A chance to write at last.

 I last wrote at Deqen about 6 days ago. The next 4 days were both busy and spectacular in so many ways.

We left Deqen with the roof on  in drizzle to descend the 2100 metre into the Lacang river gorge, After 30 mins we decided to take the roof off and suck up the bits of drizzle to open the world up so we could marvel at what we were driving through.  We left the river after 60k’s to climb back to 3500 metres entering the Tibetan Autonomous Region on the way up and turn left onto the G318 which would take us to Lhasa over the coming days.

The afternoon drive was the bit that got real interesting with a 5000 metres pass to cross in the cloud. At just above 4500 metres it started to snow. Snow becomes a small problem when you don’t have any wipers as Rain-ex has no effect on snow. This problem was solved by a very busy Julie standing up every 30 sec or so and leaning over the windscreen and wiping the snow away. This is all very easy at sea level but was very exhausting for her at that altitude. Penny was performing well but ran out of Puff for 2nd gear at 4800 so it was a slow grind in 1st to the top. After stopping at the top for a couple of photo it was down hill towards Zogang for the night.

We woke the next morning to the first sunshine day of the trip and what a great days driving it was, although interrupted by some small car problems or so we thought. As we descended the pass which according  to our guide had 72 hairpins Penny stopped making brmmm brmmm sounds going round a corner and refused to start again. We coasted to a stop at  cafe and proceeded to check all the usual thing in the ignition. After some time she stated so we said lets have lunch at this cafe, before proceeding on.

Our breakdown was a windfall for the cafe as all the Chinese heading to Lhasa for the up-coming holiday decided to eat as well after stopping to look at us. We had 3 more stops due to lack of noise from thew motor before we checked the spark which was fine and we both realise that it was 650 k’s ago the we had fuelled so we changed tanks and not another problem all the way to Ranwu Lake for the night. So it was not really a Penny problem just a giant brain lapse on the drivers part.

The next day started very cold but was another great drive making it the 3 most spectacular days driving in a row that I think I have ever done.

Our trip from Nyingchi was to go via Gyaca to Lhasa but this was thwarted by the Police with a ruling  that foreigner’s are not allowed to travel that way at this time of the year with the 70th celebrations of the Peoples Republic of China only 5 days away. So we headed straight to Lhasa to give us an extra day there., This was spent going to a local village 80 k’s away famous for its weaving for making all the traditional clothing. After our return we spent a couple of hours fixing the lights on Penny that the rough roads had taken their tole on.

All the way along the 318 we had passed  travellers of many different forms.Pilgrims that are on a Prostration walk the whole way which is best explained in this link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostration ,waking pilgrims, backpackers, walkers pulling or pushing carts some of which have live feed to the internet and then many many Cyclists.

All through Tibet harvest is in full swing so all the fields are bustling with people getting the barley off.

I will let the photos tell the rest of the story.

So till next time I hope you all enjoy this and I apologise for  not being able to reply to everyone that emails.

The Tops off at Last.

 This morning our China guide Tom handed us over to the Tibetan guide Dancing who will now take us through to Kashgar.

We left Shangri La for the short run to Deqen on an overcast fine day. After a few Kilometres we decided that the scenery demanded that we travel with the roof off.

The day started at 3500 m before descending to cross the Jinsha river at 2000 metre then climbing through spectacular mountain terrain to a tunnel 4000m  to Deqen at 3500m in the next valley system over as part of the Lacang / Mekong which will be our drive and river crossing tomorrow.

At times the farms and houses seem to be just clinging on to the hill sides

As we ascended into the cloud at 3000 m it turned to water on the screen which was handled well by Rain-ex. However driving in cloud is only slightly better than driving inside a cow, the saving grace being we were following 3 cars that gave a us a good buffer and warning of oncoming traffic to keep them on their side of the road.

Things got real weird when we entered an unlit 2 way tunnel that caused our screen to instantly fog on both sides. LOL. So it was head out the side till Julie stood up to lean over and wipe the outside first to restore some resemblance of forward vision.  In amongst all of this was roadworks and stop go men inside the tunnel, All in all a memorable moment.

