The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 1997
September 6 - October 18, 1997
The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 1997 Route
Saturday 6 September Peking to Zhang Jiakou 230 kms
A fairly short first day, allowing time for the starting ceremonies in Peking, a run on the new motorway to the Great Wall for another Ceremonial Start and then through low mountains to Zhang Jiakou.
Sunday 7 September Zhang Jiakou to West Baotou 507 kms
A longer day, into Inner Mongolia, along the southern edge of the Daqing mountain range, towards the great Yellow River. Northern China is fairly industrious, we do our best to chose the quietest roads.
Monday 8 September West Baotou to Yinchuan 594 kms
For most of the day the road follows the broad Yellow River valley through the characteristic semi-desert landscape of Inner Mongolia.
Tuesday 9 September Yinchuau to Lanzhou 501 kms
Still following the Yellow River, south into Ningxia Autonomous Region, a largely Muslim province, passing ruined mud-built sections of the Great Wall before Zhongwei noted for its huge pagoda temple and giant sand dunes.
Wednesday 10 September Rest Day in Lanzhou
Thursday 11 September Lanzhou to Koko Nor 475 kms
First along the narrowing Yellow River valley with substantial mountains to the north and south, and into Qinghai province and its capital Xining the last town of any size before Lhasa. Leaving Xining follow a gorge and climb through increasingly spectacular scenery onto the edge of the Tibetan plateau, descending to the fertile shores of the Koko Nor, China's largest lake.
Friday 12 September Koko Nor to Golmund 580 kms
A short climb away from the Koko Nor through rolling green hills to Caka salt lake, then through a typical central Asian landscape and broad irrigated valleys flanked by barren mountains, before dropping to drive along the edge of the Tsaidam, strange region of desert, swamp and salt pans. Some of this road will be dirt and gravel.
Saturday 13 September Golmund to Tuotuoheyan 439 kms
Golmund marks the start of the 'Roof of the World' section. Although mainly tarmac, the road across the plateau is constantly being repaired because of the severe weather conditions and diversions and delays are to be expected. Ground clearance is important on this section. First there is the long steep climb up to the Kunlun Pass (16,000 ft) the scenery is awe-inspiring with expanses of snow and moorland pierced by numerous peaks. Tuotuoheyan is an army barracks on the Tuotuo River, one of the major tributaries of the Yangtze.
Sunday 14 September Tuotuoheyan to Nagqu 433 kms
Continuing at around 15,000 ft a steady climb takes us up to the highest road in the world, the Tanggu La at nearly 17,000 ft from where we drop to Amdo at the junction of the main highway to western Tibet, and continue to Nagqu through abundant pasture with huge herds of sheep and yaks. Remote empty and windswept.
Monday 15 September Nagqu to Lhasa 341 kms
South from Nagqu the road improves and crosses a pass below the Nyanchen Tangla range descending through grassland to the thermal power station at Yangbajing. It is then not far to the Lhasa valley with the great Potala Palace looming over the city.
Tuesday 16 September Rest day in Lhasa
Lhasa is the religious, cultural and economic centre of Tibet. Sightseeing includes the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple. Lhasa offers most of the facilities that might be needed for preparations for the hard drive into the Himalayas and a warm, friendly greeting from Tibetans.
Wednesday 17 September Lhasa to Xigaze 255 kms
Although short in distance, this is tough day. Down the Lhasa valley to the Yarlung Tsang-Po, Tibet's great river which we cross and turn off to the west. From here to the Nepalese border the road is almost entirely dirt or gravel and is often in poor condition. There is the long climb to the Kamba La (15,600 ft) at the top is a splendid panorama of the stunning scorpion-shaped turquoise lake of Yamdrok Tso and the peaks along Tibet's southern border. The road drops down to the Yamrock Tso and follows the shore before climbing to the Karo La (16,300 ft) passing close to a magnificent hanging glacier. A broad flat valley brings us to Gyangze an attractive town dominated by a fortress captured and destroyed by the British during their incursion into Tibet. From Gyangze to Xigaze (12,600 ft), Tibet's second largest town and site of the Tashillunpo Monastry one of the centres of Buddhism.
Thursday 18 September Xigaze to Xeger 230 kms
Another tough day, the road from here to Lhatze is under construction and there will be off-road excursions requiring good ground clearance and careful handling. After some dusty plains climb to the Tsuo La dropping again to Lhatze where the road turns south and climbs through bleak high altitude moorland to the Lhakpa La (16,900 ft) the watershed between Tibet and India. Xeger at 13,800 ft is cold and windswept with the snow-capped Himalayas on your horizon.
