China - Kham region of Tibet
A Journey To The High Mountains of Eastern Tibet
Tibet is an almost fabled land that many long to visit but few do. For most people when thinking of Tibet it is of Lhasa, the Potala Palace, and Everest, the Tibet of the classic Lhasa to Kathmandu ride. This is the Tibet of The Autonomous Region which unfortunately suffers travel restrictions and the need for foreign travel permits, permits that are all too frequently withheld from issue.
The Tibetan region of Kham fortunately suffers no such restrictions and is open for anyone holding a Chinese visa. Having explored the area several times by bike during the first decade of this century it has long been David’s intention to run a tour in Kham. This is a truly Tibetan experience with soaring mountains, hight passes, open pastures and narrow valleys. There are monasteries and monks, yaks and barley, and cowboys on motorbikes. The also boasts lower sleeping altitudes, comfortable hotels and the absolutely wonderful cuisine of Sichuan. And with the border between Nepal and Tibet being firmly closed with little sign of it reopening in the near future Kham presents a excellent opertunity for a cycling adventure in a most exotic land.
At a Glance
Total Days: 16
Cycling Days: 11
Daily Average: 86km
Off-Road: Up to 25%
Max. Alt.: 4600m
2018: 26 May - 10 Jun: £2300.00
A tough tour that is certainly not for everyone this is a ride for the cyclists who relishes adventure, wilderness, and mountains. With 16,000 metres of climbing in 11 days it’s a tour suited to climbers. Road surfaces vary; pristine tarmac, gravel, dusty, rocky - it’s a tour where one day you climb on a surface better than the pros expect in Le Tour, and the following day you descend for forty five kilometres to the soundtrack of gravel crunching beneath your tyres.
The oxygen depletion of altitude adds greatly to the challenge and is not to be overlooked or taken lightly, but unlike such rides as Lhasa to Kathmandu this tour generally features sleeping altitudes significantly lower than the day’s high point, and each night is spent in a proper bed, usually in a comfortable hotel* with a hot shower and ensuite bathroom.
And then there is the culture, this in the Kham region of Tibet and is every bit as Tibetan as the more famed Autonomous Region. From the Buddhist monasteries, colourful prayer flags, huge square stone built homes, yaks, barley and monks you are riding through a fabled part of the world.
For those who enjoy an adventure by bicycle, this tour is one of life's great epic rides!
*This is an adventure ride through a great wilderness, and although most nights we are in comfortable hotels on a few occasions the accommodation will be a basic local guest house with shared facilities.
This was my second tour with Painted Roads and I was certainly not disappointed. Having come to expect a real focus on delighting the customer, Walks and his crew went out of their way to ensure our every desire was catered for. From the pre-tour communications to the on-tour briefings and support by David and the local guide Nat, nothing was left to chance, and we could just immerse ourselves in the local culture and scenery while riding. While this tour is long and hot, there were plenty of stops for refreshments and the cold beer at the end of the day made the whole ride worth it. I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone who enjoys good company, good food and accommodation and of course some great cycling. Well done David Walker. See you on another tour soon.
The World Heritage town of Lijiang, the dramatic village of Bao Shan built atop a rocky outcrop above the Yangtze River. The blue waters of the tranquil Lugu Lake, and the lovely Shangri La that is rising phoenix like from the ashes. The friendly people of Sichuan, both Tibetan and Han, and the wonderful Sichuan food that is a universe away from the fare served in most Chinese restaurants of the West.
But most of all the adventure cycling through exotic Tibetan scenery, across high passes, through pastures and forests green, along valleys grey and brown, past Buddhist monasteries and settlements of houses brown and white and weathered all set to the back drop of the foot hills of the Himalayas. And of course, those long long climbs and endless descents.
The tour was everything the brochure said, possibly even better. The tour leader and his assistant were always available for any assistance, giving answers to any queries one might have. The support vehicles and drivers were also very helpful, nothing was a trouble. Would definitely recommend this tour.
IMPORTANT - ALTITUDE.
A major factor in this tour is the high altitudes we will be riding at. As a loose rule of thumb for every one thousand meters gained your oxygen intake will decrease by 10% (in actual fact the depletion is less than 10%, but this works well as a guide). So with altitudes above 4500 metres being reached we will, at times, be breathing in almost 45% less oxygen that most people are whilst reading this. Needless to say this is not helpful at anytime. leave alone when faced with the extreme exertion of climbing 2000 metres on a bicycle.