The rest of the day was just supper driving scenery till our stop at the Flying Charm Hotel outside Deqen.

Lijiang to Shrangri La Yesterday

The morning started with our departure at 7.00 in the rain, parts of me was thinking what planet were we on when suggesting a 7.00am start and only 190 k’s for the day.

As we left Tiger Leaping Gorge we were very glad that we stated early.  On the way to the Gorge we passed many buses of tourist at rest stops all heading to the Gorge. We arrived at the gorge with both car parks only 1/2 full. on leaving the Gorge entry gate we passed a queue of busses and cars waiting there turn to be permitted down the road to the carpark that was over full as we left.

The amount of water flowing in Tiger Leaping gorge was just as amazing as it was when I was last here in 2014 on Bangkok to Helsinki. The photos tell the story.

On the way in we passed under the construction site of the new bridges for the expressway and railways crossings of the Jinsha river which becomes the Yangtze further downstream.  We both enjoyed seeing a partly constructed suspension bridge so I now know the construction process with out having to search Utube.

We can only imagine how specular the drive up onto the start of the Tibetan Plateau at Shrangri La would be on a blue sky day compared to the drizzle rain and cloud for our drive, however it was still great. We passed bus loads of locals at cafe stops at the top with them all peering into the clouds hoping to catch a glimpse of the Snow Mountains which all the signs indicated were out there somewhere.

Once on the plateau things had changed with all the housing in the Tibetan style and the crops have changed to thing like wheat and oats with Pastures filled with a mixture of Yaks and Cows, and I mean mixture.

After a Nana Nap at our Hotel to assist with the fatigue from the elevation Tom and I went for a walk through the old Town visiting the museum about the Red Armies long walk then on to what must be the largest prayer wheel, about 10 metres across and 15 metres high.

Short Sleeved Shirt to Down Jacket Overnight.

 But more about that later so let us start were I left off a few days back in Laos.

We woke early to get to to the border for when it opened and made out way up through all the construction of the new border posts and highway to the Old Border Gate still in operation past hundreds of trucks waiting to there turn to cross after queuing for 4 to 5 days. On the way breakfast was hot grilled pork and rice from a vendor on the side of the road.

We left Laos after a bit of hilarity, while I was at the boom gate getting things sorted Julie who had passes through the passenger lane had to bring me some paperwork to make everyone happy. Once he had decided that I could go Julie went to jumped in with me only to be told she had to get out and walk the 5 metres to the other side of the gate to get in. Go Figure???

The China side had Julie and I cleared in 15 mins then the waiting game for Penny’s clearance started with having to use the truck lane to enter China. With a bit of creative driving I had Penny at the front of the queue only to find out the T’s were not crossed and the I’s not dotted yet on the entry forms. So I was instructed to pack between the truck coming and going till all was ready for me. It is sad I don’t have a shot of this position that after a while led to a very small wound on the right rear fender from a truck. After a hour this was all sorted then off to the Mengla Hospital for an eye check followed by the Traffic Police for the numberplate and licence. This was funny as we were put on machines to test brakes and heads lights which we failed miserably. The final test was the head inspector stood under a tree while I drove up and braked hard beside him to show that we could indeed stop and it was deemed a pass after looking to see that the Lights and Indicators worked.

We had been helped through this process  including having a great lunch by our guide Tom and his driver Mr Goo, some of you on this list will know Tom from the Himalayan Rally.

After our night in Jinghong which is on the banks of the Mekong or the Lancang as it is called in China we visited a great local fruit and meat market for some fresh stock before heading north.

This started through rubber plantations that covered the mountain’s until we saw signs about not to blow horns at the elephants as we were passing through a large wild elephant reserve. Julie spent the time looking very intently hoping to see one but alas the elephants were nowhere to be seen that day.

Our trip up to Dali was along mostly National roads avoiding the Expressways. It was very enjoyable driving through all the different crops and farming techniques along the way. Drives like that really highlight the Farmer in me with the change in soil and elevation changing the crops along with seeing so many crops grown that I have farmed in my life like Tobacco, Sweet Potatoes, Eggplant, Peppers, Maize and Pineapples. However there is always rice on the flat bits and the hill side forever different. I have found out on this trip that Chinese don’t eat any corn although growing as much of it as rice,  it’s all grown to feed the pigs, as every family  has at least one pig.

