1. Tibet and Xinjiang

    Until Friday, April 18th 2014, I am making a newly published eBook available for free! It’s an electronic version of “Life on the Tibetan Plateau”. This e-version has an added bonus of the text that was printed in the Brooks Bugle.

    You can download from here: Life on the Tibetan Plateau

    Also, last week a collection of 139 Uyghur photographs were published into an eBook as well. You can download by visiting: Uyghur


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  2. New Print Available

    On January 21 2014 I board an airplane for Dhaka. From there I will be working on another self-funded project. During my off days of working I plan on doing some motorbike trips around the country on a local bike. At this present moment, I don’t want to give away too much information but the planning is in the works.

    There is a new print listed on Etsy and all profits will help go to the funding of this trip. A perfect holiday gift for anyone that’s lived on the road, or needs inspiration for 2014. I just can’t bare to do another Kicstarter at this moment, or rather, save it for something I’ve got brewing up on the back burner.

    Happy holidays everyone, and I hope to get the rest of the Uzbek writing completed as I anxiously await my new China Work Visa. It’s been a very consuming process. Special love and thanks to those that have helped me with it, whether mailing items or allowing me floor space to sleep as I had to exit China to resolve the matter. New strict regulations. I guess if it was easy to obtain, everyone would have one. And of course, why should I expect anything “easy” or simple, ever.



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  3. “Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
    ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


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  4. The last day of tarmac, U-Tsang, Tibet September 2011

    Little did I know that it would be the last of tarmac about 3km down, and another quarter of kilometer…I would also lose my partner.

    That is Namucuo (Namu Lake) in the background.

    The previous night, we had camped in a yak field with a rolling stream and a couple of nomad families. Brandon and I had snuck past a major police checkpoint.

    When we were checking out the situation, and scoping out the police checkpoint, a Tibetan boy had approached Brandon when he was peeking from around a corner. He was getting frustrated with the Tibetan because he was blowing his cover.

    They both walk to where I’m hiding, the Tibetan is very modern. Wearing his mesh back trucker hat, face mask, his sunscreen leaving a white film on his face, and I SWEAR he was wearing eyeliner.

    Brandon: “Ask him if he’s ever seen other foreigners…”
    Tibetan: “Yes.”
    Me: “Have you seen them with bikes?”
    Tibetan: “Yes.” He points past the checkpoint up a hill and says, “If you go up that way they won’t see you.”

    I translate to Brandon…we both smirk at each other, both knowing that this guy may “know whats up”.

    It would be our last camp together. Brandon made an interesting noodle mix with the fried sardines with black beans. I would sit next to him, at his tent opening, smoking a cigarette each…staring at the stars. Even after our little snips at one another during the day, we had an enjoyable conversation to finish the day.

    The next day, morning…he said something snarky about the colors of my clothes and how they don’t camouflage very well. I didn’t respond. Then he challenges me on my opinion on the “Thai” guy I had seen in Qinghai pedaling North. I respond under my breath, enough to let him know I’m tired of his bad attitude.

    (Note to cycling apparel companies: COULD YOU PLEASE PLEASE QUIT MAKING WOMEN’S CLOTHES IN PURPLES, PINKS, TURQUOISES…really, seriously!!!!)

    I head out 30 mins before him and find a crossing over the stream. Looking back, I watch him removing his bags and throwing them over the water. I can see his blood boiling and steam coming from his ears.

    We spend our mornings separate, with separate Tibetan nomads. I am given a radish to eat on the road.

    Brandon holds onto a truck and is pulled up the pass. It takes me 3 hours. At one point, I’m walking and this little girl comes running up to me.

    I help her up on my saddle and I’m pushing the bike as she is “riding’. It surely made my load heavier…but we had a really good time for about 10 minutes. When she was ready to get off, she let me know…we said our goodbyes and she returned to her tent. I could hear her exclaiming something inside.

    We are both aggravated by the time we BOTH are at the peak. Things are just falling apart…and there is a final explosion. Leaving me slumped over in a yak field, crying, perhaps…maybe…a little hysterical. I think I shout every curse word that I could come up with under my tears.

    I would receive an apology text a couple hours later.

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  5. Hidden Yak

    Yea yea…we (still) ARE total jerks to one another every now and again…but at the end of the day…we still were BFFs of 2011.

    More good times than bad…right, Guy?

    Friendship is when you can move past differences and a shattering argument…and become tighter than before. It’s hard not to reminisce about the amazing days of summer…when I’m held up in -16C temps.