We only sleep above 3500 metres three times, with the highest sleep elevation being 3950 meters. A quick glance through the Sleep Elevations on the Itinerary will also show that the altitude gain and rest days should work well for acclimatisation increasing our altitude gently, especially our all important sleep elevation. Except on rest days and Day 9 we always sleep considerably lower than our highest climb, nearly always in excess of five hundred meters lower and very often in excess of 1000 metres lower, which keeps very much to the old mountaineers adage “climb high, sleep low”.
It is essential to behave properly at altitude, to treat your body with tender respect, to conserve energy, and to stick with the recognised rules of acclimatisation. This is something that we will discuss before the tour and something that will be referred to often during the tour.
Please do not arrive thinking that you are fit and rather special, altitude has no interest in who you are, or how fit you are, we must all treat the mountains with great respect.
If you wish to join this tour we will discuss altitude prior to you signing up. in the meantime if you are in any doubt please do some online research into altitude, altitude sickness, and acclimatisation. Wikipedia may be a good starting point and can be visited by clicking here.
I would not have brought my wife and sister along on a trip like this if I did not have the confidence and trust in David’s ability as a leader and a person who understands human nature and the psychological needs of the people in his care. I was not disappointed and he proved once again to be the competent leader I got to know on my Tibet/Nepal trip three years ago. I could highly recommend this team to anybody thinking of doing a cycle trip in any remote region of Asia.
Included in this tour
All accommodation, local guide and Western tour leader, support vehicle (1 or 2 depending on group size), meals on cycling days, snacks during cycling days, drinking water whilst cycling, entrance permits to Lijiang and Lugu Lake.
This is certainly the toughest tour that PaintedRoads offers. There are eleven days of cycling during which we cycle more more than nine hundred kilometres and ascent 16,000 metres. Road surfaces vary greatly, many of the roads are perfectly sealed, but up to 25% are unsealed with surfaces ranging from gravel to stone to dust to dirt. Many of these roads are in the process of, or scheduled for, upgrading and so the total of unsealed surfaces is decreasing.
Perhaps the biggest challenge though is the altitude. By beginning in Lijiang, scheduling rest days at Lugu Lake and Yading, and sleeping at considerably lower altitudes that the highest climb on each day but one, we have worked to create a route that is less taxing than a lot of high altitude rides. However we have a lot of cycling in conditions of oxygen depletion and on no fewer than six occasion we will be in excess of 3800 metres, including 4 days climbing above 4000 metres and one pass at 4700 metres.
The altitude is not to be underestimated. If you have previously experienced problems at altitude please be certain to make us aware of this before booking. You may also like to speak with your GP or a travel clinic and ask about the use of Diamox, a well recognised aid to acclimatisation.
While this is my first overseas tour, the next will have to be truly special to beat this one. Aside from the spectacular scenery, and stunning downhill riding, and engagement in the local culture, the most memorable part of the tour was to experience the genuine friendship and camaraderie that the group displayed on so many occasions. I was humbled by the assistance that everyone gave me after my fall, and the award ceremonies after each day’s riding was a real treat. Our tour guide David Walker, truly has a special gift of being able to bring people together, sometimes in challenging circumstances, and leaving them with some long lasting memories of an exceptional holiday experience. I will definitely be coming back if Painted Roads will have me.
With altitude varying between two thousand and four thousand six hundred meters a wide range of temperature and weather can be expected. We have chosen the last week of May and the first week of June after carefully considering the weather along the route and discussing the weather patterns with the people who live in the towns in which we overnight during the tour. This timing should correspond with warmer drier weather. However these are amongst the worlds highest mountains and mountain weather is notoriously fickle. We also have the dry air and fierce sun of high altitude to contend with. Therefor it is essential to be prepared for temperatures from single figures to mid thirties. You will need strong suncream of SPF50 or higher, sun hat, high quality sunglasses and long sleeve shirts as sun protection. You will also need cold weather, and wet weather clothing.
In China we have our own fleet of well maintained and little used rental bikes, details of which can be seen below. However we very much believe that for many there is nothing quite like using your own bike, the bike upon which you feel at home and comfortable. If you plan to bring your own bicycle along for this tour please take note of the following advice.