Friday 19 September Xeger to Nyalam 260 kms
A rough road and a tough day with possible off-road excursions along the valley of the Nien Chu, past Tingri and the best views of Mount Everest then a short climb past Xixapangma (26,300 ft) to the summit of the pass Lalung Leh (16,400 ft) The road then descends very steeply into the bare valley eventually arriving at Nyalam (10,000 ft). Between here and the Nepal border landslides and delays, hence the choice of a night camping at Nyalam.
Saturday 20 September Nyalam to Katmandu 355 kms
From Nyalam in less than one hour the road enters a gorge into a different world with dense vegetation to the border at Zhangmu, from here there are long demanding sections packed with hairpins to reach Friendship Bridge and enter Nepal. From the border point at Khodari the road winds around terraced hillsides to the Sun Kosi river with a climb to Dhulikhel before the final descent into the Katmandu valley.
Sunday 21 September Rest day in Katmandu
Possible crew change point for Touring Category competitors, general facilities for car repairs and good choice of hotel accommodation after the 'camping' experiences across Tibet.
Monday 22 September Rest day in Katmandu
Tuesday 23 September Katmandu to Kohalpur 498 kms
From fabled Katmandu down from the Nepal Himalayas to the East-West Highway, good quality road, smooth and quick, past jungle with parrots, monkeys, elephants - don't stop at the tiger warning signs! Camping at Kohalpur.
Wednesday 24 September Kohalpur to Nainital 364 kms
Today starts with good quality asphalt then, after a major river bridge becomes tough, rocky gravel for a short distance. Route continues on a mix of broken asphalt and gravel with many river crossings to the frontier. Easy roads in India to the quaint Himalya foothills town of Nainital. Nainital was a renowned summer retreat during the days of the Raj.
Thursday 25 September Nainital to Delhi 350 kms
A descent through great scenery on super roads skirting the Corbett Tiger Reserve down to the Northern Indian Plain. Then a main run down to a superb welcome in the Indian capital - Delhi.
Friday 26 September Delhi to Lahore 600 kms
Leave Delhi and head north on a main road route which takes us across the plain to Amritsar and then to the India/Pakistan frontier. Following the frontier formalities there is a short drive into Lahore where a superb well appointed hotel awaits.
Saturday 27 September Rest Day in Lahore
A lovely city with a terrific welcome and a great hotel.
Sunday 28 September Lahore to Multan 343 kms
Past the Chhanga Manga Forest and following the railway line for many miles to the historical Fort City of Multan.
Monday 29 September Multan to Quetta 624 kms
A hard, long hot day but many highlights, crossing the Indus River, Jacobabad, famed for its Colonial Architecture, into the mountains and through the Bolan pass and the amazing colonial railway and into the Ancient Fortress town of Quetta. The North-West passage frontier district has changed little.
Tuesday 30 September Quetta to Zahedan 724 kms
A difficult day over rough roads following the railway through inhospitable country to the Pakistan/Iran border. Into Persia, ancient trading route to the West in the tracks of Marco Polo. A memorable day.
Wednesday 1 October Rest day in Zahedan
Small. dusty town, a chance to recover.
Thursday 2 October Zahedan to Kerman 558 kms
A hot day through the Dasht e Lut Desert on a smooth road over some dusty, wild and empty tarmac.
Friday 3 October Kerman to Esfahan 675 kms
A long day ending in Esfahan one of Iran's most famous ancient places and beautiful temples.
Saturday 4 October Rest day in Esfahan
A day to take in some of the best sights of Iran. The Main Square, dedicated to the Imam Khomeini, is wonderful with two amazing mosques to visit. An opportunity to wind down and, just for a day, become a tourist.
Sunday 5 October Esfahan to Hamadan 500 kms
Today's route begins to take us away from the desert into a more agricultural area. Through the town of Khomein, home of the Imam Khomeini to Hamadan, one of the oldest continually inhabited towns in the world. A favourite retreat for Iranians during the hot months, Hamadan, at 1750 metres, can be quite cool and windy.
Monday 6 October Hamadan to Tabriz 565 kms
Another day through mainly agricultural countryside. Many little villages and towns and plenty of opportunity for a cup of tea and something to eat. Good roads all the way. Tabriz, the last stop for us in Iran, is a large industrial town with some good shopping and eating houses.
