Back to sunny Bamda!

We are back in Bamda, all of us, four English vans and three French ones.

Why? you ask (if you have been following the plot).

2002-10-02: Two of the three French vans arrived at the English camp site just outside Bamda on the N316 in the late afternoon. The third van (Roger's) is in Bamda, having been towed into town by a local truck. Considerable progress is made in getting a larger truck willing and able to transport Roger's van to Lhasa. Eventually a price of 15,000 Yuan ($1850USA) is agreed.

There is general satisfaction that China Swan have made arrangements for us to extend our visas in Bayizhen (only 500km away on the N316). We have a maximum of seven days to get there.

2002-10-03: The four English vans and the two mobile French vans (Serge's and Jean-Claude's) leave Bamda at 12:00. Roger and "Simon" remain in Bamda to wait for the truck to take them (and Roger's van) to Lhasa, it was due at 10:00.

At 12:37 all traffic halts - a heavy truck is stuck in a big, deep mud hole on a sloping curve in the road. We have covered 8.6km in 37 minutes. We wait along with 50 trucks and several 4x4s. At 19:20 we get passed the mud hole, now filled with rocks, after persuading the driver of a tracked digger to flatten the raised centre of the "road" It is getting dark fast, big snow clouds have swirled past us earlier, and now it starts to snow and hail in earnest. Not a good night for driving on muddy mountain roads above 4500 metres. We stop on the road to sleep.

The start of the mud pit!2002-10-04: We set off at 07:00. We're right at the snow line. At 07:20 we come to a big rock (2 tonne?) in the middle of the road (from a landslide). It is impossible to move off the road. Eventually we lever it to the side of the road We're all off again at 08:20. We have vast magnificent vistas of heavily snowed mountains and sharp peaks spreading to the horizon. The switch-back road in the valley below us looks in good condition. We have frequent stops to move rocks off the road and to try to lower the center ridge.

At 08:37 we reach a real mud pit, it goes on for at least a kilometre. It is very deep mud (0.5 metre in places!). We watch several 4x4s and big trucks get stuck. It is impassable to all but Mog.

Discussions with our guide "Gong" reveal that he has been told that:

  • There is a 100km section of road in about 50km that is far worse than the current mud pit.
  • The north road (the N214 and N317) is better than our road (the N318). The N317 is the road the French took in 2000 (in error) and is generally held by the French to be far worse than the N318.

We get "Gong" to phone China Swan (on our satellite phone) to explain the situation. We are told to return to Bamda. We do, but Serge damages his oil sump on a rock on the way. He limps into town. We all camp in the lorry compound in deep mud.

Roger's van ready to leave for Lhasa.We find Roger and "Simon" still in town with Roger's van squeezed onto the back of a fairly small truck. We learn from the driver that he expects to get to Lhasa in 3 days by the northern route (1225km), that the road is good, there is fuel and no rivers to ford. We are also advised by China Swan to send all our passports with Roger to Lhasa where China Swan will make the arrangements to have our visas extended by 30 days. All very good news. We eat out at the best restaurant in town, at a cost of $3USA per head. The waitresses spit in the corner between courses. The locals press against the glass door to watch the "big noses" eat. It snows.

2002:10:05: Roger, his van and "Simon" leave in the truck at 08:10 with all our passports. We remain to fix Serge's sump and write this web page. We hope to leave at...

We are surprised by an English voice in the truck compound, check out (See about halfway down this page).

Stephen Stewart.

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