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Ali

Modern architecture in AliI stop short of town. It looks like a Salvador Dali picture, something is wrong with the composition. Here in the middle of this place not designed for humans, is a metropolis-sized city with tower blocks. It doesn't fit in. I drink two Cokes within a minute on arrival and quickly find a worn-out Chinese style hotel at the corner of the central crossing in town. The Japanese I share room with turns out to be a very enthusiastic amateur photographer, dragging 10 kg of camera gear (4 cameras). His concept is "I travel until I run out of films" and is a really nice guy and we have a long chat, before I tumble down to the PSB (police) at 9 in the night in the hope of being issued a travel permit, but the place is closed.

I try to find the public shower in the evening, but can't. Instead, I find it in the morning and use more than half an hour rubbing away three weeks of dirt, and repeat the process again in the evening. Someone knocks on the hotel room door, just after I arrive back in the hotel room, and a strange looking Chinese guy informs me to go directly to PSB in order to register myself. I am pretty amazed and cannot Improvised repair of front rack help feeling under some kind of surveillance the rest of the time I stay in town. The PSB headquarter is a huge building hidden behind small shops and I felt like Josef K. in Franz Kafka's "The Process" while walking through a long corridor, entering a place where my destiny is determined without my influence. I turns out not that bad, even though the Tibetan police officer is less than happy about my 5 months visa and mumbles "visa too long". Paying 350 yuan covers a fine for traveling in a forbidden place and a 50 yuan travel permit which nearly will take me to the Friendship Highway (Saga) in Central Tibet. I still got a naive hope that the gang of two are in town, especially after a truck driver told me I was one day behind, and I ask the officer if he knows of my two cyclist friends, but he don't know.

I begin to go through my belongings back at the hotel and pick out nearly 3 kg. of gear I won't need on the rest of the trip, including my SPD bicycle shoes. But one hour at the post office reveals that the place don't have any international package connections. I have become paranoid about carrying as little as possible and ask the Japanese if he can send it from Lhasa when (he according to plan) arrives there in two days by bus. He makes my day and I begin to search for an international call place, but soon run into an internet place with satellite link instead. The place, the only one in West Tibet is more than popular, less than 14 days old and I use the rest of the day surfing and mailing, while some 5-10 curious people are watching. Also Tibetan nomads come in and they cannot help staring with open mouth at technological evolution.

Prayer flages on the bridge crossing the Indus river in AliLater after eating with the Japanese, I help him carrying his (and my) luggage down to the bus pickup place, before I go to bed. The pains in my back are now gone and don't come back after changing the position of the handlebars. My sleep is interrupted by the Japanese who comes back after a few hours and talks for hours because the bus (of course) is delayed from Lhasa and first leaves late in the night.

I don't feel good the next day and put off the restart of the trip one day. Make a 8 yuan a minute call to Denmark, there everything seems ok and I am told that a Poste Restante letter waits at the post office. At the post office they tell me that I have to go a small branch in the other end of town, but at that place a newspaper-reading fat woman keeps repeating "post office closed" even though I beg her to find the letter for me. Man, China has for sure not entered a market economy status yet. Later, someone starts yelling in the corridor outside my room at the hotel and it sounds like some kind of a fight starts, but I have seen it before in China and probably just the usual non-dangerous fight about nothing, and I choose to stay in bed, not feeling good.

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