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The first pass
The next morning is a competition between Stephane and me, running for toilet matters and we wait to startup until the rain has stopped at 10 a.m. Erik offers to carry some of my gear, which he doesn't need to ask twice for, and also makes food for me, but I still cannot eat anything, a clear sign of altitude problems, but this is not dangerous as long as we move over the pass into lower altitude today. The day turns into a hell for me after passing a convoy of 50 army trucks, and while the gang of two actually can bicycle most of the way up the pass, I push the bike nearly the entire way. Several times comes the "why the hell are you doing this" thoughts while I slowly move up the switchboard road, thinking of the altitude adjustments Stephane and Erik have the advantage from their trip on the Karakoram highway. Alone on the top, I know from last time that all the efforts of the last many hours of pushing will be wasted on the 21 km steep downhill. A high-speed ride brings me to the bottom of the pass where Stephane has got problems with his wheel. After this short break we continue, but I soon have to give up hanging on. This is the last I see of Stephane and Erik before Mt. Kailash.
I stop for every half kilometer, exhausted and frustrated. By the time the sun starts disappearing from heaven, I haven't caught up with Erik and Stephane . I camp in the cold darkness and try to eat something, but still the complete lack of appetite.
I only make 32 km the next day, filled with breaks for toilet visits. I have started a course against Giardia, but it does not seem to work. The landscape is fantastic, but I cannot enjoy it and am about to run out of water at one stage, because the last I have, tastes so odd that I don't want to drink it. I wait instead till I arrive in a small village there I eat and stuck up with Jian Li Bao soft drinks, boiled eggs, instant noodles and more. Stay at the place for a couple of hours, reading the letter Erik left for me at the village restaurant, explaining they cannot wait for me because of their short visas and that they want to go for Mazar tonight, completely impossible for me. I am being ripped off in the village, but felt much better after I have begun to eat something. I meet an old shepherd hours later and by hand signs, he expresses his worries for my apparently insufficient clothing. I explain in the same way about my tent, sleeping bag, but he doesn't look convinced then I leave. He actually invited me to stay at his place, but how can I tell him I got giardia and don't want to drink butter tea and eat Tampa with the stomach I got. I leave with the knowledge of an experience lost forever, but don't care in my selfishness and depression. I camp one kilometer later next to a river behind a big stone.
I am very weak in the morning and become deeply depressed and angry, then giardia sends me a message of it's strength in my bicycle pants. I begin to fully understand my German friend Christoph who had the same problem most of our trip together on the Friendship Highway in central Tibet in 1998. This cannot go on - something radical has to be done NOW. Too tired to bike and push the bike nearly all the impressive 13km I accomplish during a day of deep thoughts of giving up the trip. Even "Enigma" music cannot change my sad state of mind. I find a find a campsite in shape of an old sheep yard with high stone walls - good place for resting before the impossible-looking 5.000 meters pass in front of me. I have to adjust to altitude, because becoming severely altitude sick being on my own could be fatal. Reading through my minimalist medicine book makes me decide to take a strong course of antibiotics against giardia. Throughout the afternoon, while eating snacks, I begin to break down the deep depressive mood I have been in for the last few days, splitting up my situation into each of the problems I got:
1) Giardia. I have begun to fight it with radical means and it will disappear soon 2) Altitude. I am for sure beginning to adapt. 3) The mighty pass in front of me - can be done tomorrow. The last one is about being on my own, but somehow I give a damn about that, because giving up now after attempting the same route in 1999 will really be a blow for years. Somehow my mind has turned 180 degrees before I fall asleep.
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