With no sign of wind Hugh opportunistically popped his head out of the tent to assess the weather, only to be faced with Duncan defecating a few feet away. With this rosy start to the day over we packed up and chomped a square of chocolate each before gently pedaling to the hut. This took a while and we first caught sight of a ratherinadequate shelter on the right and wondered if that was it but soon the main hut came into view and lived up to expectations in many ways. Many, but certainly not all. We engaged the hutwarden and enquired about the possibility of breakfast and were quoted 400k each - a bargain we thought. After ten minutes she came back to find us looking optimistic sat around a table. Something had obviously got lost in translation so we tried again, only to decipher thatfor 400k we could use the kitchen to cook our own food, no food was on sale and certainly wasn't about to be cooked for us. We rustled up some porridge followed by soup, water and coffee which ticked the important three food groups: energy, liquid and caffeine.
With a feed down us we left the hut having set ourselves a target for the day. The next hut was 55km away and we had booked four beds. To slow us down the first ford was deep and only a hundred metres from breakfast but we all made it across without dropping any bikes (and filled up our water bottles). After this the track did its best to make up for yesterdays grief, a back wind and some lovely sections of hard packed dirt without ridges to rob momentum. In fact a day to put a smile on your face at last. The fords became progressively wider but even they couldn't wipe the grins from our faces. One section particular sticks in my mind. An uphill section which had a sufficient back windthat I was having to brake at 18km/h to stop myself accelerating any more. If Heiniken did off road touring....
With so much right with the world karma insists that something bad should happen. It came in the form of me burying my front wheel in a patch of sand and having a bit of an off. No drama and I was back on and about to pedal off when I found myrear wheel seemed to have other ideas. In fact both lower bolts holding my pannier rack on had sheared off. This left most of the bolt still in my frame, rendering my spares somewhat useless. No amount of teasing could persuade them to drop out and soon wewere looking at all the bikes wondering what metal we could steal to fix things up. A couple of steel p-clips were found and Steve did a sterling job of mechanical wizardry fastening the pannier rack to the frame. This still left the rack very shaky so I transferred as much weight as possible to the front panniers. All this made for a terrible riding experience but it got us moving again.
The final ford of the day was easily the deepest and widest and had the surreal backdrop of a VW camper van parked up just shy of getting the wheels wet with a chap sat in a folding chair enjoying a paper. From here the hutwas close and other than Duncan trying to use his helmet as a geological hammer in one tumble we made it without incident. The wind had picked up and even opening the hut door was quite a struggle and with the sun rapidly loosing its strength weopted for an earlier rather than later approach to the outdoor hot pool. Soon we ran the ten metres to the pool, tied up our towels and jumped in. Hot we think was over-selling the temperature a touch. Perhaps luke-warm pools would have been more accurate but still good for washing cycling short 'in-situ'. This made getting out especially uninviting and we all made a dash for the sanctuary of the hut out of the biting wind. Duncan however decided to move through the tool kit and tried to saw the first wooden step with his shin. An impressive attempt which certainly left its mark. On Duncan sadly.
Once back in the hutit turned out we would be sharing our room with eight horse riders and big grins could hardly be suppressed when two hotdog honey candidates popped their heads round the corner. Sadly we never saw them again and they were replaced by the old, topless lady practising yoga. We had a big feed to keep us on our feet and took the opportunity to audit the food once again. Duncan looked a bit sheepish as he pulled out two as yet uncounted packets of Maryland cookies. We just about managed to persuade Steve to leave some for the following day. With food we also tasted our bottle of menthol liqueur and rapidly concluded that the sale of such drinks should be banned promptly. Having put my eye mask on for the evening and settled into my sleeping bag Steve almost started aruckus when he grabbed my feet but in fact the only thing to disturb a welcome night indoors was the fellow occupants mimicking their mount in the snoring department.