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The landscape slowly changes character, green colors replace brown and we start stripping off our clothing. We see trees for the first time in 1½ months and the rising temperature is made stronger by rising humidity. Stopping continuously to inhale different thicker air, to become used to sounds and suddenly find ourselves outside Nyalam, which is a problem because of its' checkpoint. Our travel permits are not valid after Saga and I make the gang of two just as paranoid as myself. But the checkpoint just after the bridge leading into town is deserted and we just lift our bikes over the thick chain across the road and soon find a guesthouse in the middle of town. It really makes my day when I find a public 10-yuan public shower, while the gang of two want to keep smelling until Kathmandu. But the best part of town is the local landcruiser restaurant, extremely expensive but we have not had proper food for a long time. I cannot help cycling like a mad man over the small pass just outside town the next day, because I had a hellish time here three years ago on a cheap Chinese mountain bike I bought in Lhasa. Now on quite different gear, the riding is almost a pleasure. The surroundings are like a jungle when we reach Zhangmu, the Chinese border town a couple of hours later and here waits another checkpoint, for sure not deserted. We cycle to the place together and hand over our invalid travel permit to the officer in charge, and he study it for minutes while, more than excited, we wonder if we are about to pay a huge fine or just run into a lot of hassle, but nothing happens. We make our way down the two kilometers town lying on a mountainside, searching for a bank for changing money but end up using moneychangers, creating a chaos of people in the street.
The border crossing from China is just as easy as three years ago and the young beautiful Han-Chinese woman stamping and registering our passports on a computer expresses her admiration for what we accomplished, believing we have come from Lhasa. She also tells me that she talked with a Frenchman last year who did Kashgar -Shigatse - Zhangmu by bike, but I don't tell her we almost did the same. I feel sad as we wind our way down through the 8 km muddy no man's Land, leaving Tibet with the mountains and the ultimate silence, now awaiting traffic hell in Nepal. The Nepalese bureaucrats at the border are really rude and arrogant, very different from last time, and make small things problematic. I am happy to get out of the place as we check in at a guesthouse just next to the registration office. The lack of tourists, due to the Maoist situation in Nepal makes it easy to haggle down the room rate, and we soon enjoy the food in the restaurant beneath our rooms. But best of all is Carlsberg, the Danish beer which they have got and of cause the Snickers.
Nothing has happened in Kodari, while big changes have happened in Zhangmu, maybe a sign of the very different economic developments in both countries. Kodari is the same dirty muddy spot with rusty roofs as we leave town the next morning after kicking Stephane out of bed. We now strip down to nearly nothing and I still feel very hot in sandals and shorts, which is very practical for crossing a number of small rivers coming down the mountain walls. A long ride on a bad road brings us to real asphalt road for the first time since Yeching, some 2068 kilometers ago. We reach a bridge marking the lowest point on the Kashgar - Kathmandu route and a long climb awaits before the end of the trip for me. Monsoon rain hits us as we make our way up it, making us completely wet, but feeling somehow pleasant due to the high temperature.
My mood quickly deteriorates as I realize we are about to repeat the hell climb in darkness same as the last time. Hordes of mosquitoes held a party on my back while I dragged my damn Chinese bike up this pass at night time. We end up asking the price for staying at a glamorous hotel that was out of the question last time, but the situation has changed radically because of the missing tourists. We get a room with shower for $1.50 each, next to nothing for such a place. It turns out we are the only tourists at the place and we eat alone at the restaurant, before a long well-deserved sleep.
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