Touring bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, and gravel/adventure/cyclocross bikes are all good for this tour. There are many long climbs, sever up to 45KMS in duration. These climbs are seldom steep, usually rearing up no more than 5%, but they are long, sometimes on poor surfaces, and the altitude will ensure that oxygen is depleted. In short, you will need low gearing. As this is a tour for experienced riders most who join us will have a good idea of what gearing suits them, but please make no mistake that whatever the lowest gearing is you usually need at home, here you will need lower. If in any doubt please email and discuss this with David.
There is a huge choice of tyres size these days and they are a personal choice. This tour features a wide variety of surfaces and one should be prepared for prolonged periods on unsealed roads. I suggest nothing less than a 700x35mm for the tour and would strongly recommend 700x40. For 27.5 a 50mm would be nice. Puncture resistant tyres are always a good plan.
Personally I will be running 700x40mm or 700x45mm tubeless. Again, if in doubt please ask.
This tour is all above 2000 metres where the air is very dry and at least on occasions it will be hot, meaning the ability to carry one or preferably two water bottles is essential (either on your bike or in a hydration pack).
Our back-up vehicle carries tools but please bring any specialised parts your bicycle may need - including a small selection of spare spokes, spare brake pads, spare tubes and a spare tyre etc.
A means of carrying your camera, sunblock, jacket etc is also useful – either an on-bike bag – handlebar or saddlebag for example, or a lightweight day-pack.
Another feature of altitude riding is that you will be putting less power though your pedals with the result that there will be less weight taken off your rear end on each pedal stroke (“for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”). In short this will result in more with on your butt. In two minds as to whether to bring your time-trial saddle or your trusty old Brook? Bring the Brooks.
If you do not wish to bring you own bicycle we have our own fleet of good quality hardtail mountain bikes for rent. Please contact us for further details and rental price.
•Recommendation: Although our hire bikes come equipped with a saddle if you have a saddle you use and are happy with it is strongly recommended that you use it on tour. If you use SPD type shoes please bring your own matching pedals. We are happy to fit these for you. You may also like to bring bar ends if you use them. Please bring you own bicycle water bottles or hydration pack.
The inaugural Painted Roads tour of the Mekong Delta provided an enthralling insight into the people, agriculture and commerce of this fascinating region of South Vietnam. The route had clearly been well researched, and it made the most of the intricate network of tracks, trails and byways which threaded their way alongside the canals and backwaters of the Delta. The stars of the tour were undoubtedly the local people (who made us feel very welcome indeed), my fellow travellers (I couldn’t have wished to ride with a nicer bunch of folks) . . . . and the Mekong River itself – a vibrant, diverse, intriguing, colourful, beating heart to the region.
Despite being an adventurous tour where we often cycle through a quiet wilderness, we have managed to find hotels for each night of the tour, and at the time of research on every night except one your room will be ensuite. On five nights the rooms are rural and more basic although still adequate for a good night’s slumber. On night 9 we stay in Longsa Pasture at just below 4000 metres. When we last visited a new guesthouse under construction just outside of the village where the owner assured us it will be up and running by the end of 2017. If it is not ready we will use the guest house in the village which has character, beds, and a kind hearted proprietress, however it is rather basic.
It is important to be prepared though, and given the remote nature of some parts of the route we should be ready for the need to change and adapt, and therefore one should bring a sleeping bag just in case we have to alter our course - as they used to say in Rome, omnia paratus.
The tour price quoted on the website is for a twin room share basis. Single room occupancy can be arranged, the supplement price for this tour is as per the website.
The tour officially begins in Lijiang in the far north of Yunnan Province. The obvious gateways to Lijiang are Yunnan’s capital city Kunming, or Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. The flight time is around an hour.
The tour ends in the town of Shangri-La, from where there are flights to both Kunming and Chengdu. Flight time is around an hour.
Please keep in mind when looking at flights that Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, although convenient long haul flight hubs are a long way east of Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces, and Southeast Asian travel hubs such as Bangkok could prove more convenient for people travelling from Europe.
Airlines worth considering for this tour include:
Kunming - Thai Airways Via Bangkok. Emirates.
Chengdu - British Airways have a direct from London Heathrow which is very convenient for UK and Northern European travellers - please check BA's website for their luggage policy which allows an increase in allowed check-in baggage weight for a reasonable fee. Also Premium Economy Class has a very generous check-in luggage allowance.