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  6. Tibetan Sisters, Nima Tibet 2011

    Click image for more info on print sales. A portion does go to charity and the remainder helps continue this project.

    Tashi Delay! and please be sure to keep up with what is happening in this part of the world.

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  7. Is that you, Death, sleeping at my side? (or The Last Day of Freedom in Tibet)

    Place: U-Tsang, Tibet Autonomous Region
    Time: September 2011
    Approaching 20th day since illegal entry

    The days on the plateau were calm and peaceful. Spending my days alone, on the saddle or pushing up over ridges, headed towards the horizon. The view of my route leading right up to the heavens. Lifting my arm up in the air knowing that if I were to stretch my skinny, frail and knotted body just a little further…I could pluck a cloud right out of the blue sea I’ve been swimming in.

    The past couple of nights, sitting in my tent and looking up at the sky, questioning how much longer I could endure this. I was starving, my drive for food had nearly vanished. The ringing in my ears being the only sound that kept me constant company. Hunting for water by climbing to the top of hills and finding the fresh, bubbling source…while avoiding the run off that interweaves around yak and elk tracks (maybe wolves). Fingers and toes taking on a purplish hue and a constant lethargy, my daily desire to find somewhere to sleep away the days.

    Death…what will you feel like? Perhaps I have an idea.

    As I zipped myself into my green down coffin, inside my green tomb, I envisioned myself not waking up from this life but continue to live on in this glorious dream. I was in the most magical and beautiful place in the world. Alone and free…and I have never felt such a rush of true happiness in my life.

    Awaking that day with a rain shower, camping next to a lake, as I unzip my tomb, I am overtaken by a bright and transparent azul lake with a range of shimmering glaciers.

    To the West, I can see thick storm clouds touching the horizon with the winds prickling against my face as I question my agenda for the day.

    Exhausted, I zip up and fall in and out of sleep with the sound of the rain and wind against this green tomb, my home.

    Moments, the storms would subside and silence and brightness would enter the tomb. Some time would pass and it would become dark again and I would fall into a dream, the sound of the rolling water down the nylon.

    It wouldn’t be so bad to spend the day here, I could set off tomorrow for Nima, as I was only a day ride away. Having a little water and some snacks for survival, yet my belly is getting smaller and smaller and more difficult to force something down. What is happening to me?

    Late afternoon, after the storm has cleared, I stick my head out in the sunshine and see the Tibetan family approaching. Nothing to worry about. My concern is on the massive storm clouds coming closer and closer from the West.

    A few men, a child, and a woman come over to me. The younger man can speak a smidgen of Mandarin and I’m directed I need to get going, that I can’t stay. This is the ONLY time this has ever happened to me. All other times I would have been invited into their home for tea.

    My conscience tells me that these folks may not be like all the other souls I’ve met along this path so without an argument or pointing at the storm clouds I crawl out in my pjs and begin to pack up. I’ll go a few kilometers up and set up camp for the day.

    I’m moving so slow, slower than I’ve ever moved before. The family sits about 2 meters from me and watches my life in slow motion. They have brief discussions when I shove my bag into a tight bag or break down the tomb poles. Just a sentence or two…nothing more.

    Slipping some clothes over my pjs with my intent to go back to dreaming in just a couple of hours. What’s happening, all I want to do is zip up into my green lit tomb and dream…….

    The storm clouds are black and they are nearly hovering over me.

    The winds are whipping everything around and I have to move fast to prevent my possessions from being blown over the plateau.

    We are engulfed in darkness and the air temperature drops fast. The Tibetans and I say goodbye and they watch me walk fast towards the West and they begin to run home to duck out of the storm.

    I’m hit with cold ice from all sides. It’s painful. It’s cold. Battered…it’s a hail storm.

    There is a bridge going over a stream of glacier melt behind me.

    I push my legs as fast I can, and backtrack, past the Tibetans to hide under the bridge. They watch me pass without an offer of help or shelter. Being pummeled by ice, I jump off my bike and duck under the bridge.

    Trying to stay dry, I press my body against the cold and damp concrete of the standing structure. It’s this or be misted from the sides and ice dropping down between the wooden slats above.

    I watch cardboard boxes and other miscellany fly by with a great speed, tumbling over what ever stands in it’s way. When I stick my head out from under the bridge, my hair is whipped around and my face stings as if I’m being attacked by an angry swarm bees.

    Early evening, the sky opens up and the plateau has returned to its near blinding light. The dark clouds are to the South East of me and perhaps if I move fast enough I can stay out of this storm.

