Since the Kudie checkpoint I have been hoping to get to the Aksai Chin. The Aksai Chin is a very unique place because there is nothing there except for a few truckstops. The altitude is very high (4,800m to 5,000m), water is sparse, the wind blows in all directions and the temperature at night drops to -25C or lower. What a great place for cycling! It is like the Pamirs on steroids!!!
After graffiti'ing the wall of the cyclist museum we started a 25 km climb to Kithai pass (5200m), which is the beginning of the Aksai Chin. A few kilometers down, on the other side of the pass, we met a young Tibetan man who was sitting beside his vehicle with the motor laying out on the ground beside him. He was waiting there for God knows how long, but was smiling and happily. Broken down trucks are a regular scene on the road to Tibet, they usually do the mechanical repairs right on the spot. I'm guessing that calling for a tow is not an option. Two or three days later this Tibetan friend passed us on the road.
Aksai Chin is a disputed region located in the northwestern region of the Tibetan Plateau north of the western Kunlun Mountains. It is entirely administered by the People's Republic of China as a part of Hotan County in the Hotan Prefecture of Xinjiang Autonomous Region. It is, however, claimed by India as a part of its state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The area is largely a vast high-altitude desert including some salt lakes from 4,800 metres (15,700 ft) to 5,500 metres (18,000 ft) above sea level. It covers an area of 37,250 square kilometres (14,380 sq mi).
The region is almost uninhabited, has no permanent settlements, and receives little precipitation, as the Himalayas and the Karakoram block the rains from the Indian monsoon. Wikipedia-
Keeping our feet and hands warm while riding was also challenging, especially when we had strong winds (daily in the afternoon) and cloudy skies. The worst night was at Lugmo Tso, a beautiful lake perched at 5000m. Even in my tent with my -18C sleeping bag, I could not get warm enough to sleep. It was a long night.
In Sumxi we had the chance to meet a Chinese cyclist coming from the other direction who told us where all the checkpoints between Sumxi and Lhasa were. This allowed us to plan a little better. Sumxi was just a very small truckstop, it had one room only, and the owner cooked us a very good meal. A nice change from the two minutes noodle soup and army bars.
The Aksai Chin, even with its cold nights was amazing, and it was worth the trouble we had to go through with the PSB!!