Internal flights from Chengdu and Kunming to and from Lijiang and Shangri-La Airports are generally operated by China Eastern and can be booked via Ctrip.
Arrival Airport: Lijiang - Sanyi Airport. IATA code LJG
Departure Airport: Shangri La - Diqing Airport. IATA code DIG
Day 1. Lijiang - Arrive
A town of stone streets and wooden houses Lijiang is blessed with the beauty one might expect with eight hundred years of history behind it. The World Heritage status bestowed upon Lijiang speaks volumes of the characterful to be savoured by visitors.Upon arrival at the local airport you will be met and driven to our joining hotel where you will be met by your tour leader. This evening the group will meet for a tour briefing and to get to know one another over an evening meal.For a little more about Lijiang please click here.
Max Altitude: 2400M.
Day 2. Lijiang - Acclimatisation
Today is a day to relax after a long journey, build your bicycle or become aquatinted with your rental machine and enjoy wandering the streets of Lijiang.
Although an altitude of 2400 is not enough to cause altitude problems you will feel a shortage of breath when climbing stairs or otherwise exerting yourself, and this day will help to prepare you for the higher elevations to come.
Max Altitude: 2400M.
Day 3. Lijiang to Daju.
Our journey begins with a forty kilometre transfer out of Lijiang through the protected region of Jade Dragon Mountain, where even stopping is not allowed and cycling is, alas, strictly prohibited.
With the shuttle over we can mount our machines and get our first feel for riding at altitude as we pass through woods of pine and fir and rhododendron. The route undulates on a mixture of surfaces, gravel, cobbles, and bitumen, and the tours first climb takes us to to a heady 3400 metres climbing gently over ten kilometres.
The stunning view as we descent is of rolling hills flanked by the towering peaks of Jade Dragon and Huba mountains, and far below us is the small rural village that will be our home for the night,.
Distance: KMS: 50KMS
Max Altitude: 3000M
Sleep Elevation: 1850M
Meals: B. L. D. S.
Day 4. Daju to Baoshan.
We leave Daju winding on rural lanes through rustic hamlets of stone and grey tile roofed abodes. Farm workers in the fields tend crops of tobacco, maze, and fruit trees as we head towards the day’s big climb. At first unsealed the single lane we follow becomes concrete as our way wends upwards with views of mountains high and valleys deep. The first pass is reached at forty five kilometres, and twenty five kilometres later we reach our second pass of the day which at two thousand six hundred meters is some five hundred metres lower than the first.
It must surly be the relative inaccessibility that keeps the village of Bao Shan off the tourist trail, as sitting atop a rocky outcrop high above the Yangtze River it is a dramatic spectacle. Arriving at the village we wind through the wood and stone houses on flagstone paths where the only transport in town other than human power are the little ponies who carry goods. Our guesthouse, although basic, offers spectacular views of the mighty river below and the village clinging to the mountain wall.
Max Altitude: 3140M
Sleep Elevation: 1850M
Longest Climb: 42KMS
Meals: B. L. D. S.
Day 5: Bao Shan to Lugu Lake.
The keen eyed will have noted upon arrival in Bao Shan that the road on which we arrived goes no further, and so this morning we must hike down to the Yangtze and spend the first hour of our day's journey afloat.
Parched hillsides scorched brown and thin of flora presents a scene more Mediterranean than Himalayan as we alight our river boat. Ahead some 2000 metres above the river and forty kilometres distant a pass awaits us where the air is thin. As we climb past wooden houses and colourful prayer flags we trade views of dry earth for the fresh scent of pine forests and the colours and textures of red soil grass.
Crossing the pass at 3500 metres we begin our descent into an altogether different world from that in which the day's ride began. Rolling hills bedecked in green taper into the distances as we descend on an endless sinew of deserted byway heading for the tranquil waters of Lugu Lake, our home for the next two nights.
Max Altitude: 3450
Sleep Elevation: 2680M
Longest Climb: 43KMS
Meals: B. L. D. S.
