Hey China, There’s Flies in the Coffee

Shangri-La, Xiangcheng, Daocheng, Yading, Litang – 400km and feet on the ground

Litang, China. At 4000 meters we’re out of time and out of breath. Literally, short on oxygen and we don’t know why. From the lowlands we had climbed onto the Tibetan plateau feeling like super heroes. We’d conquered big passes over and over again, a bit wobbly but without ill effect. It was surprising even. Katrina, a traveling German doctor, had advised us earlier that there are two ways for the body to produce more red blood cells for higher altitudes. One: slow acclimatization; and two: smoking cigarettes. I had a third theory though. Could it have been the exhaust that prepared us? We were living in it, and undoubtedly had been deprived of oxygen. Our blood must have been kicked into high gear. We’d been acclimatized early, aaaand we’d found our golden ticket: black exhaust cigarettes, all the benefits of tobacco without the addiction. But what’s happened? After two weeks of biking and hiking at altitude we’re left sore, beaten down, breathless, our hunger for the road diminished…

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China: the Bad, the Ugly, and the Really Really Good

Kunming to Dali, the Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La – 2 weeks, 900km

China overwhelms and assaults the senses. It’s also a land of contradictions that has you groping for air from the terrible truck exhaust one minute, and gasping in awe at a 10,000ft deep gorge the next. In the past 2 weeks we’ve been through bike-touring hell and back, but are now perched on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, giddy with excitement at what the next 2,000km and 4 weeks will bring. We sit in blissful high-altitude comfort in the mythical town of Shangri-La surrounded by initial glimpses of Tibetan culture, and the joy of being in the mountains makes it especially hard to reconcile this new wonderful China with the same China we escaped from only 5 days ago.

mists swirling around Himalayan Peaks

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