We awoke with great enthusiasm this morning as this was our last day in Tibet and we had to be at the border crossing by 9am.when it opened. After being separated into drivers and navigators we made our way to the first security check to leave Tibet.We were thoroughly searched and some people had books confiscated such as Lonely Planet, Seven Years In Tibet and all maps were scrutinized.We then had to walk across the bridge into Nepal. There was quite a change in the buildings and the efficiency but I think we were all pleased to leave China! When the drivers arrived we set off for Katmandu. The road was unbelievable! I think some due to the lack of repairs but also due to the earthquake a few years ago. It took us 16 hours to do 160 Kms. We passed through many military and police checkpoints which also took time. By the time the sun went down we still had about 60kms to go. The electrics in the car had failed so we had no GPS or headlights. I tried in vain to operate the GPS on batteries but that also failed so we were left with a flashlight and road book to follow. The amount of trucks and traffic on the road was un believable and the dust and dirt from the road and the trucks exhaust was something I never again want to experience. I should also add that the road was twisty with huge drop offs and in the dark I did a lot of praying as We rounded each bend. Finally we arrived at the hotel in Katmandu at around 10 pm. tired, dirty, my hair was black from the dirt and very hungry
having survived on fruit drops all day. There was much enjoyment and relief when the last car arrived and we were all safe.
It has been an amazing journey across the Himalayas, one we will never forget. I would have to say that it was as difficult as the Peking To Paris. We travelled with a wonderful group of people and will treasure every moment, even the camping!
Since I last posted quite a lot has happened. Unfortunately we have be unable to connect to wifi for sometime although if you have been following the official blog you will have heard some of the news. After leaving Lhasa we set off for Everest base camp or as close as we were allowed to go. The Tibet side is closed to climbers and all others at the present time but we did get within 20 Kms. of the wonderful mountain and on a clear day! There is a certain magic about seeing her in all her glory and imagining people currently climbing from the Nepal side. After that it was off to camp for three nights. I have never been so cold. When we awoke in the morning (for those who could sleep) there was ice on the inside of the tent and all our water was frozen solid. Rudi and Helga from Germany are driving a Land Rover and the diesel froze solid overnight.There were no washing facilities and the wind was wicked. Apparently it was -15 but that did not take in the wind chill factor. We packed up camp and then sent off over sand, rocks and hills to the next camp site. After two nights of this the organizers found us a hotel for the third. We were all very grateful.We next visited a spectacular sight. The ruins of the Guge kingdom in the most western part of Tibet. This kingdom was built on sand stone with caves built into the mountain. Some of the original paintings and Buddahas remain .It was quite a climb to the top but Lloyd and I did manage it. We were certainly the oldest up there! Now we are in Jilong having climbed the pass this morning. We are very close to the Nepal border and we should arrive in Katmandu and the end of the rally tomorrow. 😀 At present we are waiting for water in the hotel which we all need as we are covered in dust and dirt. I will do another report when we arrive in India and have three whole days to relax! Ruby has been going well and we shall keep our fingers crossed until we cross the finish line.
Ever since a young child I have been fascinated by Tibet and most of all by the photos seen in old geography books of the Potala Palace. Well this morning we had our visit there and it didn’t disappoint. One can only enter on a timed ticket which is for one hour only. However the climb to the top of the palace requires a good constitution as there are many steps to climb and in the lighter air you had to rest before ascending the next flight. A very good workout! Inside there are many rooms, tombs and shrines to the previous Dalai Lama’s. The amount of gold was staggering. Unfortunately no photos were allowed. Last night 8 of us went out for a Tibetan dinner recommended to us by the hotel. Lovely food when it arrived but as we were the only non locals and nobody spoke English nor we Tibetan it was all ordered by phone using translation! It went like this “ We would also like some vegetables? The answer would come back “ the tube station is around the corner on Beijing street” Or “ what kind of meat do you have” Answer “heaven is above earth is below” Welaughed so much along with the waiters but we had a very good evening and experienced the local colour. Tomorrow we are off to
Western Tibet and the beginning of the more rugged part of the trip. Will be in touch when I can.