Day 6. Lugu Lake Rest Day
The border between Yunnan and Sichuan Province runs through the middle of Lugu Lake. It is home to numerous minority groups and to talk in length about the fascinating features and history is too much for here. Suffice to say that it is tranquil and beautiful, a lovely spot for a wander, a bike ride, a coffee or a beer. Our hotel is characterful and pleasant and to rest and prepare for the challenges before us is the principle reason for taking a day off here. For more detailed into regarding the people geology and history of the lake please click here.
High Point: 2680M
Sleep Elevation: 2680M
Day 7. Lugu Lake to Wu Jiao Xiang
Hopefully feeling strong and revived following a relaxing rest day lakeside at Lugu we ease gently back into the cycling.
Today’s ride is a beautiful one along a newly surfaced road that gently undulates through pastoral valleys of rice, barley and grassland following rivers and streams along as we ride north.
We are now in Sichuan Province where the Tibetan influence goes ever stronger with the features of the people, the spoken word and written script, the prayer flags, mani stones and stupas all leaving us in little doubt that we are riding into Tibet proper.
Max Altitude: 2950M
Sleep Elevation: 2950M
Longest Climb: 17KMS
Meals: B. L. D. S.
Day 8. Wu Jiao Xiang to Wachang Xiang.
Today’s epic 35 kilometre climb begins from the hotel and winds gently and continually upwards on a well surfaced byway all but free of traffic. As we climb and the oxygen depletes the gentle Chinese gradients will be appreciated by all. At thirty five kilometres prayer flags fluttering across the road indicate our climb for the day is over. Before us stretches an exceptional descent as for the next 30 kilometres we follow a winding ribbon of pristine tarmac, light of traffic and drenched with outstanding views as we head downwards to our characterful Tibetan guesthouse for the night.
Max Altitude: 3950M
Sleep Elevation: 2650M
Longest Climb: 35KMS
Meals: B. L. D. S.
Important Note Regarding Days 9 & 10:
At the time of research in June 2017 the following two days were on an unsealed rural road winding through the high mountains of the Himalayan foothills. The road will continue to be quiet, rural, and beautiful, but the intention is for the road to be sealed in the near future. How long this will take we do not know - “soon” is the answer we received from everyone we asked, but ‘soon’ is similar to the length of a piece of string. All I can do at the present time is describe the route as it was during research, the 2018 tour maybe on a well sealed road, only time will tell.
Day 9. Wachang Xiang to Longsa Pasture.
Rolling from our hotel downwards to the Litang River on pristine black top can easily lead one into a false sense of what is to come, for ahead lays not a shiny smooth road, but two days of Tibetan adventure cycling on the road rarely travelled.
After 12 kilometres of dusty valley road we turn west and begin to climb on an unpaved byway of dust and stone. For 16 kilometres endless switchbacks lead us upwards and oh so slowly westward as we inch away from the valley that becomes deeper with each turn of the pedals.
Prayer flags hanging across the road at a sharp right turn herald the beginning of our immersion into the Tibetan wilderness proper as all traffic disappears and we wind our way through valleys and gorges en route to the grazing land of Baheng Pasture where we shall overnight.
[Note: At the time of research a new hotel was under construction at Longsa Pasture. We spoke with the owner who assured us his hotel would be complete by the end of 2017. If the hotel is for any reason not finished we will be staying in the only other accommodation in town which can most kindly described as, erm, a little basic].
Max Altitude: 3800M
Sleep Elevation: 3800M
Longest Climb: 44KMS
Meals: B. L. D. S.
Day 10. Longsa Pasture to Yading
Leaving the Longsa we climb on a white gravel road traversing pastures dotted with grazing yak and horses. We arrive at Baheng La pass after a steady twelve kilometre climb during which the rarified atmosphere of 4300 metres will leave us in no doubt as to just how high we are.
The descent on the ribbon of white gravel road before us can easily seem endless as for the next forty three kilometres we wind ever downwards.
The giant snow capped peaks of the Yading Sacred Mountains can be seen during the early stage of our descent, the tallest of which standing more than six thousand metres above sea level is Chenresig. Ever so slightly less lofty are Chana Dorje and Jampelyang, both standing just shy of six thousand meters.
At these higher altitudes purple heather and yellow bloom add colour to the grassy summit, whilst descending we pass forests of pine where lichen hangs on the trees providing food for the rare golden monkeys that we may encounter crossing the road and darting shyly into the forest of rhododendron bushes. As the numbers on our altimeters drop we encounter small rural communities of Tibet villages and the occasional motorbike clattering up the hill playing Tibetan music from it’s onboard speakers.
