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This city must be the biggest in West Tibet after Ali and lies on an intersection of a shortcut to Nepal and the main road to Central Tibet. I find a landcruiser guesthouse and a Nepalese guide helps me haggling down the room price before he gives me Nepalese style food for free from their own supplies. I eat it while watching television in the "reception", the owner's living room. It turns out that Tibet now has three channels transmitted from Lhasa, nearly as much as Denmark! Tibet is indeed changing and the guide also claims I won't recognize the Lhasa I visited three years ago before cycling the Friendship Highway to Nepal.
I stock up with supplies for the next three days cycling in wilderness on the shortcut to Nepal the next morning including the usual 8-10 boiled eggs. I make a visit to the Bank of China before leaving town, being low on money, but they don't have a clue of what a traveler's check is and my Visa card just makes them laugh. I cycle down to the ferry and it turns out my long worries of whether it had closed or not, was quite in question by the sight of a very high water level, more than half a meter higher than the loading platform. It will for sure only be a matter of a few days before water level is too high due to all the rain in the area. The ferry staff don't charge me for the crossing and even bring the bike up and down from the ferry and I am suddenly on the right side of the river. I ride up a valley that brings me past a village which has fully adapted to the stream of landcruisers and people beg for anything, something completely uncommon further west. That is the problem of tourism - people around here have been living selfsufficient for generations unaware of their low level of material living. Suddenly rich people begin to travel the area and hand out money if asked, turning nomads into beggars. Hmm. Maybe I did the same at Kailash.
I ride over an easy pass and run into the hardest rain on the entire tour in the valley below. I sit down and watch the rain throwing mud half a meter into the air turning the colors into brown. It suddenly stops and I start pushing the bike up a severe steep pass, which must have been created by the devil himself. The road is completely washed out and consists of big stones and I even reach a landcruiser which was on the ferry - I am not the only one with problems. I cycle around a lake I first think is Pelku Tso, but it is too small. There are no telephone poles to guide me on bad road stretches, because the Chinese have digged the cable down! A strong tailwind hits me as the road turns east and I use most of my clothes to keep the cold out as I ride until I cannot see any more. I must have been doing some serious catching up on the gang of two now, because it has been a really long and tough day since a landcruiser just after the ferry told me that I was some 30 km behind. I set up the tent in darkness and eat half a kilo of canned meat, too tired to start a fight against the stove.
A landcruiser stops just in front of me as I begin to cycle early the next morning. I come up with the usual story of cycling across West Tibet but this time I impress the landcruiser women so much that they end up handing over Power Bars to me, a gift from heaven. I ask them (as usual) to tell the gang of two that they should shake in their pants because I am about to catch them. It is however unnecessary because just after crossing a pass, followed by a high speed ride in a gorge leading down to Pelko Tso, I find them in the camera lens a couple of kilometers away. I rush down to them and a film-like reunion occurs again. It turns out they camped only 8 kilometers in front of me last night.
Their trip has now turned into a leisure cruise after they have crossed the river, eliminating any possible visa problems. Erik's rim is falling apart which makes it necessary to slow down on the forthcoming section until we reach the asphalt in Nepal. The 8000 meter peak, Shishapangma on the border to Nepal to our right, keeps all monsoon clouds effectively away the rest of the day until we set up an early camp next to a small brook. The gang of two have developed a sophisticated routine of splitting up the camp tasks while I was missing, but it ends up in a chaotic rice cooking anyway and they wait in the cold wind for more than one hour before their food is finished. I am too lazy for this and cook noodles in the apsis of my tent while resting in my sleeping bag and soon go to sleep.
I am impressed by Erik, already walking around next to my tent at sunrise the next morning and I yell "good morning" to him, but he must be in bad mood as he doesn't answer. It turns out to be a gang of yaks on the search for food in our camp. Cycling again brings us to a natural reserve center which at first scares me because it looks like a checkpoint. A look into the yard reveals a huge amount of sheep all around and one is the unlucky one to be picked out for dinner at the place. We leave the big plain just as a thunderstorm conquers the place and start cycling up a long steep shortcut to the Friendship Highway. It is different than the one described in our notes and this shortcut ends up between a double pass on the Friendship Highway instead of in front of it, saving us some 10 kilometers. Here a small Tibetan nomad girl follows me for more than one kilometer, begging for pens I don't have, but cannot make myself tell her to get lost. Stephane helps me, yelling at her to fuck off. That works.
The long downhill from the first pass of the double pass brings us to a populated place and we have to continue up the next one to find an undisturbed campsite. Erik and I stop for some small shopping, while Stephane begins to cycle his way up the windblown pass, and we end up trying to stop Stephane for more than one kilometer, yelling like madmen while cycling, because darkness is falling and we have found a campsite out of sight.
We climb the pass early the next morning before the wind becomes too strong and run directly into a traffic jam of landcruisers next to the prayer flags on the top. We soon choose to flee the tourist spot and start on the biggest road descend on earth, from 5120 to 640 meters, an incredible 139 kilometers from this pass, deep inside Nepal. I want to test my disk brakes for fun on a wild downhill shortcut and before I know it I see Stephane following me with ordinary brakes and he has wide open eyes when he is down from it. A headwind starts to become ever stronger and we end up doing hard cycling even though it's downhill. I realize one kilometer after passing a small city that we just passed the last opportunity for food for hours, when a tourist bus stops with screeching brakes in front of Stephane and me and a crowd of Taiwanese starts a wild photo session. Our price is chocolate, loads of bread, nuts and much more which really falls on a dry spot as we celebrate the catch with Erik moments later.
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