With some road works giving a diversion yesterday we ended up being on a country lane for a couple of hour going through small farming communities.

As the elevation increased yesterday we passed through a Walnut growing area with the collection and delivery to the village trader in full swing, the collection all the same with them being picked up from the grass by hand before delivery by a variety of ways from carried on the back and scooters to small trucks.

Lunches on this trip has been in little villages at local cafes and have been nothing short of spectacular to say the least and that filling I have only been having very lite dinners.

Dali has changed a lot since I was last here in 2014 with it becoming so much more tourist commercialism with all the little place that where still making thing and selling there own wares  now replace by shops, bars and restaurants. I guess that progress driven by the mighty $$.

Our rest day in Dali started with a little bit of love and tenderness for Penny as she had developed loose steering arms in both the front stud axles that required finding a machine shop to make up a couple of special washers to pull them up tight.

This was completed in time for us the visit a local Indigo Tie-dyeing centre at a village 20 k’s away. there are still using the same process and system that have been handed down for eons with this turning in to a great afternoon for us both. Julie being able to tie up a sampler and have it dyed then unpick it to see the finished product and i just enjoyed the process.

Now on to the title of the post, until this morning I have travelled in shorts and shirt with the sleeves rolled up. This morning we woke to it raining, being a smart man I started the day in longs and raincoat. We had only been on the road 30 mins and smart was the wrong adjective to describe myself as we and to pull into a service centre and dig out my down jacket, gloves and neck warmer. The fact that we are now at 2400 metres elevation also helped with the drop in temperature,

The roads in this area get very slippery in the wet so today we used the Expressway to travel to the ancient city of Lijiang for the night. I have written this during the afternoon before going out to dinner in the old part of town.

We are just back from a great night walk around the old town dating back 900 years. This town has not changed as much as Dali in the 5 years since my last visit.

So till next time I hope you are all enjoying the blog.

4 days in Laos

The weather in Laos has been a rude wake up with it being the best of SE Asian heat and humidity so we are both a bit subdued,

Last Friday we left Thailand as our travel permit for Penny was expiring. Thankfully getting out was a lot less troublesome then getting in so it was all done all finished in about 40 mins after the usual round of photos with all the borders staff.

I had a wry smile as the last thing the immigration office said as we were exiting was “Be very careful in Laos as the drivers are crazy over there” this from a man that lives in a country that killed on average 61 people a day on the roads.

The first day was just 4 hour over to Luang Namtha for the night before heading down tp Luang Prabang on the banks of the Mekong River as  Luang Namtha was not the place to spend 3 days waiting till we could enter China on the 17th.

The drive down to Luang Prabang proved what the Thai boarder officer had said, some of the driver are truly crazy. It was a fairly tiresome drive between climbing through some spectacular Limestone mountain scenery, the potholes, getting past the most popular form of road transport the scooter and being ever prepared for the oncoming truck of any size to be on your side of the road coming round the corner. The trip was toped off with 20k’ s of road works beside a new Hydro dam being built but the Chinese. Most likely to help provide power for the 400k high speed rail line under construction from Chine to Vientiane

I think the age limit in Laos for driving scooters is if you can hold it up you are old enough to ride. The other thing is scooters have no maximum number of people you can carry with 5 being the best we have seen to date.

Luang Prabang is the former capital of Laos and how a listed world heritage site with many temples and a very touristy old city.

Julie attended a weaving school as this area is famous for it hand weaving. Just on dark the 2 Lao girls that had been looking teaching Julie weaving bought her home in a Tuk Tuk. They then had the experience of their life as I drove them back to the house 6 k’s away in Penny. I don’t think I have ever seen 2 adults so excited in my life before!  One could not stop say “On my Buddha” the whole way home and took a thousand pics on the way.

The last day in Laos was the return trip back north towards the border before entering China the next morning. we did how ever discoed that the traffic is a lot quieter on a Monday than Saturday with everyone working.

The French influence is ever present in Laos with Boules being a cooen sport with courts specialy built every where.

Back with more from China in a couple of days