Fifty five kilometres from the beginning of today’s ride our epic gravel downhill ends and heralds the next section of the journey, a rough valley road that undulates upwards for forty kilometres. As we ride from two and a half thousand metres to just over three thousand we encounter small communities where people live and work. Traditional Tibetan homes, large and square dot the valley wall leaving one wondering at the work involved in their construction, and the struggle to access these homes from the road below.
As we close in on Yading town the communities become bigger and the baron landscape is brightened with patches of green and gold as irrigation allows crops of barley to grow amongst these villages of palatial looking homes. The road is however far from palatial and care must now be taken as we pick our way along a ribbon of byway often strewn with rock and slate and surfaced with stone.
With the day being long and tough our support vehicles will always be at hand and may prove much needed relief for the group during the final stages of today’s ride.
Max Altitude: 4250M
Sleep Elevation: 3110M
Longest Climb: -KMS
Meals: B. L. D. S.
Day 11. Yading: Rest Day
Rest, you deserve it, you will need it.
Yading town, also known as Rawi is the gateway to Yading National Park. For those who would rather not spend their day recovering from climbs past and refuelling for those to come an option is to visit this most beautiful of parks, something that can be arranged via our guest house.
For those wishing to recuperate our guest house has plenty of character as well as a friendly restaurant. The town itself is well worth wandering with a camera, and no tours would be complete without getting together for a lunchtime pint or coffee with your fellow travellers to exchange tales or daring-do out on the road.
Max Altitude: 3110M
Sleep Elevation: 3110M
Meals: B. L. D. S.
Day 12. Yading to Daocheng
Todays pristine blacktop will prove a welcome relief after the past two days of and dusty off road riding. A perfect highway with little traffic leads us on a gentle gradient as we climb for 55KMS to the highest point of the tour so far at 4350 metres. The climb is through a valley of dusty brown and the green of grass grazed short by yak and goats and scorched by the strong sun of altitude. As the climb begins we pass the stone fortress like homes and villages of Tibet, and occasional monasteries dot the landscape. At fifty two kilometres the by now familiar sight of colourful prayer flags flutter in the wind mark the top of the climb - from where it’s a twenty two kilometre descent to Daocheng and our hotel for the night.
Max Altitude: 4350
Sleep Elevation: 3660M
Longest Climb: 45KMS
Meals: B. L. D. S.
Day 13. Daocheng to Xiangcheng.
Notes: Transfer back 20KMS towards Shangri La to begin cycling on new road.
We need to retrace yesterday’s route for twenty kilometres this morning to begin today’s mammoth ride, and in the interest of time we will utilise our support vehicles for this purpose.
The road we now ride is so new that at the time of research it did not even appear on digital maps. Curiosity allegedly killed the cat, it also helped us to find a crucial section of this tour.
Back on the bikes we have an eight hundred metre climb ahead of us and fortunately the road surface is pristine. At thirteen kilometres we take our first brake at a beautiful old monastery, all crumbling textures, fading Buddhist artwork and gleaming gold rooftop statues.
The road follows a narrow valley as it climbs through ever thinning vegetation towards the tree line.
Cairns dot the roadside, yaks graze, and small farms dot the landscape as at four thousand three hundred metres all trees disappear from the scene and the valley widens.
We reach the pass at thirty six kilometres and over the next thirty five kilometres slowly the air thickens, the temperature rises, and the flora thickens as we freewheel past yak pastures and nomad camps.
The stye of the permanent abodes changes now as although the Tibetan houses are still large and fortresslike, here rather than the rustic earthly brown we have become accustomed to the homes are painted white, albeit with a weathered finish adding a beautiful texture. At this lower altitude the baroness of nature is brightened up with the green and golden of crops of barley and wheat as we head towards the Tibetan town of Xiangcheng and our comfy hotel for the night.
Max Altitude: 4700M
Sleep Elevation: 2900M
Longest Climb: 36KMS
Meals: B. L. D. S.
Day 14. Xiangcheng to Weng Shui
Ahead of us lies a tough day with two passes above four thousand Metres. Needing to backtrack twenty kilometres and with a challenging day before us we must use our support vehicle to cover ground we have already ridden.