    The remainder of light is spent going up and down over the plateau, avoiding glacier melt, ditches, and trenches. I may have had a Tibetan or two pass me on his motorcycle, that part of this memory is not so clear. My soul was elsewhere, a place that’s not on this earth.

    Nightfall arrives late on the plateau, after 9:30.

    There is a brilliant full moon. She lights up the sky and earth for me. Never have I experienced an evening like this. I am Moon bathing and her energy is lighting up everything for me to continue on. Never have I seen such a clarity.

    I recall having a feeling of “the end”. It had been visiting me for the past couple of days but that night, under the stars, I remember thinking, “this is my last day”. It wasn’t some starved, crazy woman thought…it was very clear, as clear as the night sky that had engulfed me…womb like. It was calm, I was not scared or anxious. This was the end.

    Pushing through the moonlight, I hear this “huff…huff…huff…huff…huff”. What is this deep breath I continue to hear. I stop, I listen…it has stopped. I start pedaling again and I hear “huff…huff…huff…huff”. Am I delusional or am I hearing this…can someone tell me if I really heard this? “huff…huff…huff…huff”…

    It must be the Tibetan deer or elk. What else could it be? I had seen them in the fields for 100′s of kms. All alone, with no soul around, there is not even an instant of fear. “Huff…huff…huff…huff…huff…”, this breathing continues as soon as my feet make their revolutions. Stopping when I stop.

    Perhaps it was my “Animal Guide”, the Moose, did I finally slow down enough for him to catch up with me. Our first encounter under the silver flecked night sky.

    The plateau is a very tricky place to estimate how much road is ahead.

    I had seen motorcycle lights weaving along the horizon, like shooting stars. Further ahead I could see spotlights dancing in the sky, they must be coming from Nima.

    Repeatedly telling myself, “just a little further, just a little further”.

    Close to midnight, I gave in to the calling of sleep.

    There is a Tibetan village. No lights but I hear a couple of dogs and watch the single light drive off the road and up to the ridge. The moonlight exposing the little concrete buildings to me, with a grey smoke slowly rising above.

    I never feel comfortable entering a village at dark, especially around midnight.

    The village is about 1km South of the road…I set up camp about 2 meters North of this road. In the morning, we will be able to clearly see each other.

    One reason I camp close to people is because if something were to happen, I can find help. I’ve had practice with my “War Cry” so I know the glass shattering sound will pierce their ears.

    As I set up camp, for the final time in Tibet, a single light approaches me. I squat behind the tent, to avoid any interaction and hopes they will just leave. It works. They pull up about 1 meter away to look at the tent and move on without a word.

    I stand there and I look up into the sky. Trying to photograph this moment doesn’t work…it shows “nothing”. What I see and feel can not be described in a photograph, it barely can be scribbled down on paper, let alone, being pecked into a blog entry.

    Curling up in my tent after gazing into the heavens for nearly an hour, I fall asleep…questioning, “is this all a dream” and knowing…it’s over.

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  8. Self Portrait from August 2011, Amdo/Kham Tibet

    The moment, I knew, it was going to be a very long and cold winter. Watching snow flurries fall to the ground during the first week of August, as we ride from the Tibetans we had spent the night with.

    Sunrise near Amnematchen (Amdo/Kham Tibet). One of the most beautiful mornings so far.

    The evening before, sleeping with the nomads, we had been shoved in a corner together. I was in the worst pain of my life from my stomach problems and got no sleep, Brandon told me he didn’t sleep at all either.

    When getting ready for bed, the Tibetan girl and I were giggling with each other for about an hour. There was a language barrier and we would just communicate with laughter and giggles. We were watching each other, curious of the other. One of us would do something, and catch the eyes of the other, and we would both burst out in laughter. Old cranky pants that I was sharing my “personal space” with was probably confirming in his head that I’d lost my mind.

    That girl was absolutely beautiful and I have about 3 dozen photos of her. I can still hear her laughter and giggles, while adding a white powder/flour to her traditional Tibetan hat. What I would do to visit her again…………………..well, it’s not that far away?

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  9. Dinner, my only meal that day, in U-Tsang, Tibet (near Nima, September 2011)

    It was a long day, but every day in Tibet was a glorious long day – and this would prove to be a very long night.

