The Road to Everest

Day 13: Monday 8 May 2006
May 15, 2006,

Day 13: Monday 8 May 2006
Golmund - Nagqu

Again an early start was in order to tackle the longest day of the Great Tour of China. From the off the road rose slowly but steadily to the Tibetan Plateau, which carried many trucks and military convoys (we counted four in total of between twenty five and thirty lorries). Here we got our first sights of the Golmud to Lhasa railway. It is 1,118km long and was completed in late 2005. It is now in the early stages of being tested for use and we were all lucky enough to see a couple of locomotives embarking on the test journey. It will be fully operational in 2007 and will offer the highest regular passenger service in the world.

Due to the limited supply of fuel on this vast plateau it was essential that we kept our fuel levels topped up throughout the day at every available opportunity.

Despite the trucks (which weren’t that abundant) the plateau was a very peaceful place with only the occasional Tibetan yak and goat herder watching his flock as company. All along however, beautiful mountains caressed the plateau in the background making the views all the more dramatic and exquisite.

The Holopainen's Picnicking
The lunch halt today was at a very basic restaurant in a place called Tuotuohe. However, many crews decided to give it a miss. We found the Holopainen family a few more km along enjoying an intimate picnic off of the road out of the back of their Land Rover Defender, complete with warm coffee and sandwiches.

The landscape and scenery again improved further but the roads turned very through villages, due to the constant use by trucks badly damaging the surfaces, so roadworks were unfortunately an ongoing problem.

From here we reached the highest point so far on the Great Tour of China as we crossed the Tanggula Shanku Pass (5,220m/17,226ft). This is said to be the highest asphalt surfaced road in the world. The views were incredible with snow covered mountains in every direction. Many crews arrived at the same time including Jean Steinhauser and Anne Collard; Jim Carr and Helen Peacock and Micheal Bernecker and Beate Knauss where they all welcomed each other to Tibet whilst sharing what was left of their biscuit supplies.

At this point Do and Annemieke Meeus discovered their 1955 Jaguar XK140 had developed a fuel problem. The high altitude was starving the fuel supply to the engine at around 4,800m, thus a tow was in order from this point up to the summit of the pass. But, unfortunately, their problems did not end there. They also had a brake problem at altitude. Air in the system had expanded causing them to very nearly lose all brakes. Do had to drive extremely slowly back down the pass, pumping the brakes at least three times to receive a reaction.

Our overnight halt was luckily only a few km from the pass and here Jingers, our official event mechanic was able to set to work on the Jag and rectify all brake problems, so Do was in no danger of experiencing the same problems the following day. The fuel problem was slightly more complicated and could not be overcome at this rest halt.

Tonight we slept at very high altitude, over 4,600m and all can felt some of the effects, especially tiredness, shortness of breath and a disturbed nights sleep.

The Howells & Jim Carr on the Tibetan Plateau

© Copyright

Day 30: Thursday 25 May 2006
Zhaoqing – Splendid China, Shenzhen

On this our final day of the Great Tour of China 2006, we made a short journey mainly on expressway from Zhaoqing to the Splendid China Cultural Park in Shenzhen for the ceremonial finish.

May 26, 2006
Day 29: Wednesday 24 May 2006
Guilin - Zhaoqing

We left Gulin on smooth fast roads with wonderful views of the ‘eggbox’ type hills. These are hills of limestone which have eroded into shape over centuries covered in native vegetation and resembling very large teeth.

May 25, 2006
Day 28: Tuesday 23 May 2006
Kaili - Guilin

The agenda today was another long driving day to Guilin along a mixture of road surfaces: smooth main roads, bumpy secondary roads and some roads still under construction.

May 24, 2006
Day 27: Monday 22 May 2006
Huangguoshu Falls - Kaili

Before negotiating another day on the road, everyone spent a couple of hours today visiting China’s most scenic falls at Huangguoshu. Set against lush, local vegetation, the falls make up in beauty for what they lack in size.

May 23, 2006
Day 26: Sunday 21 May 2006
Kunming – Huangguoshu Falls

This morning we took the northern road from Kunming on a mix of main highway, dual carriageway and back roads. The first town we passed through was Quiyang en route to Honggu, a large town with coal mining and steel production as it’s main industries.

May 23, 2006