The narrator and Tsetan took a short cut to get off the Changtang. This route would take them south-west, almost directly towards Mount Kailash. It involved crossing fairly high mountain passes. Tsetan said that there would be no problem if there was no snow. This short cut took them across vast plains having arid pastures. They saw a few gazelles and a great herd of wild asses. As hills came once again, they passed shepherds tending their flocks.
The narrator and Tsetan passed the dark tents of the nomads in lonely places. A huge black dog, a Tibetan mastiff would stand to guard outside. These dogs raised their big heads erect and watched the narrator’s car. As the car came closer they would start barking and ran towards their car. The dogs would stop barking only after chasing them off the property.
Then they entered a valley. The snow capped mountains were visible on the horizon. The river in this valley was wide and mostly blocked with ice. Gradually they gained height and the valley-sides closed in. They were climbing up the hill. The turns became sharper and the ride bumpier. Tsetan drove in third gear. The narrator felt the pressure building up in his ears. He held his nose, snorted and cleaned them. They were at 5,210 metres above sea level.
Tsetan grabbed handfuls of dirt and flung it across the icy top layer. Then he drove the car slowly and carefully on the icy surface. They continued to climb in the bright sunshine. They crept past 5,400 metres. The narrator’s head began to throb horribly. He took gulps from water bottle. Finally, they reached the top of the pass at 5,515 metres. The lower atmospheric pressure was allowing the fuel to expand. It could be dangerous. So, Tsetan advised them not to smoke.
As they moved down the other side of the pass, the narrator’s headache soon cleared. It was two o’clock. They stopped for lunch. By late afternoon, they had reached the small town of Hor. They were back on the main east-west highway. It followed the old trade route from Lhasa to Kashmir. Daniel got a ride in a truck to return to Lhasa. Tsetan got the punctured tyres repaired. The narrator found Hor a grim, miserable place with no vegetation.
They had tea in Hours only cafe. They left Hor after half an hour. They drove towards Mount Kailash. After 10.30 p.m. they drew up outside a guest house in Darchen. One of the narrator’s nostrils was blocked again. He was tired, hungry and gasping for breath. He could feel better when he sat up. He stayed awake all night. The following morning Tsetan took him to the Darchen medical college. The doctor felt the narrator’s pulse and gave him medicines for cold and exhaustion due to altitude. The narrator slept soundly at night after first full day’s course of medicines. When he recovered, Tsetan left him as he had to return to Lhasa.
Darchen had some simple general stores selling Chinese cigarettes, soap and supplies of food. Women washed their long hair in the icy water of a narrow brook near the guest house. There were no pilgrims. Darchen had only one cafe. He met Norbu there. He was a Tibetan but worked in Beijing at the Chinese Academy of Social Science, in the Institute of Ethnic Literature. He could speak English. He too, had come to do the Kora. Norbu was very fat. He found it very hard and tiresome to walk or go up. The narrator decided to make the trek in the company of Norbu, instead of waiting for the devout believers. They hired yaks to carry their luggage. Norbu said that he had no intention of prostrating himself all-round the mountain. It was not possible for him as his tummy was too big.