Tuesday 7 October Tabriz to Palandoken 593 kms
Tabriz is the fifth largest city of Iran on a high plateau close to Lake Urmea. To the north is Azerbajdzan and the mountains of the Caucasus. The Main road climbs steadily into the Zagros mountains and passes into Turkey only 40 kms south of Mount Ararat (16,800 ft). From the border the road crosses several minor passes before coming to the valley of the River Aras at Palandoken.
Wednesday 8 October Erzurum to Nevsehiv 739 kms
From Erzurum we take the 1968 London to Sydney route to Erzincan, destroyed by an earthquake in 1939, now a modern farming town. On to a lunch halt at Sivas, an old town devastated by many invading armies but now a pleasant place to be. Onwards to Cappadocia, past the town of Kayseri and through the shadow of Mount Aergius to pass some of the amazing 'Fairy Chimneys' as well as some cliff dwellings. Neveshir is our overnight halt and, if you are in early enough, you might take the short trip out to Goreme, a fairy tale place of underground cave dwellings and fairy chimneys.
Thursday 9 October Nevsehiv to Istanbul 733 kms
North from Nevishir along quiet country roads until the outskirts of Ankara, Turkey's capital city. We skirt Ankara on the Motorway and head westwards. A short stop at the top of the Bolu Mountain pass and then back onto the motorway and into Istanbul for a well earned rest and some concentrated sightseeing.
Friday 10 October Rest day in Istanbul
Sightseeing and possible crew change point for those in the Touring Category.
Saturday 11 October Istanbul to Thessalonika 640 kms
The route follows the north shore of the Sea of Marmara to the Greek/Turkish border. To the south is the Peninsular of Gallipoli where so many ANZAC soldiers died in World War I. The route then follows the Adriatic coast through Kavala before taking a diversion north of the twin lakes of Volvi and Koronia to approach Thessalonika from the north-east. The view from the hotel and parc fermé takes in Mount Olympus across the sea.
Sunday 12 October Thessalonika to Kaména Voúrla 460 kms
A short burst down the National Road is the prelude to a morning spent in the foothills of Mount Olympus before descending on the 'flying' monasteries of Metéora and a break for lunch in Kalambáka. The afternoon sees the rally climb into the old Acropolis Rally's tough territory before descending to Lamia and the Plain of Thermoplyae and the night halt in Kaména Voúrla on the seaside overlooking Euboa.
Monday 13 October Kaména Voúrla to Patras 608 kms
An early start and another big mountain to climb. The route goes up the modern Bralos pass and then tackles the road over Mount Parnossos before descending to the Vale of Delphi. Ancient Thebes, Megara and Corinth lead to the Peloponnese and a spectacular run through the central mountains to Olympia and the site of the original Olympic Games in 776 BC. A main road then brings the rally to the port of Patras, once famous for its export of grapes, but now home to the modern Superfast ferries linking Greece to Italy.
Tuesday 14 October Ancona to Rimini 106 kms
One of the easier days since breakfast and lunch are taken on board the ferry and the only motoring is up the Adriatic coast to the night halt on Rimini's sea front looking out over the Adriatic.
Wednesday 15 October Rimini to Riva del Garda 451 kms
The day starts by heading into the hills and passing through the tiny Republic of San Marino. It then descends to the southern edge of the vast Po valley and heads off to a lunchtime break at the home of Ferrari in Maranello. The afternoon sees it heading north across the River Po near Mantua and then up the western side of Lake Garda to the night halt at its northern tip in Riva del Garda.
Thursday 16 October Riva del Garda to Uberlinden 447 kms
A day of Alps starting with the Italian variety around Bolzano, moving on over the Passo di Resia to the Austrian version in the Arlberg and through the very up-market ski resort of Lech, and finally to the German side of Lake Constance and a night halt looking over to the Swiss Alps.
Friday 17 October Uberlinden to Reims 565 kms
A short run westwards to the Black Forest, a steep descent to Frieberg onto the flat plain of the Rhone Valley and the final border crossing into France. Riquewihr, a beautifully preserved medieval village in the Alsace wine region provides an ideal lunch halt before the final Voges mountain range. After the Col de Bonhomme it is downhill all the way to the heart of France's champagne country.
Saturday 18 October Reims to Paris 175 kms
A straight road and a short distance for a relaxing and a happy final day's run into Paris with the Final Control point in the Place de la Concorde.