can I do. So I started walking and continued hitchhiking.

Shortly after and lucky me, a truck stopped and took me. The driver even invited me to his home for sleeping. Everything perfect. Very nicely looking truck. The driver was Tibetan and decorated his driver’s cab colorful. As we just changed from the main road into the bumpy dirt road towards his village, another episode of I-can-understand-this-but-I-don’t-have-to started. Some cars came from the other side. We stopped. Short chat, I got dragged out of the truck and put into the trunk of a car, driving back towards the main road.

tibetischer Truck

No clue what happened there, but anyway. This „sleeping at peoples places“ never was my thing, when I am on the road. In the village we knocked at the door of the police. My last hope for a warm sleeping place. But nobody opened the door, although there was light. Last option: Tent. I just came back from some small food place, where I bought some rice for 2€. I think I gave them too much money. They tried to offer me more food after I finished the plate, but I had to go back, as I abandoned my backpack in the darkness on some hayfield. Now I have exactly 1€ left in my pocket.

Tent then. What can I do. My strategy to not freeze to death tonight is as followed: Down-Jacket, long sleeve and undershirt for my body. Jogging trousers and two pair of socks for my legs. Also I have a scarf, Should be fine. My calculation also includes, that it will be slightly warmer in the tent than outside. And over all that I will wear my miserable sleeping bag. It s gonna be cold here above 3500 m tonight. End now. I have a strong headache. The altitude. Also my eyes hurt from starring at this screen and I really need some rest. Good night!

11.5.2016, 06:26

Fucking cold it was. Maybe also because I rather used my wintersocks as pillow, than on my feet. Once again I was dreaming about warm blankets and was freezing miserably in my dreams. But I know this state already from other cold nights during my travel.

Beside that I can hear the owl, which makes me happy. I like owls. Far away a cock is welcoming the day. I am in a kind of valley here, so there is a lot of hall. Good morning Himalayas. The fox and the rabbit say each other goodnight here, how we used to say in my hometown. I think this is going to be a fun tour today. I should get up and hope that some car is passing by and picking me up The night was cold, but the sun will come up soon. There is little frost on my tent.

11.05.2016, 19:57

My hitchhiking day: Getting up and going for a two hour walk. Business as usual. There was not a lot of traffic and the low traffic that passed by contained mostly taxis or buses (means one bus/taxi per hour). I was lucky and catched a Toyota Jeep at one point who took me for more than five hours. Lunch included. I did 70% of this difficult part in half a day. Not bad. Others needed four days and told me, that it would be impossible to make this route in less than two days (!). But we have been quite fast. The road was perfect gravel pit road with a wonderful scenery. Really, I almost got a boner, when we drove down the serpentines. So beautiful. These are the roads I am looking for. Warm roads. Definitely a highlight of my past 80.000 km.

Tibet Straße

Himalaya Schotterstraße

Bergstraße Tibet Trampen

There was no way to continue. They brought me into their village and I was put in a kind of meeting point of the villagers, got a young and charming young lady by my side, who gave me a tour through the place. I had to follow. Afterwards we had dinner and they brought me to a hotel. Originally I thought they let me sleep in one of the houses in the village. I don’t like, that they pay a hotel for me, but at least I could arrange to get the cheapest room.

It was a beautiful day.

Freunde in China

I got five new WeChat friends (kind of a chinese WhatsApp), made new business contacts to trade German truck parts, saw a Tibetian house from inside (they have a buddha shrine in every house) and drove this amazing road. What else you want? Now I make myself fresh, take a meditation and then I am ready for tomorrow. Since I had so much leisure time the last week, I really need to make some progress now, to stay in my schedule. 4500Km till the northend of China. Should be possible to hitchhike within five days.

12.05.2016, 11:17, somewhere in China

Shit. Hotel again. In the corner of my room lies a cigarette end. Welcome to China.

My hitchhiking day started really nicely. I could hardly take position, when a group of people waved me towards the gas station. First ride. Eight hours drive and one of them could speak English very well. The road continued to be awesome as fuck. So scenic. I loved it. We drove somewhere between 3000-5000m altitude through the Himalayas. At some point I even was sick of all those serpentines. But the landscape was so divers and entertaining. The road showed its most beautiful face. Just like the day before. What an amazing route between Deqen, Litang and Garze. I did around 100.000 photos, till my camera died.

In between we stopped at around 4000m on the top of a pass. They put kind of a monument there and people could take pictures. My attention was caught by a Yak which was standing in the grass nearby and there where two Chinese people already, who took pictures with it. I definitely wanted to have a picture with this beautiful animal as well. He was looking very skeptical, when I cam near. I stand around 2m away from it and recognized how enormous big and terribly sharp those horns have been. The Yak was not very interested in my company. He swinged his head two times, as if he wants to drive off some insects or optional impale my guts. I had to jump back and was pretty scared by it. Beautiful animal anyways.

Yak in Tibet

During the end of this ride wa encountered a one hour traffic jam. A really stupid accident. I mean, it was not very bad accident, all vehicles still have been working, but the people. The people wanted to wait for the police, so they took another truck and put it on the road, so that it was completely blocked and nobody could pass through. In Germany you would get a ticket for that. And here the police has to drive 30km serpentine road, to get to the spot. Takes time….

By the way: I don’t carry any money with me. Only 1€ left in my pockets. No ATM nearby and don’t know where to find one. In the past 8 days I spend around 25€ in total. It also works quite well without money at the moment and I don’t want to waste time finding an ATM. My last ride gave me a bag full of sweets. My supplies. And around four bottles of water. So I will hardly die of thirst but maybe get a sugar rush.

Later that day I got a ride with three guys who where on their way through the mountains towards the highway. Really really nice ride. Dinner inclusive. That is part of the hitchhiking in China. I did not eat anything proper all day long anyway, except cookies, chocolate and bonbons. And so I finally ended up in this hotel with this cigarette end in the corner. Mysterious circumstances brought us here. Another happening, that just doesn’t made sense. We have driven through this small village in the night and suddenly the road was blocked by the police. Seemed to take longer. My drivers talked to a guy at the side of the road, then he left to his car, we followed him and he took us to this hotel.

I got a double bed room but I gotta say you: I need to start a run soon. My average 500-600 km hitchhiking a day are not enough. I made around 3000 km now. Can’t do a proper calculation at this time. But the time runs. 3,5 weeks left and still 13000 km to go. That is why I don’t like to be in a hotel the second night in a row. I rather would like to stay awake and hitchhike all night long. But what can I do?

At least here is a shower, I can load my batteries and meditate again. The sleep. Tomorrow morning at 6 o’clock we are going to wake up and start again. Feels like a holiday trip with my family. I hope it will still be dark, when we hit the road. And hopefully we won’t spend too much time with breakfast. But I am pretty sure, there will be a breakfast for sure. At least I am going to hit the highway tomorrow! Good night.

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