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.

Distance: 0KMS

Max Altitude: 2400M. 

Accent: NA.

Descent: NA.

Meals: NA


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.

Distance: 0KMS

Max Altitude: 2400M.

Accent: NA.

Descent: NA.

Meals: B

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 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

Accent: 500M

Descent: 1700M

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. Farmworkers 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 surely 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 is 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.

Distance: 85KMS

Max Altitude: 3140M

Sleep Elevation: 1850M

Accent: 2140M

Descent: 1980M

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 riverboat. Ahead some 2000 metres above the river and forty kilometres distant is a pass 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. 

Distance: 85KMS

Max Altitude: 3450

Sleep Elevation: 2680M

Accent: 2200M

Descent: 1075M

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 info 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.

Distance: 55KMS

Max Altitude: 2950M

Sleep Elevation: 2950M

Accent: 470M

Descent: 330M

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 with outstanding views as we head downwards to our characterful Tibetan guesthouse for the night.

Distance: 70KMS

Max Altitude: 3950M

Sleep Elevation: 2650M

Accent: 1320M

Descent: 1540M

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 blacktop 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 be described as, erm, a little basic]. 

Distance: 65KMS

Max Altitude: 3800M

Sleep Elevation: 3800M

Accent: 1940M

Descent: 720M

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 stands 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 its 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 barren 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. 

Distance: 95KMS

Max Altitude: 4250M

Sleep Elevation: 3110M

Accent: 1480M

Descent: 2150M

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.

Distance: 0KMS

Max Altitude: 3110M

Sleep Elevation: 3110M

Meals: B. L. D. S.

Day 12. Yading to Daocheng

Today's 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.

Distance: 75KMS

Max Altitude: 4350

Sleep Elevation: 3660M

Accent: 1385M

Descent: 770M

Longest Climb: 45KMS

Meals: B. L. D. S.

Day 13. Daocheng to Xiangcheng.

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 break 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 style of the permanent abodes changes now as although the Tibetan houses are still large and fortress-like, 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 barrenness of nature is brightened up with the green and gold of crops of barley and wheat as we head towards the Tibetan town of Xiangcheng and our comfy hotel for the night.

Distance: 90KMS

Max Altitude: 4700M

Sleep Elevation: 2900M

Accent: 1400M

Descent: 2360M

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 mountainsides to which we have become accustomed we find ourselves in an altogether greener world. The mountainsides are thick with pine forest, and at the foot of the valley, small villages and agricultural communities are our companions for the remainder of our ride. Tonight's 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

Distance: 100KMS

Max Altitude: 4150M

Sleep Elevation: 3000M

Accent: 2020M

Descent: 1590M

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 soldier's tunic spatter the mountainside 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.

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