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Depression in a landcruiser
The middle-aged Japanese I share room with has got big difficulties finding a truck heading to Lake Manasorovar and is filled with frustrations when I leave town. I immediately run into a walking middle-aged Frenchman, who claims I met him between Ali and Kashgar, but I cannot remember him. The first 6 kilometers of cycling after Darchen is a cobweb of small river crossings, exactly big enough to make it necessary to use sandals. A quick ride brings me to a turn off to Purang, marked with a checkpoint. I become a little surprised in the next village, where another checkpoint awaits and I end up talking with 5 young landcruiser girls for 20 minutes before bureaucracy is over and I am a lot more clear as to where the gang of two are. More important: the ferry over the Tsangpo river at the shortcut to the Friendship Highway is still operating, but water on the rise will soon close it. One more incentive to go long and fast everyday. The next village, Horqu has everything a pilgrim from Nepal or India can adore, but is completely useless for cyclist searching for really good food. I don't like the commercial atmosphere in town and cycle a few kilometers up a pass after town and camp just out of sight of fabulous Lake Manasorovar, also one of the important places in Tibetan mythology.
The camp site is full of holes, made by cute rat-sized rodents, but they don't seem to like the taste of four season tents and leave my stuff unharmed throughout the night. Leave early at 8 and soon run into a depressive mood when the road turns from bad into completely impossible to cycle due to sand everywhere along the bank of a long lake I use half the day to pass around. I only remove my attention from the hard work the few times I pass a bridge over small rivers filled with fish, but I know they are near impossible to catch from a travelogue I read long time ago. This place is beyond civilization of any kind and I feel quite lonely making my way up the rising road, but I won't suffer in terms of food, because I carry supplies for three days on this deserted stretch. I cannot find a decent camp site and end up setting up my tent next to a bridge in an useless attempt to avoid the strong wind. When I later catch up the gang of two again near Nepal, they claim they saw foot prints from a Tibetan brown bear here near the lake, the chamber of food. I am ever so lucky not to know about this then I fall asleep.
Luck is with me when the stove brings me hot milk made by milk-powder without problems the next morning and I soon ride up a steep alley toward the 5215 meters Mayun pass, while gasping for air. Somehow the best way I manage the big passes is to take the struggle with them in the morning, and so I always try to camp just in front of them. A sharp descent brings me past nomad tent where a dog goes completely wild (not in happiness) by the sight of a Danish cyclist. A long ride brings me over a river, which could be the Tsangpo river ending up in a gigantic river delta in Bangladesh, where it unifies with the Bay of Bengal. Another convoy of landcruisers drives past me, but stops only one kilometer away just outside the nomad camps I am passing. It turns out to be the Germans from Kailash and they actually did the kora even though the mother didn't look too good at the time I met them. I end up eating everything they have including marmalade and delicious biscuits. Feel like I run into a small miracle here at the end of the world. I end up camping in a small sheep yard on the edge of a formidable sublime plain stretching from the mountain chain behind me to the one in the horizon, marking the border to Nepal.
Not a breeze as I use most of the morning to cycle across the grassy sandy plain with small rivers winding through the hot landscape with starring sheep. I reach a small forest of tents which without reason lays isolated around a small river. I eat and stock up with supplies as dark clouds overtake heaven; the monsoon is for sure fighting it's way across the holes in the Himalayan range of defense. Catastrophe strikes after four more kilometers of cycling. A spoke comes off and I fix it, just to realize I have punctured the inner tube in the process, while heavy raindrops hit me. Annoying, but also soon repaired and I put on the back wheel again and tighten the screw spanner. Without notice, it breaks off. My mind is completely empty while staring at the broken part I am holding in my hand. My first thought is "this is the end of your trip". I don't have such a spare part, have never heard about problems with such things and end up walking around the bike in heavy rain for half an hour in frustration, trying to find a solution, but cannot see any. This is the most depressing moment during the entire trip and it is difficult to control my feelings. I only see one chance - that Stephane , riding with nearly a whole extra bike in spare parts, has got one.
