We had the opportunity to chill out in Urumqi for just under and week while waiting for our Kazakh visas to be processed. Urumqi seems to be a hub for the more adventurous types with people showing up in 4WD trucks, on motorcycles and also bikes.
This is where we had the opportunity to meet two other cyclists (brothers) Ben and Nils Koons, Kiwi’s who now live in the USA. They had just finished a month and a half of cycling in Tibet.
The brothers about to leave Urumqi
For those who don’t know the political situation on this side of the world, in order to go to Tibet you must apply for a permit and go on a guided tour. Cycling for foreigners (legally) is a no no. This doesn’t stop the avid cycle tourist though and that included the brothers.
As we sat around trading China stories they proceeded to tell us about having to avoid the 20 or so military check points on the way into Tibet by hiding in ditches at 4am, walking around river banks in the early hours of the morning, or simply cycling through the armed check points on dusk with the hopes that the guards wouldn’t see or stop them.
Apparently towns were the same with police cars driving around specifically looking for people to check, so for most of their trip the only time they went into a town was for supplies before heading out into the wilderness to sleep under the stars.
Yes, they were arrested once and forced to leave the Tibetan area, at which time they turned around and simply cycled back in again.
A picture from their Tibet trip
Their photos of Tibet are absolutely amazing and I would suggest checking them out if you have the time.
Also very interesting was the use of their schooling in engineering. Instead of paying the $400 or so dollars it costs for pannier rack holders they “borrowed” some supplies from their school back in the States and built their own.
Homemade pannier racks
It was a pleasure hanging out with Ben and Nils and wish them the best for any adventure they choose to do in the future.