World Cycle 2015: China

In September 2014 I will be leaving my job of 16 years at Philips to follow my dream. The last 21 years I have lived in Europe – in the Netherlands and Germany, and now it is time to go home. Home to Australia. In Europe I have learnt to love cycling. What better way to finish the European chapter of my life and enter the next than by cycling home?

After cycling through Europe to Istanbul in the last part of 2014, I will stop for a few months (waiting for the winter to pass) before continuing in February/March 2015. My route will then pass through TurkeyIranTurkmenistanUzbekistanTajikistan and Kyrgyzstan before entering China for the long haul. Here is my planned route through China.

This part of my trip is where lots of choices have to be made, and I change my mind daily on which option I think is the best.

Here are some points to take into account:

  • Cycling in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) can only be done accompanied by a guide in a car with a driver. (Outside TAR no guide is required.) This is very expensive (around $5000 from Lhasa to the Nepalese border – and the route we want to do is about 3 times that long in TAR!). Also, the guide is obliged to stay quite close, and so there is contact several times a day. This detracts from the ‘at one and alone with nature’ feeling.
  • Avoiding TAR would mean that we would need to skirt far to the north, and it would not be possible to enter the Tibetan plateau for about 3000km. Chris, who is travelling with me on this leg, has not got enough time to do this. Also, I want to spend lots of time on the Tibetan plateau and favour the southern route.
  • Ideally I would like to cycle eastwards in the south of TAR close to the Indian/Nepalese border into Lhasa, and then continue east into Yunnan province. Unfortunately the eastern roads from Lhasa have been closed for foreigners since 2010. This route will probably not be possible.
  • An option is to cycle to Nepal and down from the Tibetan plateau into Kathmandu, India and Bangladesh. If I did this, I would probably have to fly over Myanmar (as it is closed for crossing from one side to the other), breaking my continuous cycle trip. Also, as I would be arriving in mid-August, the weather would be too hot, wet and sticky in Bangladesh, and there could be cyclones.
  • If I am to not break my continuous cycling route, I need to take a 2000km detour north of Lhasa and then south again. This would mean that I could not do the whole Chinese section in the 3 month visa time, and I would need to get a visa extension. (This should not be a problem, though.)
  • I would really like to visit Bangladesh and North-Eastern India (I have wanted to visit Bangladesh since I landed at Dhaka airport in 1993). Bernadette Speet speaks very fondly of Bangladesh. I think, even if I don’t cycle directly down into Bangladesh from Tibet (via Nepal and India), I would like to fly to Bangladesh, say in December 2015 when the weather is nice there, and do a circuit before flying back to resume my trip.

Many thanks to Losang from The Land of Snows for all his advice on travelling in Tibet. He has a very informative and comprehensive website, and has been very helpful through email.

Any suggestions would be very welcome. I am really quite unsure which option I want to take. This part of the trip needs to be decided on before I get there as we need to book the trip, and Chris needs to arrange his holidays.

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