Donít tell my Mom I rode 17,000kms from China to her house in Normandy, France with a stolen Yamaha XT250X prototype crossing the middle east on the way.
Episode 6: Going Too High!
Hi people, how are you?
I am back on the report!
So, let me recall you that I was driving with my Chinese friend on the back of the overloaded brand new Yamaha XT250X. We were going out of the Sichuan province, in China. I had been on the road for one month and a half of adventures,
We were now entering the Qinghai province. What did that mean?
Lots of nothing, all that in altitude.
The roads were now empty but of very good quality.
The situation went from being pleasant to being painful quickly. The altitude got the air quite cold, even in this month of August 2009.
Then, the rain started.
The air got freezing cold and we were climbing, climbing... 3,000 meters ... 3,500 meters ... top of a hill at 4,000 meters.
The engine of the bike was getting very weak because of the altitude, the higher we were the less the bike had power (it is a carburetor bike and not a fuel-injected).
Between 3,700 and 4,000 meters, I would have a top speed of 45km/h (30 miles/hour).
We used plastic bags on us to fight the cold and try to limit the water getting in out clothes.
I was slowly getting in a situation of hypothermia. I started shivering very hardly, my teeth were shattering very strongly.
My hands started to get very numb.
There was nothing and no one around, I was trying to spot any small hut or something but there was nothing. We had no option but to keep on going.
I was like acting in slow motion for whatever I was doing and started closing my eyes irremediably. This was some extremely long hours.
We finally reached a small hut where they seemed to have some people.
We knock on the door, there was a young Tibetan looking Chinese and his mother. We ate with them and it took us a very long time to warm up and dry our clothes but the rain was not stopping outside.
Oh and yeah, they told us that some thieves operate on these empty roads, using fast motorcycles (they said it was Yamaha motorcycles. What I know is that they probably had them with fuel-injection!) and attacking cars. I was hoping they didn't see my bike as a nice spare parts source because with my max speed of 50km/h, it wasn't going to be good for us!
Leo and I eventually decided it was not much and we were ready to go again. After a few seconds back on the road, the cold hit us again and it was a very hard way in the same conditions until the next time we saw humans.
We stopped at a tent where around 12 Tibetan looking Chinese were living.
Just after leaving their place, the bike comes to a complete stop. It had been working incredible until now but the altitude made it impossible to start anymore.
We waited some time for a small pickup truck to come by.
We put the bike on the back and go to the next town that was around 50kms away from where we were.
The situation was now better but Leo seemed to be very touched by altitude sickness, he was complaining about strong nausea and nose bleed. Couldn't sleep. I even saw him sprinting around without a reason.
We had to fix the bike and go down as fast as we could!
After putting a needle in the carburetor to get more air in the fuel-air mixture, the bike worked but was still very weak. It was time to remove the air filter.
Removing the air filter gave it a lot more punch! Yeeeeeah.
After a few hours on the next day we quickly started to descend and reached a larger town, it all had a very Tibetan atmosphere.
Now we were back to normal altitude (less than 3,000 meters) and we (and the bike) felt like alive again!
Time to look at the map again:
Ahem yeah, lets go west.
We are slowly getting out of Qinghai and getting into the Gansu region of China.
The population there is Muslim, these are the Hui people (Chinese Muslims). You can recognize them to their hats: look at the kid on the right on the next picture. Hmm yeah, there was a small accident there.
The food here is great, very spicy, a lot of meat and the people are friendly! I think I like these Hui people a lot!
The roads are beautiful curvy, empty, going up and down, mountain roads with stunning scenery. Lots of fun.
This is also where I ran out of gas for the first time. And in the most awesome way: the inertia/momentum of the bike on its empty tank just got me enough distance to reach the gas station that was some hundred meters in front of me, in total silence and like if it was perfectly planned.
Seriously Celebrating.(I was fucking happy, just a bit tired)
Next article: China's Very Wild West.
writing from Buenos Aires, the big steakhouse.