We finally arrived here yesterday after a somewhat difficult start this morning. Lloyd thought that Ruby was not sounding quite right and it was obvious after we climbed to 4067m that something was seriously wrong . I went into the monastery (description later) and when I came out there were 4 mechanics Rudi also a participant who has helped us so much and a group of local policeman around the car. We had in fact broken 2 rocker arms for those of you who understand car mechanics. These vital pieces to the car’s running must be replaced. Luckily we had bought 2 spares with us! Then the next problem was the rocker arm has a ball bearing and in the process of repairing one had dropped into the engine bay, so more had to be taken apart to locate it. The final straw was that one existing rocker arm did not have a ball bearing at all! What to do. Then a policeman stepped out of the group and ran off only to come back with the correct size bearing! Great cheers all around, after about 4 hours of work in the midday heat we were off and running to the The Shangri La hotel for 3 nights. What bliss.
The monastery we visited was the first one in Tibet, named Samye. It was built in 762. It is the centre of Tibetan Buddhism. I have been lucky enough in my life time to visit many temples and monasteries but this one left me and most of our rally feeling very calm and I think enlightened. I will try to include a few photos, but seem to be having trouble uploading them at present.This afternoon we shall be visiting the old area of Tibet and tonight I have organized a traditional Tibetan dinner for 6 of us. Tomorrow we will be going to the Potala Palace!
I have decided as the internet availability is so sporadic that I will give you a synopsis of the adventure so far. We visited a very interesting youth monastery two days ago and were allowed inside as long as we walked clockwise around the interior. Fascinating to see young boys chanting and being taught and we also realised that they slept inside the temple with extremely hard beds which unfortunately run over into their hotel rooms! However having said that the hotel so far have been quite good and the food also although we have had the same eight or more dishes every night. Now to the driving and magnificent scenery. We have been ascending and descending every day. We came down from 5300m to 3000m yesterday over a spectacular twisting road named the seventy bends. We passed through several Tibetan villages where they were growing rice and rape seed and what we thought were cherry blossom trees turned out to be peach.There are new towns here being built by the Chinese.There are blocks of apartments some with space for shops underneath and all with the same curtains in the windows. However there does not seem to be the population at present to fill these places. Along the roads you see women with very young babies on their backs shovelling stones and shingle into trucks or carrying cement blocks in wheel barrows. Last night at around 4am. we were woken by our beds and everything in our room shaking. We were experiencing a small earthquake which originated in India. It only lasted a couple of minutes but your mind is saying where are the passports, money, warm clothes etc. Is this going to happen again and be more serious!
We are very happy that the car seems better, we spent the first few days leaving way before everyone else and usually last in in the evening. The car would only go up the passes in first gear and at about 7mph so you can imagine the frustration. Unfortunately 3 cars have now retired as they couldn’t manage for various reasons and we feel very lucky so far that we have been able to carry on. The rally has a website in case you need to read more, it is http://www.ralyround.co.uk There you will find good daily reports and photos. I will try to upload some photos now.
W have all been advised to take things easy today as we are climbing to 4500m. We had a step ascent to the summit and unfortunately it was too much for the car. We made about three quarters of the way but had to be towed to the top by another crew. At the top we were all feeling very shaky and dizzy but as we descended again felt better. The view from the top was certainly worth it. That night we changed the spark plugs and tried to lean the car off in the hopes that she will improve. If you think these posts are rather short it is because we are now at 5200m and typing is making my head spin. Hopefully when we descend a little in the next few days I can add more to each day and also some photos.
The day did not start well as we went to pack our car 30 mins before the start and found we had a puncture! We quickly changed it in time and set off when after a short time the heavens opened and we had torrential rain for the rest of the day. Needless to say we were very wet and feeling rather sorry for ourselves. Ruby luckily did well on the first day . The road system is amazing in China. On this route we passed through many tunnels, some 13kms long. All beautifully lit and some with the Chinese flags on the ceiling!