I flag down a group of landcruisers and end up breaking my holiest principle of all - cycling all the way, but try to convince myself that the breakdown is a valid reason. 60 too fast kilometers bring me to Paryang after passing a checkpoint a few kilometers before town at a bridge. This is too easy and I really hate it maybe because it's too comfortable. In town, I am told that the gang of two already have left as members of the tour group I drove with start a big discussion with the Nepalese guides, demanding to camp outside town. Sick of discussion, I soon find a room where I can feel miserable. I take another look at the inner screw and realize that it also has been bent on the middle, surely by bumps from the stony parts of the road. A closer inspection reveals a tiny platform on the remaining part near the end which broke off. I see the solution right away and search through my spare parts and somehow build-up a creative end including a spare gear wheel (gear pulley wheel). I am back in business! It never becomes the perfect solution, but it makes it possible to ride the bike again. I find a restaurant and write my diary while two curious kids watch Latin letters being mistreated by a bad handwriting. It rains again then I walk back to the guesthouse, the monsoon has for sure arrived.
I think another Kailash group has arrived in the morning, then I see a small man fully dressed up in GoreTex gear, but it turns out to be a Taiwanese businessman attempting to cycle across West Tibet the opposite way of me. He is really friendly, but it turns out the "bastard" got a magic stamp from the Chinese authorities allowing him to cycle wherever he wants in Tibet. I would give half a leg for such a stamp, but he only got it because Taiwan is considered part of mainland China. An old worn-out Tibetan man speaking a few phrases of English later leads me to a small Chinese restaurant and the two young Chinese girls don't know what do with themselves at my appearance. The place quickly becomes crowded while I eat a bowl of more than spicy instant noodles, everyone staring at the phenomenon.
I climb a 4777 meters pass just outside town, while a Tibetan on horseback struggles to keep in front of me and yaks on the road run in all directions. I am pretty amazed and then I run into 10 meters sand dunes next to the road on the downhill section, before I have to climb another pass in competition with a thunderstorm. I end up camping on a hill side near some shepherd houses, but they cannot see me in the deteriorating light while I eat a can of instant beans.
Everything is soaking wet in the morning, when through the open tent I see a small shepherd girl coming up toward me with a huge amount of bleating sheep. She seems shy at first, but soon curiosity takes over and she nearly crawls into my tent while I sit inside, packing down things into the panniers. Slowly the sound of bleating sheep disappears and she suddenly jumps up and runs some two kilometers to catch the sheep again, while I start biking. I reach what I first believe is a lake, but soon realize is the mighty Tsangpo river and follow it until I reach a huge moraine plateau. I continue in rain for two kilometers more before I realize I should have turned left at the entrance to the plain in order to make a visit to New Zhongba. It takes a long hour before I can eat at a good restaurant and stock up with supplies. A friendly Chinese in the restaurant makes it clear to me that international calls are possible from here and I kill two hours before the local China Telecom branch opens again in the afternoon.
The call to Denmark marks a total change in the purpose of the whole trip. Things are hot in Denmark. I am not only a student, but also own a small company renting out real estate and now has a leaseholder (illegally) broken a big contract and my old folks cannot rent it out again. Jesus man, reality cannot escape me even here in West Tibet. I think a lot about this during the next three - four days of cycling and I cannot see any meaning in continuing while things are blowing up at home. Besides, even when I catch up with the gang of two, it will only give me a few days together with them before they go to Kathmandu and I continue alone to East Tibet after a long east face trek on Mt. Everest which now seems completely unrealistic with a stove I cannot trust and a bad daypack. While this decision evolves, I promise myself at the same time that next summer will include a trip down through Northern Tibet from Golmud ending up at Kunming at the end of east Tibet, the planned destination of this trip. My goal has now become Kathmandu, tourist hell.
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