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Sleeping in a monastery
I take a shortcut out to the main road again on a bike weighed down with chocolate and other good stuff from the well-equipped stores in town. A long ride along a new road with concrete telephone poles brings me around the big plain up to a small hill. I bicycle up the hill to the entrance to old Zhongba and see a young Tibetan with baseball cap running down toward me from the impressive monastery on my right. I stop and he invites me in surpassingly good English inside the monastery to stay there for the night. I fell very honored and don't care about the last two hours of daylight in which, according to the catch-up plan, I should use for cycling. But what a splendid place to stay after receiving bad news.
The young monk tells me that there only are six monks attached to the place and four of them are on a pilgrimage at the moment. I step inside the living room where the fireplace is surrounded by 5 beds in the low colorful room, just as it starts to rain outside. Later a tall monk comes inside from the darkness, just finished with a day of work at the local monastery store selling everyday products in the nearby town. This older monk tells me about the Cultural Revolution which caused this place to be burned down to the ground, but now rebuilt again. He also tells how he has to sleep in a room next to the inner part of the monastery to prevent thieves from breaking in to steal small old Buddha figures from the beginning of the 1400 century when this place originally was built. To underline reality, he explains how they actually have been scaring thieves away on several occasions.
The two monks take me to the well-locked inner part of the monastery before I leave the next morning and a calm three-meters tall Buddha-statue awaits me inside, made just 5 years ago. They also show me the small Buddha-statues which a gallery owner from USA I meet in Kathmandu, searching for antiquities, estimates is worth $10,000s each. He claims he would never buy such things, but someone must to make it attractive to steal Buddha-statues, stealing the past of Tibet. I follow the older monk down to the city soon after and want to buy a package of instant noodles, but he gives it to me and insists I don't pay.
I start riding up a 4912 meters pass and am overtaken by a truck with a load of pilgrims waving their hands at the sight of the cyclist. A thunderstorm follows me into the small valley after the pass and I end up waiting it out after nearly being bitten by a mad dog at a road worker station, which didn't care about my stones. I reach Nuigu consisting of only two restaurant houses and I wonder why it is on a 1:2,000,000 scale map. They turn out to be funny people and I take some time off to show an old man my maps, and they give me three sausages for free before I leave for the wide road. The road is much better here in the area with roadworker houses, but doesn't prevent my back wheel from exploding 10 km. later. It's late and I choose to camp behind a stone wall near the road.
Three Tibetans by horse come to my place the next morning, just as I have finished packing and we end up following each other for nearly 3 kilometers while I study their Arabian looking horses and they study my bike from close range. I pass a bridge after some hours of cycling and suddenly run into three Han-Chinese by bike coming from the opposite direction. They have really bad bikes (one of them is one-geared) but have actually bicycled all the way from Lhasa and want to continue to Kashgar. Well, I like what they are trying to do, but having been through West Tibet, I don't believe a second their bikes will last all the way, despite all their enthusiasm. Their big advantage is speaking the language and they can always take a truck in case of problems. One kilometers of riding brings me to the last Han-Chinese, who's got problems with his chain. He tells me that the gang of two was in Saga this morning, the city I am heading for.
It begins to rain while I move my way toward Saga and I seek shelter in a Landcruiser tent for one hour, before I realize the rain won't stop. The Swiss tourist group explains to me about the situation in Nepal which I know nothing of, except the death of the king. I ride three long hours in heavy rain, while I find out the road is 10 kilometers shorter than in the notes and suddenly I find myself in Saga.
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