Seda and Larung Gar had left a strong impression on us but visa time and wanting to get on the road we left Seda (Sertar). We had almost run out of oats and Martin had used a few hours searching and asking in all Chinese shops nowhere to be found. By chance as we where heading to the market to buy some bread we saw a shop we had missed, here we finally found our precious oats for our breakfast! We were happy and now we could definitely get on the road. We were looking forward to Tibetan hospitality, a high road, Seda to Litang.
The road out of Seda quickly turned into a mix of gravel and broken pavement we had a small pass to cycle before another big one 4500m+. We managed to cycle a bit up the big pass passing some beautiful small villages. For the night we found a spot where a nomad family had been living, this was right next to a stream where we could get water from. As we were cooking a lady came by to see what we were doing. She stayed a bit and we tried our best to explain where we are from and where we were going. She invited us home to sleep and eat at her house in the nearby village, sadly our tent was standing and food in the making so we declined and the lady left us. We looked at each other and talked about why we said no. Of course this was due to our food almost being ready but we still regretted that we had declined this nice offer. The next morning we woke up to rain and more rain so we waited a bit in the tent and packed up a bit. It cleared up and we cooked our breakfast and were on our way on the long and tough pass.
We used the most of the day on this pass normally we use the GPS to tell us how the climb will be and plan accordingly. This is not always possible here due to the offset on maps in China. This is not a problem but just annoying as we like to know when the top is coming. We topped the pass at 4549m and made it downhill it was getting time to find a camp spot. We stopped in a small village where a lady was gathering the young Yaks for the night. We cycled 10m when a man yelled from a house. We stopped and realised that he was inviting us in for dinner. We made a gesture of sleeping and he agreed.
The house was beautiful from stone and wood with nice decorations we had not yet been inside a house like this and were a bit nervous where and how we would sleep. We entered the second floor where the kitchen and living rooms are. Were sat down in the kitchen, a wooden room with pots and pans enough to cook for many people. We were offered milky tea with yak butter and bread which was really nice after the cold down hill. We had a great dinner with the couple and the mother of the man. We got to sleep in the biggest room of the house. The next day we woke early and thought that the family was still a sleep as it was all quiet only to realise that the man was out with the yaks and the lady picking up yak shit and sticking it to the wall to dry. We enjoyed a nice Tsampa breakfast and were on our way.
Yes! Today another great pass above 4000m. We passed through some great villages with these massive tibetan houses which sometimes look more like fortresses. We reached the top just in time for a late lunch and this
tibetan tent restaurant suddenly showed up where we enjoyed a great noodle dish. There was a gathering of men on motorbikes, horses and yak.
We reached the G317 the first Sichuan-Tibet highway we would cross and the downhill was great. We turned off at the S217 just before Kandze (Ganze) a road following the Yalong river a great road through the Yalong grand canyon. Here there was a strict police checkpoint for the first time. Probably because we are in the neighbourhood of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). Martin had to show his passport which was photographed and then we could get back on our way after a little show of force of a policeman punching a punching bag. We camped next to a village because the valley did not provide a lot of camping space and were visited by a group of nice girls which found it great to teach us Chinese. It was an eventful evening.
The next day we passed through the town of Xinlong. Perched high in the valley with houses and temples it was a quite scenic town. We had troubles manoeuvring through because there was a huge traffic jam on the muddy road under construction. We decided to leave the city behind us and camp but it was pouring down with rain. Camping was very wet and not so comfortable. We left the Yalong river after a wet night well dry in the tent but it rained all night and the stream were overflowing. There are some massive road works along the way and we had to follow the old road which proved to be the most beautiful sections. It will be a pity when all the tunnels on the S217 are finished because these pretty sections will be bypassed. Along the river there are quite a few holes in the walls. We were wondering what they are and Martin went in to have a look. It seems to us as these are deep mines that go into the mountain. It didn’t look too stable so before anything would happen we left these mines behind. Yet another pass above 4500m were ahead and we wanted to gain some altitude as we were at 2900m. We made it to 3550m along a side river of the Yalong river and were invited in by the nicest family and were treated with tea and tsampa and a great dinner. During the night we heard many mice and rats scuttle around which kept us a little bit awake which all added to the experience. Wonderful experience and very warm family.
We left the family with many goodbyes and full from tsampa we went up on the last big pass before Litang as the man of the family had told us that there would be a tunnel on the G318. We climbed the pass which was very steep and quite tough but luckily paved all the way, topped out at 4580m and made our way to Litang.
In Litang we have eaten well as the last weeks has been hard on our bodies and decided to stay 2 days at the Portala inn. There is not much to see in Litang also called the ‘wild west of China’. Well the whole city is under reconstruction and all roads are a big mess after being dug up. The surrounding mountain views are great. Litang has a history of importance to Tibetan culture, two of the Dalai lamas have been born here and in the 1950’s the People’s Liberation Army of China met quite some resistance here and bombed the monastery. So somehow an interesting stop on our way south although the feeling is less Tibetan than we had expected. We are back on the path a little bit more travelled so looking forward to maybe meeting some other cyclists on our way south towards Yunnan.