The ride begins along a valley bottom following a stream through villages of white Tibetan houses and crops of vegetable and grain. The climb is long, and the backdrop all the way to the second summit is of a giant wall of rock, all shades of grey and brown, jagged and multi layered like rows of giant dragons teeth.
After seventy kilometres our descent begins, and soon find ourselves in a different world where rather than the barren mountain sides to which we have become accustomed we find ourselves in an altogether greener world. The mountain sides are thick with pine forest, and at the valley bottom small villages and agricultural communities are our companions for the remainder of our ride. Tonights accommodation is in one such tiny village and is basic but adequate.
NB: At the time or writing the climb was unsealed but we were informed that the road should be sealed by the time our first tour runs. In the event that the road remains unsealed we will have no choice other than to transfer to the top of the first pass some two hours drive from Xiangcheng
Max Altitude: 4150M
Sleep Elevation: 3000M
Longest Climb: 60KMS
Meals: B. L. D. S.
Day 15: Weng Shui to Shangri La
Foliage multi hues of green like the colours of a soldiers tunic spatter the mountain side during the final major climb of this mountainous ride. At times colourful prayer flags flutter at the roadside, the pinks and yellows and blues of mountain bloom spatter the scene, and between the trees and bushes that line our way glimpses of yesterday’s accompanying dragons teeth are glimpsed.
Summiting our final four thousand metres pass some thirty kilometres into the day signals the beginning of the final run into Shangri La.
Once our initial descent is complete we spend much of the remains of the day following the crystal waters of a mountain stream as we undulate along a green and pastoral valley, that is, inevitably, until the final sting in the tour’s tail makes its presence felt in the form of an alpine swan-song, just one final four hundred metre ascent. The reason for this final climb is as simple and thoughtful as the rest of this odyssey, for you see Shangri La is home to a small brewery that creates several delightful craft beers, and after all is said and done, it would be something of a travesty to not end this ride with a thirst worthy of toasting the memory of such an epic adventure.
Markers below are clickable as are the markers on the map itself.
Check trip dates and availablility below. Click the Book This Date button to go ahead and make a booking, alternatively you can make a no-obligation request for us to keep you informed about the status of a trip or changes to a trip by clicking the Register Interest button against a date.
2018: 26 May - 10 Jun
The rental bicycles available for this tour are PaintedRoads own hardtail mountain bikes. They feature Shimano Deore 30 speed drivetrains, hydraulic disc brakes, 27.5" wheels. The frames are aluminium, Orbea for the large sizes, and Stout, which is a fine quality Chinese brand, for the smaller sizes. These bikes are uses exclusively for PaintedRoads China tours and are maintained to a high standard.
The prices quoted above are for a twin room share basis. If you are travelling alone you will be paired up with another lone traveler of the same gender to share with. Single room occupancy can be arranged, the single supplement rate shown is per person.
Our Other Tours in China
Cycling Guizhou and Guangxi
Dates: September 2017 | September 2018
Many years ago I awoke on a train travelling through China’s Guizhou Province, and, pulling back the curtain was convinced I had awoken in the midst of a Chinese water colour. I had hitherto been quite sure that these beautiful paintings were works of fantasy, but now, here before my eyes, was proof that such enchanted landscapes exist.
Several years later as part of a longer journeyin China I found myself making a bicycle tour through the neighbouring Guangxi Autonomous Region, all karst spires and natural wonder, and I knew I must return.
A far cry in so many respects from our wonderful Yunnan cycling tour, these two distictly different China tours just begin to scratch the surface of what a diverse land this is.
Total Days: 15 | Cycling Days: 12 | Difficulty: 7/10 | Daily Average: 60km | See more information, dates & prices »
Cycling From Shangri La
Dates: May 2018
From the Tibetan town of Shangri-La, across a 3700 metre pass, through one of the world's deepest gorges to an unspoilt town from the ancient tea trading route. Onwards across a mountain range leading to one of China's biggest fresh water lakes. And hence to the capital of the Bai minority people, Dali Old Town. This cycling epic offers more of China in two weeks of pedalling that many would ever imagine exists. Featuring epic landscapes and a a real sense of adventure this tour has become, quite rightly, our most popular.
Total Days: 12 | Cycling Days: 8 | Difficulty: 7/10 | Daily Average: 70km | See more information, dates & prices »