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Encounter with the police
I start early the next morning, leave the ocean-sized lake and enter a big grassy plateau. Cycling in a half circle on the left side brings me to a gate at the top of a small hill. Below lays Rutog Xian, marked with an army of antennas. I can see a checkpoint at the beginning of the quite big town, but it looks deserted and the couple from Holland told me that according to their driver this wouldn't be a problem to pass. The naive cyclist enters town, makes his purchases at a well equipped store and takes a fast look at China Telecom, hoping for an international line, but apparently not possible. Outside again, while considering which restaurant to eat at, a small Han-Chinese man with glasses suddenly asks for my passport in bad English.
Shit! The guy is obviously a police man (PSB) in civilian clothing and several policemen in uniform quickly form a small crowd around me, while I desperate try to figure out how to get away. The best I manage to come up with is asking for a good restaurant. Sure, just across the street and instead of just handing back my passport, the crowd follows me inside the restaurant. Oh man, no good. I end up being interrogated during half an hour for my "travel pass", the best they find in the phrasebook they saw me using in the store. I play plain stupid and keep on pointing at my passport with a big smile even though it is ever so obvious a travel permit they want to inspect. I will first be able to obtain such one in Ali and have in effect been traveling illegally. My food is served and suddenly the crowd of policemen with glasses realize their own hunger and leave for a small room where they apparently are used to eat.
I swallow the delicious food like a cheetah with a lion approaching, grab my bike and hastily push it outside and ride like hell out of town, wondering for hours whether a landcruiser stocked with police will show up from behind. But nothing happens and I begin to relax. My biggest problem becomes whether I took the right road by turning left just outside town, but again I am lucky. I take a break near some nomad tents and quickly a crowd of curious people gather to inspect the bike and me. I end up pumping bicycle tires for three kinds in exchange for photographing them.
The valley narrows and the rising road becomes so stony in some parts, that riding is not possible. Thinking to hell with this, to hell with that, my mood quickly deteriorates. I want to cycle as long as possible today to shorten the distance I need to do tomorrow to reach Ali. This major city is one of the midway goals on the trip. I did the mistake of focusing on the whole 5100 km trip as one unity at the beginning of the trip, but while lying ill with giardia I realized by focusing only on the next small goal is it possible to accomplish the whole trip. Camp in darkness just before a small river, hoping water level drops by morning, but it rains throughout the night and the crossing becomes more difficult. Much worse is the condition of my back. Felt like being electrocuted when trying to change sleeping position and I begin to wonder whether I have to give up riding to prevent permanent damage in my back. Somehow the pains are gone in the morning but the problem is the same again at the end of the day. The damned stove again makes it impossible to cook breakfast and I leave hungry, thinking of all the food waiting in Ali at the end of the day. The sun burns down on the valley and the temperature must be more than 30° C while I slowly make my way toward food heaven. A small normal easy pass some 40 km before town becomes a nightmare as I drag the bike up. Drink my last water on the top, where some Tibetans try to load a truck on another truck for some reason. The downhill is very sandy and suddenly a spoke breaks. Jesus Christ man - just too much, but it is soon fixed. I cycle the last 40 very sandy kilometers without water because I am to focused on Ali to stop for filtering water. I know for sure I am close, when I see a military convoy followed by a taxi with soldiers.
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