Leaving Lhasa

We packed and set off, following the route notes to find our way out of the sprawling mass which constitutes modern-day Lhasa. Somehow I don’t think the Dalai Lama is going to recognise it when he comes back.

Once we left the city, the support van was soon left behind as there is a very unusual method to reduce speeding on the roads in Tibet. Every vehicle has to stop at a series of checkpoints and their time of arrival is noted at each checkpoint, if they arrive too soon, then they are done for speeding. I may have said every vehicle, however, for various reasons motorbikes are below the notice of the traffic police and other officials and bikes do not have to register or even stop at the checkpoints, merely ride through at a sensible speed and then continue as before. We would come across queues of bored and disgruntled cars by the side of the road just out of sight of the upcoming checkpoint, waiting for their time slot to and watching us pass with unconcealed contempt on their faces.

The road surface was variable to say the least, some reasonable tarmac in and around Lhasa and then it started to deteriorate to pot holes, dips and patches of gravel. Alongside us for much of the journey north ran the rail tracks with the high tech trains that do the journey from Lhasa to Beijing in just 47 hours, not bad for a journey covering 2600 miles and which was about to take us two weeks. The better class trains actually have oxygen mask available in the first class compartments to make the high altitudes less traumatic. I wondered how the pampered passengers would have coped with being exposed to the elements and wrestling a large heavy bike along the route, all without the aid of oxygen.