27/10 Chamdo to Jomda via 2 beautiful passes with a picnic lunch in the greenery. In Jomda we stop for supplies and attract a big crowd and invariably the Law. The cops tell Dorje that we must leave the province today and we aren't allowed to camp or take photos. Oh yeah, we've had that one before. After Jomda the road turns into a dirt track.
It soon becomes clear that we aren't going to make it to anything
resembling a town today, so we start looking for a camp site. On the
opposite bank of the river we spot a large monastery, which also
sprawls over several sites on the mountains. This is Wara Gemba and our
"guide" didn't know that it existed. We camp on our side of the river,
despite the prohibition. The monks seem to have time off and soon we
are well outnumbered by people in orange robes, mostly school boy age.
Like one of the others, I start up my engine upon request and rev it a
little, well, perhaps more than a little. After a few seconds my
friends point at my bike an yell something about oil. I look down and
cut the engine immediately: there is a large pool of black oil
underneath and more pouring out from where the front sprocket lives. Oh
madame! (Gilles keeps telling me that it is rude to yell "Oh putain!"
in French and to say "madame!" instead, so...) It looks as if the oil
seal behind the sprocket has popped out and the oil pump is pumping the oil
(what else?) out through the new large orifice that has
appeared. As there is still some daylight left, over goes the bike, I
remove the seal, confirm my suspicion, carefully clean up the mess and
glue the culprit in with silicone. I can push the seal in with two
fingers, so it seems it has shrunk. This doesn't make me hopeful that
it will stay in, so I leave the bike on its side to let the silicone
How many people fit on a Chinese-made 125? This lot proceeded up a rough dirt track in the dark.
28/10 The sprocket seal pops again as soon as I start the engine. I glue it back, this time with cold metal, but it takes a long time to set. The others explore the monastery. This gives everybody plenty of time for once to dry their tents. This time the repair holds. Just as well, as it would have been impossible to continue riding.
We continue along the dirt track that they call Highway 317 over the Nge La (4450 m), a very beautiful pass, to Kamthok bridge, where we leave the "Tibet Autonomous Region" and enter Sichuan province. Our guides relax, the police won't bother us again. However, culturally and historically we are still in Tibet. We stop in Derge for the night.
29/10 In an old palace in Derge there is the ancient printing press, on which Buddhist scriptures have been printed for a long time. I was expecting a kind of museum, so I wasn't prepared for what I got to see. On several floors there are shelves of wooden boards, into which the negative of the texts are carved - by hand, of course. On the top floors there sit pairs of men printing the texts on Tibetan handmade paper. They do this they way it has always been done, completely by hand and at an impressive speed, rivaling many a mechanical printing press. From the roof there are great views of the town, which is the most Tibetan looking town we have been to.
One of many rows of wooden printing plates. Watch the printing here. (27 MB)
After this visit we want to leave, but Cecilia has another puncture, at the rear this time. After this is fixed we are off on a very bumpy road. It passes another very deep gorge, then climbs and turns to dirt. In the sunshine at over 4000 m we stop for a picnic and we marvel that it is almost November and it is still this warm at this altitude. We cross the Tro La Pass (4900 m) and there is deep snow at the side of the road.
Down in the next valley we stop to camp at lake Yilhun Lhatso, but find out that the Chinese govt. has set up a revenue collection point at the entrance. Neither the bikes nor camping are allowed at the lake, so we camp at the entrance. Early in the morning Cecilia and Gilles leave for a hike to the lake and a glacier. I walk up the hill on the opposite side from where I get an excellent view of it all. The silvery stuff on the ground is ice.
30/10 On to Maniganggo, where we make a detour to Dzogchen gemba, a big retreat centre, but we only stop outside for pictures, then return over the Muri La (4572 m) to Maniganggo and continue to Rongpatsa hot springs, where we camp. The weather is sunny all the way, but some threatening looking clouds appear over the mountains.