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making haste through the Greater Himalaya

Written by Kate on September 10th, 2011

Apologies for the dearth of blog updates, but we’ve only had sporadic and flaky access to internet for the past few months. Stay tuned for more evocative renderings of our escapades in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Tibet, and now Nepal – I’ll be writing a book once I get home – but for now here’s a briefing. (Note: If you’re really hungry for news, photos, and GPS updates in the interim, all the action is on our Facebook page – you don’t need to be a Facebook member to check it out!)

So in short: After nearly two glorious months in Tajikistan, biking the Tajik-Afghan border and exploring the potential for transboundary cooperation in the Pamir mountain borderlands, we spent roughly 36 hours transiting through Kyrgyzstan before riding into Xinjiang in western China, where all our mad Silk Road biking adventures began five years ago. Originally we intended to ride from Kashgar into western Tibet, retracing our route from 2006, and exploring the Mount Kailash transboundary protected area – our fourth case study of the expedition. But then we learned the western road into Tibet was closed for construction. Bummer.

So instead we opted to ride the Qinghai-Tibet highway, which runs from Golmud to Lhasa, and then bike to Nepal from there. Because of limited time on our Chinese visa, and the gaping distance between Kashgar and Golmud, we had to take a series of trains and buses to get to our starting point. We couldn’t afford a Chinese guide or a permit, since a single day with a guide would’ve cost more than our entire budget for Tibet, so sneaking was the only option. We figured we’d see how far we could ride into Tibet without getting stopped, and by taking some precautions – namely posing as androgynous Chinese cyclists, carrying all our food so we didn’t have to resupply in towns, and stealth camping to avoid hotels. With a lot of luck on our side, we managed to make it all the way to the border, and then crossed into Nepal without a hitch.

Now we’re setting off on the final leg of the trip, from Kathmandu, Nepal to Leh, the capital city of Ladakh in northern India. The Himalayan passes on the road to Leh tend to close by mid-October, so we’re gambling on good weather to make it in time. From Leh, we’ll explore our final transboundary case study of the expedition: the Siachen glacier, which straddles the disputed Indo-Pak border in Kashmir. After spending some time interviewing folks in India about the conflict, and about possibilities for its resolution through environmental cooperation, we’ll pack our bikes – Marco and Polo – in boxes and catch flights home to Canada in November. Hard to believe the end of the Cycling Silk road is practically in sight, though there are still some epic mountains blocking the way.

So, more to come on our adventures in transboundary conservation these past few months, and in the meanwhile, wish us luck racing the snows to Leh!

In the face of a rational, scientific approach to the land, which is more widely sanctioned, esoteric insights and speculations are frequently overshadowed, and what is lost is profound. The land is like poetry: it is inexplicably coherent, it is transcendent in its meaning, and it has the power to elevate a consideration of human life. ~Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams


8 Comments so far ↓

  1. Alphonso says:

    Great blog, good luck racing the snow.

  2. Your amazing pictures of people and breathtaking vistas capture the spirit of this unbeliebvable adventure. May your homeward bound final leg be as magical as your first 8 months. Pedal on!

    Love Mom

  3. ~ Sil in Corea says:

    Excellent posts! May you ride safely and swiftly.

  4. Shigeru Suzuki says:

    It is amazing to see your pictures of cycling around the world. Are you planning to publish any book about your cycling journey? If so, please let me know.

  5. John Kastelic says:

    Hi Melissa,

    Good luck to you and Kate on your final leg of an incedible adventure. Your dad popped by today before packing for la belle France!

    Peace. John

  6. Julian Cox says:

    So great you guys made it into Tibet, good work! You must be back at home now?

  7. Jean Constantin says:

    Thank you for sharing your amazing journey. I love the stunning sceneries displayed in your pictures. I also enjoy your humour-filled and captivating writings.

    It’s a very empowering gift.

    Many thanks,

  8. Some amazing photos there. I’ve heard they’ve made a lot of improvements to the roads recently – almost to the point where you could do it on a road bike with 28mm tyres.

    Thanks for all the info on this blog – I’m planning a similar trip soon.

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