After being kicked out of Tibet, we had to find a way to escape uygur mutton again and the Chinese authorities. Celine flew straight to Nepal while Pierre and I flew to Xining and took the train to Lhasa before resuming the cycling journey, with a permit this time. Of course, riding with an escort who tells you it'd be better to leave your gear in the car before each pass can be a bit cumbersome, and doesn't feel much of an adventure, but it's the requirement to get this damn permit and ride freely (i.e. "legally", theoritically free from trouble with the authorities) in Tibet. That said, it was definitemy worth it.
I was happy to be able to see Lhasa again, and all the changes that have taken place since February 2008. In retrospect, it would have been easy to cycle all the way to the border without the permit but now that we'd been arrested once, we didn't want to take a second chance sneaking through, at least not this year. Also it didn't take the guide long to understand we didn't need a 24hr nanny so we were given some degree of freedom, and even rode on our own for 2 days on roads that weren't good enough for the car ! Some news and photos on Pierre's webpage : Voyage Lhassa - Kathmandu.
Everest from the base camp
Sunset on 'Everest
1100km and a few passes later, we are now in Kathmandu, walking along its packed and turbulent streets. After over 2 months riding in the immense and deserted high plateau of Xinjiang and Tibet, the contrast is brutal. Things have changed since my last visit in 2007. Prices have more than doubled (maybe because this is now the high season?). Souvenir and trekking shops (mostly selling copies of famous western brands) have popped up like mushrooms, overflowing beyond Thamel, and most restaurants now display « free wifi » stickers. One thing seems unchanging however : the street vendors on almost every corner offering trinkets, tiger balm and marijuana ("Best quality good price").
We're now swapping our bikes for trekking boots, heading to the Khumbu. I'll try to put some more updates on the Kashgar -Ali road when I find the time.