    When I finally found an area where I could get some wind shelter, I pushed the bike off road and up towards some rocks jutting from the ground. Taking notice of the Yak foot prints, I was aware I could have some friendly visitors in the morning. I’m not worried, I’ve woken a few times with the clomping and the heavy breathing less than a meter from my tent. Hell, I’ve had a dozen of dogs howling and barking next to my tent. No, I’m not hardcore – I’m stupid.

    Anyhow, I push the bike towards the wall of stone and begin to clear some stones out of the most level area of the ground. I hate slipping through the night, but I can tell I’m going to be rolling down…a little.

    I haven’t eat at all. I’m now camping at +4900m, highest camp so far, and I’ve lost my appetite. I’ve been at high altitude for over 2 weeks now and I’m noticing some things changing. My ears are ringing, my feet and hands are beginning to take on a purplish hue, and inability to sleep.

    Before I set up camp, I try to figure out how and what I’m going to eat. I have no alcohol for my stove. I’ve got chilled water and I know that if I let my instant noodles (pangmian) soak long enough, it will be close to noodle soup. I also dig out my can of “fried sardines with black beans”. This can was meant to be split, as they are super salty.

    Wedging the bag in a Pipa (the rodent that lives in Tibet) hole, I pour my water in to let soak while setting up camp.

    This is the night my tent pole splinters. Yep. Again, not a peep from my mouth except in my mind I “say” – “oh shit”. The wind can get crazy up here at night and I just pray it doesn’t blow down.

    I nestle into my home for the night and begin my meal fit for Kings.

    The fish is too salty. I can only take half the can before I walk a half a km down the hill and chuck it far enough in hopes to keep any wild animals away. (I’m constantly warned of wolves from people, but have yet to have an encounter.)

    I fall in and out of sleep throughout the night. As soon as the wind picks up, I listen for more cracking of the pole. Luckily, it is still standing in the morning. Needless to say, at this point, the tent is holding up a lot better than I.

    9am blazing sun

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  10. Near Nima, Tibet (U-Tsang) September 2011

    I heard a crack the day before while riding. The bike didn’t stop and didn’t really notice anything different – so I continued on.

    The previous night I had stayed with a Tibetan family in a very very small village. This morning she filled my bottles with tea and sent me off with a plastic bag of tsampa!

    A few hours of riding there was another loud “crack” and I immediately felt my new Brooks saddle change under my booty.

    I had just thrown out my old Selle Italia saddle and replaced it with a beautiful double rail Brooks B72 in Xining. This gorgeous beauty only had about 1000km on.

    Dismounting and without skipping a beat I look directly at the double rails of the saddle. Both broken…snapped right behind the saddle clamp. Shit.

    Really? I’m literally in the middle of nowhere. YES. LITERALLY!

    There is no point in shouting or crying and actually maintain a very cool and collected demeanor. Gently setting Nelly on her side, I step a meter back and think about this situation.

    This is exactly the point where I set the bike down and what I also had to decide on – which road?

    First things first. I take out the multi-tool and skootch the saddle forward so the jagged breaks are in the seat clamp. This will hopefully get me somewhere for a shitty weld. I’ll have to take my weight off the saddle while riding, especially over this terrain. It will prove to also be the noisiest saddle ever.

    I plop down in the fork of the road, feeling a little proud of myself for resolving this problem so quickly and not a peep of frustration coming from me.

    Looking ahead, which road should I take. Again, the only map I have is a horrible tourist map of China with only main roads shown. It doesn’t even have Chinese written on it.

    After gulping down some tea…wait…does this tea make me even thirstier? What is with this Tibetan tea?…and eating some tsampa I stand up and examine the road to the right.

    It heads into the hills. There is a good chance it actually heads more Northeast, where at this point I want Northwest. I walk about a quarter of a kilometer down the road, closely…CLOSELY…examining the path. How fresh do the tracks look? Are there jeep tracks or just motorcycle tracks? How is the gravel thrown about?

    After looking down near 16,000km of tarmac, gravel roads, cow paths, fields, I feel extremely competent of road judging skills.

    I walk off the road to cross to the road to the left. Ahead, I can see that the road is pretty damaged from ice melt run off. This part of the road becomes about 3 meters wide from automobiles and motorcycles veering off the road and even another road has been made to the left. Further beyond, the road seems to wrap to the West around some large stones.

    This road shows slightly more signs of travel BUT I notice multipele sets, and obvious, jeep and truck tracks. Yes, this is the choice.

    (I want to state that the Brooks saddle was repaired by Brooks for free. If you use a Brooks B72 you MUST use an old style seat post or a “seat sandwich”.)

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