Chengdu is a large city in Western China with 16 million people and very smoggy conditions ! We have had three days here before the rally starts as we had to have eye tests etc.to obtain a temporary Chinese driver’s licence and number plate. However being over 70 six of us were allowed to forego this pleasure for some reason unexplained and we had a day off to explore the city. The most famous thing to see and do here is to visit the Panda Base, so we arose early to try to avoid the crowds. However by 8am. it was already crowded but we managed to get quite close and enjoy them in their natural setting. We then decided to find a shopping centre where we could stock up on necessary supplies for the days ahead. We found a huge supermarket where you could purchase anything from Prada to toilet rolls. Unfortunately we were looking for the latter , so we arrived back at the hotel laden down with toilet rolls and water! All part of a rally experience. We found an amusing sign in the department store which told me I could purchase a less fair maiden outfit! Last night we were taken to a tea house for dinner and and enjoyed an excellent performance of dancers , music and the traditional shadow hands. The food kept coming and as this was schezuan food it was very spicy but delicious. This afternoon we have the safety checks on the car and the signing on and then the medical brief from the Doctor. Ruby is looking good and sounds even better so we hope that continues. Tomorrow we leave on the road to Tibet and the adventure will begin.
Well we eventually made it to Shanghai . We first arrived in Beijing where the passport and visa process went very smoothly and being old has it’s advantages! People over 70 did not have to be finger printed. As we had a very quick connection to Shanghai we were told twice by Air Canada staff that our bags were checked through to Shanghai. Well we waited in Shanghai until the baggage carousel had stopped turning and of course there were no bags for the Reddington’s. However they did catch up with us the next day which was a relief .We spent a lovely three days in the city which has grown enormously since we were there in 2005. Huge skyscrapers on one side of the river but they have maintained the lovely old Art Deco buildings on the Bund which was where our hotel was situated. Yesterday we left the hotel at 7am to to go the train station in Shanghai to take the bullet train to Chengdu . The main road to the station was closed and the cab driver swore and cursed and we thought we would miss the train but eventually he dropped us off and there we were with all our luggage and all the signs in Chinese. We did manage to find our way and found ourselves in a waiting area with several hundred people, mainly, in fact all Chinese. Fifteen minutes before the train was due to leave the gates opened and we pushed and shoved our way down the stairs and onto the train. We had been told that we would be sharing a 4 berth cabin for the 12 hour journey which I was not happy about but we were pleasantly surprised when we found we had a 2 berth carriage with a lovely gold brocade sofa! However after 12 hours we could could hardly move as the seats and bed were so hard! We were extremely glad to be met in Chengdu and brought to the hotel. We are now awaiting the delivery of Ruby and keeping our fingers crossed that she starts!
Why is it when you have known about this rally for a year or more that you are now running around like a March hare! We have been extremely busy during the last few weeks organizing our visas, hotels and other paperwork. The visa for China was a concern for us especially with the relationship between Canada and China at the present time and we had heard that as from January 1st. 2019 all Canadians had to be finger printed at a Chinese Embassy before departure. We duly made an appointment to visit the visa office in Vancouver and were pleasantly surprised when they told us our visas that we had obtained in 2016 were in fact valid for 7 years so the was not required and further more we need not be finger printed! The visas for Nepal and India were easier to obtain so in that respect all is well. Lloyd and I are flying to Shanghai and stopping there for three days and then we are taking the bullet train to Chengdu where we shall meet the rest of the participants and hopefully will be reunited with Ruby! Trying to book the train tickets proved a little more difficult . We tried to book them on line but found it hard to book direct without going through a tour company who then wanted our entire itinerary . We eventually found a Chinese travel agency in Victoria who liaised with a colleague in Shanghai and hopefully our tickets will be waiting at our hotel, fingers crossed.
Now it is just the photocopying of all our documents, registering with the Canadian government travel section and picking up our prescriptions. We are taking the usual suspects , antibiotics, pain killers etc.and also Diamox which is used to help prevent altitude sickness. Packing our clothes will be the last thing and then April 12th we fly To Shanghai and the beginning of yet another adventure. We shall keep you posted when we can.