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Losing contact - again
I am wild as a lion the next morning, not only couldn't I sleep much because the Chinese owners partied most of the night, but also because I am in for some real cycling action. We are today going to cycle this road like it never has been done before. Well, at least that's my opinion. We follow each other for some kilometers until I lose contact with Mura while riding like hell. I find a bicycle rhythm which keeps me going on for hours without stopping, and am suddenly halfway up a pass I considered impossible to reach this day. I want to wait out Mura to come, but cannot see him below. A landcruiser group stops and a French seismologist explains that Mura is some 30 km behind. 30 km!! Loads of thoughts fly across my mind as they leave again. I feel treacherous if I continue on my own, but this simply cannot continue if I want to be across Tibet and home again before mid September, only 2½ months from now. I have to continue on my own and feel like doing what the gang of two did to me as I continue over the pass, bicycling until darkness falls.
I eat plentiful in the morning as I simply was too tired to eat last night. The road is the worst I have experienced yet - big stones everywhere. A roadworker tells me that the gang of two only is two days ahead, making me begin a catch-up race which lasts until Mt. Kailash. Strong side wind makes the ride anything but pleasant while I try to pup up my mood by listening to music. Dark shadows followed by heavy rain makes me only think of reaching the next city, Dohongliutan. A group of truck drivers offer me all the tea I can drink and while I cycle again I come to think of the incredible Swedish explorer Sven Hedin, who walked through this place less than some 100 years ago. He would be shocked if he saw the place today. Broken glass bottles lying along the road, the missing wildlife because of hunting, the depressing truck stops along the road, and military music blaring through some towns. West China is changing like everywhere else.
The ride goes smoothly the next day after stocking up on supplies and a long undisturbed sleep in Dohongliutan. Ahead waits Aksai Chin, the area China occupied and built this road through without India discovering it, before it was built and it ended up in a war between the two countries in 1962, which China won. I have to cycle over a 5200 meters pass, before entering this notorious high-altitude area and leaving the lazy moraine tongues hanging down from the mountainsides brings me into a steep road section. The kilometer stones which have been following me for each kilometer until now, suddenly change into 5 km stones. Inspecting the front rack during a short rest gives me a shock - it is broken in several more places and I use some time to make some bad repair on it. The rear rack of steel, on the other hand, seems to withstand anything on. The clouds become really dark as slow trucks pass me and cold rain starts just as I pass a broken truck. A young Uigur yells after me and I end up sleeping in the truck cabin. The guy explains, using my phrasebook, that he has been sitting here for three days, waiting his father to come back from Ali with space parts. He also explains that I shouldn't sleep outside in Aksai Chin because of meat-eating animals. At first I get the impression that he is talking about the Yeti, but it soon becomes clear to me that he refer to wolves. I don't really take this seriously until I later meet an English-speaking officer who claims the threat is real.
I continue up the pass the next morning, while dark clouds gather in front of me and have to make a standstill a few kilometers before the pass itself because of thunder and intense rain. This does not, however, make the soldiers working nearby come down from the telephone poles they are adding a new line to. Disciplined they must be! The head wind is immense and I have to push the bike up the pass. Suddenly curious soldiers surround the strange cyclist and I even get a photo of the event. Walking over the windy pass brings me into the immense Aksai Chin area, the most wild, deserted, barren infertile landscape I ever have seen - it looks like being on the moon.
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