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Targa Tibet

June 28, 2015 7 Comments

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Well, we’re still in china and have travelled over the Tibetan Plateau. This area of land is mostly in the Sichuan Province and shares the high altitude of Tibet.

We got within 150km of the Tibetan border and the closer we got to Tibet, the more aggressive and close-packed the police got. Many, many Tibetan people live in this area and they maintain their nationalism, despite the pressure of the Chinese government.

The Tibetan people are shy, as are the Chinese, but on the whole they react to our waves with immediate smiles and a wave back, whereas the Chinese look bemused at first, then follow with a smile. To me, that is significant.

Camping in Tibet

Camping on the Tibetan Border

To date, all our time has been spent in isolated parts of China, as we requested.

Our guide Green is being tested to the limit by Barry and I. Unfortunately for someone, we both are finding it very difficult to comply with Green’s requests for absolute compliance to Chinese law, even when no-one else does – in particular with traffic rules. So, when we do as they do and Green scolds us, we just point out the ambiguity and move on.

Her job is very difficult in this part of the country. Roads are continually being upgraded or replaced and her GPS may be brand new, but it falls short regularly. Maybe the map download is out of date. And when she asks a local for help, the answer can be very vague. In fact a trick I have learnt is to ask three people and average the answer.

Driving in this mountainous terrain, with altitude changes from 2500m above sea level to 4500, one can climb 1000m in no time at all. If you set your rear tyre pressures at say 45 psi, at 2500m, then drive to a much higher spot (as we have been doing), the tyre pressure will increase by two psi per 1000m, so the tyres can end up at more than 50 psi. Even more significant is if you are now on rough, stony, gravel and clay roads, you really want 35 psi in your tyres, not 50! You have to keep a close eye on altitude v pressure v road conditions.

Which brings in the Targa connection.

I’ve competed in Targa Tasmania on a dozen or so occasions, a few of them in the historic class. It’s a five day rally on closed bitumen roads (look it up The thing is, in an historic car, Targa is an endurance event, more so than a speed event.

This trip is the same. We are three months in, in Central China, and have covered 20,000km. With the exception of Singapore (where our cars sat politely on the back of a tow truck and the roads were superb), a high percentage of the roads have been in very poor condition – very, very rough. So preservation of the vehicles to save ourselves unnecessary repair work is crucial. I take the view that if I am looking after the tyres, then everything else looks after itself. Bear in mind the old girl (Landcruiser) was built 33 years and 425,000km ago! And Barry, in his 2007 Ford Ranger is waiting for any opportunity to witness a failure of some description. So it’s an endurance drive.
Generally that suits us fine, as we have no real place to go, except anticlockwise, but in this China leg we are travelling under a permit and we have an itinerary. So, on we go.

We camped a few days at Manigang lake, 4200m above sea level. N: 31° 51.819′,  E: 99° 07.237′.

The lake is a special place for the Tibetan people, particularly monks and lamas and the period we stayed there coincided with their annual festival/horse race. More than 100 horses turn up, all brightly decorated. They get blessed by the lamas and the top 16 go in a running race held in a paddock marked out with flags, on the side of a mountain with a cross-fall of about 10 percent. It’s about 1.6km per lap and they do eight laps, with only six or so finishers. They ride bareback, and with the cross fall and rough surface, many riders fall off.

No horses fell over – they are very nimble – but one corner in particular proved hard for both horses and riders. The corner was on a downhill section of track and just sharpened enough mid-corner to spear horse and rider into the scrub. This, more often than not, ended in the rider getting thrown into the bushes, much to the glee of the crowd!

At the horse blessing earlier, among the group of five giving the briefing was one bloke who was the big kahuna lama for this area. He and his mates saw us drive up to watch the races later, so they waved us over to sit with them. It was great and they all sat in the driver’s seat of the Cruiser for photos. So I can boast that a Tibetan high lama has sat in the driver’s seat of the cruiser!

As we were sitting watching the racing, the biggest of the monks came over to see us. He saw Peter laying there with his shirt off, getting some sun on his hair-covered back, and this great big monk came over and slapped Pete on the back, real hard, to get a feel of him. When they see our body hair they then call us yaks with a hearty laugh. This big monk had the time of his life and Pete’s 125kg wasn’t enough to deter him. That big monk had shaken hands with me earlier and he looped his hand around mine, swallowing it, then proceeded to walk, to show me where to go, and nearly dragged me off my feet!

The time at Manigang Lake was a highlight, though I’ve heard about Pete’s blog comments on camping. Haven’t seen them yet, so I’ll carry on. It was cold, it was windy, it may have even rained. Pete’s lived too long on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Bloody hell, he was born in Wollongong, so he should be able to do better than that!
Whatever, we all needed to be grounded for a while, and the lake matched the timing. We needed a break from travelling. Yes it was cold, but a big fire fixed that, and it was a great camp.

More soon!

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Comments (7)

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  1. Adam says:

    Sounds like you YAKS are having an adventure. I am loving the blog. Best wishes to all. Regards, Adam Easter

  2. Andrew Winter says:

    Nice post Al. I snoozed again when you mentioned tyre pressures and targa (I thought that was a mexican entree but there you go) but I had a fantastic picture in my brain of your time at Manigang Lake. Cant seem to find it on the map so every once in a while post some GPS co-ordinates so we can put a pin the google maps and get a good look at where you are.
    Be well one and all.

  3. Judy Veitch says:

    The big kahuna lama, eh? Very cross-cultural expression, Alan, but perfect description. I knew exactly what you meant! So glad you have had the opportunity for some breathing space, much needed mentally as wel as physically, I would imagine.
    It’s so great to follow your trip via this site, and with Jim’s updates added, I think we get just a small taste of your amazing adventures. We miss you but envy you too (sort of … sometimes). Safe trip, dear friends, love and best wishes from both of us xx

  4. Jim says:

    What a heart felt description, very nice and well put. Does make one feel we should all be there.

  5. leli says:

    hello how are you all, sorry only now can greet you! how is lin and my mother Donna hahaha ….. I miss you guys.
    I read your blog now your journey is already in Tibet, really really nice place Tibet, if you’ve tried all the food Tibet? , It wanted to be able to come back to china if you look at the scenery Tibet … haha
    so first news of the news I will always follow you through your blog
    bye bye

    • Lynn says:

      Hi Leli
      Wonderful to hear from you.
      Yes, all systems go here. We are now in Beijing, and have our visas sorted for Mongolia.
      Love Lynn and Alan.

  6. Vic Watts says:

    What’s wrong with Wollongong AT?

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