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Life, the Universe & Tibet

An accidental travel guide to Eastern Tibet: 

Travels in the

A how-to-get-there guide with details of routes and informative experiences of a seasoned traveller to Eastern Tibet over a period of eight years. With three adventurous winter motorcycle trips through off the beaten track places. Camping at sub-zero temperatures at an altitude of more than 4,000 metres. A wild landscape of mountains and grasslands on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Meeting friendly people and visiting exotic and ancient Buddhist places. An experience of a lifetime.

Whether you are an on-the-ground explorer or an armchair adventurer, this guide, whilst primarily as entertainment, is meant to encourage you towards the possibility of some adventurous and unregulated travel in Eastern Tibet. It is based on several years of travel to Kham which straddles the Dri Chu (river), the headwaters of the Yangtze that thunders out of the Tibetan Plateau.

You will find enough knowledge in this book to get there and home again. Flights, buses and motorbikes are all covered in detail. With locations, experiences and photographs that, once you’ve read this guide, will make you feel you have been there. Sit back, read and let the adventure wash over you.

Let's Do it Different ! 
“Let’s go to Tibet” invariably means Nepal and Lhasa. This guide expands on the equally interesting and the very culturally pure area of Eastern Tibet known as Kham and its people the Khampa. They are renowned for their bravery, marksmanship, horsemanship and fierce sense of independence in an awe-inspiring and dramatic mountainous landscape. Lhasa, in the Chinese designated Tibetan Autonomous Region, is fast becoming a theme park. There are cultural icons in Lhasa that are worth the visit, like the Potala and Jhokang, but you will have to go in a group, obtain a special permit and be accompanied by a Chinese Government “Minder”. Unless, of course, you break the rules.

Over the

Enjoy the adventure of being somewhere that few have been...

Road to Adventure

Flights, buses and motorbikes are all covered...

eBook Guide

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Gyêgu to Degé
via Jomda

A Taste...

This little anecdote is from 2014, during travels from Gyêgu to Degé via Jomda on a 150cc motorbike. Gyêgu and Degé are outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) but Jomda is inside. To get into the TAR you need a special permit which you will not be issued with unless you are going to Lhasa and back. For me to travel this route without a permit was questionable sense and for success relied on getting through multiple Chinese checkpoints illegally. My third checkpoint was at Shengda where the road entered the TAR. With a mounting sense of panic luck was on my side and through I passed undetected...

Amphibious Motorbike

Having been successful at getting through a checkpoint at Shengda and entering the TAR, I was indolently cruising down the wrong side of a valley. My previous sense of panic, that caused me to take a wrong turn outside Shengda, having dispersed, I wandered along a trackway that seemed to wither as I progressed. Arriving at an area that was a bit of a quarry in the river bank I spied a small blue truck and two guys. "Jomda ?, Jomda ?" I asked whilst waving a pointing finger in a general southerly direction. The verbal reply was unknown but the the body language said "where else would Jomda be".

Starting off with confidence, inspite of the track being barely discernible in places, I came to a small tributary river pouring out of a side valley. A stone's throw wide but with a fairly strong current on the far side. The track went down the bank into the water and came out opposite. In hindsight I should have gone up the side valley and explored the possibility of a bridge further up where it might have been narrower. Even if it was just a couple of planks it would have been preferable to what happened next.

Contemplating the possible depth of the water I noted that the ripples were rather large over on the far side. But, road goes in, road comes out. Must be ok to cross here. So, throttle open I charged across. Doing well even though it was up to axle level. Then the plunge. Water not much more than knee deep but enough to stop the engine and pour into the pannier bags. Turning the ignition off I managed to step off the bike but had one of those angst moments when the current caught the side of the bike and it started to fall away from me. I had visions of the chrome glistening underwater and me stranded in the middle of nowhere with no public transport due for another 10 years.

Superman that I am I grabbed the bike and steadied it against the current then suddenly felt very lonely. No, wait. A local on a motorbike, heading up the side valley, hove into view 200 metres away. Frantically waving I was completely ignored. Ok, I will push the bike out by myself. Not possible, the back wheel deep in a gully. Wouldn't move an inch and the water was beginning to feel cold.

I think my brain was feeling the cold too. Couldn't think of what to do next, totally blank. The view was nice though; big mountains, the little river falling down into the main valley and a clear Tibetan blue sky. What more could one ask for other than an tow truck. Well, one came into view and beeped its horn at me. It was the two guys in their little blue truck. The 5th Cavalry coming to the rescue. They headed for the crossing and ran down into the water. Then, taking a wide curve upstream, barely getting their tyres wet, came out of the water and parked. I would have preferred that they were engine deep too. Battling their way across the torrent to the rescue. Would have made a better story. But they didn't. It just threw my stupidity into stark relief. Highlighted by the driver pointing to the route he had taken and making exasperated gestures.

The drivers assistant was made of good stuff. Without hesitation he strode, knee deep, into the cold river and between us we pushed the bike out and up onto the bank. Water cascaded from the bike and the panniers. Would it ever go again. The driver had returned to his cab and came back offering a pair of shoes which I refused but thanked him. Two sizes too small. Besides it was almost fun slooshing about with boots full of water. At least for a few seconds.

The two drove away with profuse thanks from me ringing in their ears. I stood by the bike toying with the idea of attempting to start it. I did and it didn't. It did start eventually though. No electrical short outs. The battery being high up under the seat. I got on and drove and drove for several kilometres, only then daring to stop when I thought the engine might have dried out. Which I did, to empty my boots and wring my socks out. Then I kept going, driving into a setting sun. Well, not exactly. The setting sun was on my right and I was going south looking for a campsite. Found it in a little western side valley, with a stream that did not require crossing at water level. Bridge included.

General travel photo's.

Some photo's from around the Dzongsar Gompa.

More from Dzongsar Gompa.


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