A Different Kind of Freedom A Different Kind of Freedom: A 3300 Mile Solo Bicycle Trip Across Tibet Tibetan Nomads in Western Tibet

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Summary of the Story

For five months in the thin air of Tibet and Western China I made my way over dirt tracks and around Chinese police checkpoints. Throughout most of history this part of the planet has remained closed to Western travelers. During the spring and summer of 1994 only a few short portions of my 3300-mile trip crossed sections of Tibet and China that were officially open to foreigners.

After a year and half of planning and research I could only gather a rather sketchy notion of what this journey would entail. With my departure from the USA on April 1, 1994, I started what many friends thought constituted a dangerously foolish trip, one that raised some doubt within myself as to if I would ever return alive.

For months on end I spent eight to ten hours a day bouncing over Tibetan dirt roads, dusty jeep tracks and stony deserts. Occasionally I lost sight of the path, only to find it hours later. With no other companion besides the horizon in front of me, I enjoyed the rare company of Tibetan truck drivers, Tibetan nomads, and Chinese Army soldiers.

In the former home of the Dalai Lama, the capital city of Lhasa, I recuperated and found my way through the dark hallways of ancient temples and monasteries. Conversations with other travelers in this fabled city brought tales of frightening possibilities that might lie ahead.

Finding my way through western Tibet required dodging police checkpoints under the cover of darkness and fighting off packs of wild dogs. Three months and 2,000 miles of riding brought me to Mt. Kailash, the most sacred mountain in all of Asia. For Tibetans this mountain marks the center of the world-- the navel of the planet.

After leaving Tibet I cycled the most desolate remote road in the world-- a 150-mile section of dirt track that remains above 16,500 feet crossing the politically disputed Askin Chin basin. I continued on through the "Mountains of Darkness" to Kashgar, the Central Asian hub of the ancient silk road and into the Hunza Valley of Northern Pakistan.

Throughout this tale I relate the current political situation in Tibet since the Chinese military invasion of 1951, along with fragments of Tibetan Buddhism that have affected me during my travels in the Himalayan region. Both of these elements shine through in the Tibetans whom I meet during my travels.

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All images and text Copyright © 1996 Ray Kreisel