An early start for us today with a long day planned with a big
pass between us and lunchtime. Amy and Dan were also putting in a
dawn start and had the same destination in mind for the evening.
Which is faster, hitching or biking? We were to find out soon
enough and it's not quite as clear cut as you would think. Our
breakfast tactic this morning, having moved on from porridge, was
some inadequate cup cakes. Thinking we would get a few km's in
before having anything more substantial we found someone to open up
the shutters on the hotel and set off. It soon became obvious that
all was not well in the Steve camp, an unusually sluggish start and
a moderate pace so laid back even I could keep up were the first
hints. It would seem that whatever had afflicted me the previous
day had been working on Steve's constitution overnight and came up
trumps. With the altitude also still playing it's part this led
Steve to comment:
"I'm beginning to think that you never feel a like million dollars on this trip, more like fifteen hundred quid" - Steve
and then promptly confessed to only feeling about 60 quid at that moment in time.
The road didn't waste much time before heading up the Karola pass, a climb of about 600 meters which at this time of morning was bloody cold, so there remained some incentive to keep moving aside from the large carrot of breakfast. It's fair to say that we were all struggling a bit to grind our way up this climb and so it was with much delight that the familiar sound a tractor started to chase us up the hill, one which we would hang on the back of for a couple of km's. Strictly speaking we should have felt a little guilty at cheating, and it was beginning to pray on our conscience, but it would have been a brave man to put that argument to Steve at this point. Finally we hauled ourselves to the top of the pass where we were greeted by a couple of locals who had spotted some stupid tourists to laugh at once again. While Andy was lining them up for a photo, and they were lining him up for a tip, Dan and Amy swept past in the front of a truck waving like they didn't want their arms attached anymore. With the photo taken we tried to leave but Andy was firmly accosted for some cash.
Heading down the other side of the pass was easy going. Until that is the tarmac ran out. It would seem that this is the reason that vehicles are banned, they are still laying the road. In theory what we had found was some dirt tracks devoid of vehicles - perfect. In practise we had forgotten about one small point, people building roads need materials. In this case they seemed to need an awful lot of material and this came in an awful lot of trucks. Each of which kicked up an awful lot of dust and they seemed to score extra points for driving as close to us as possible and finally they seemed in an awful hurry to get somewhere. Cue a fairly unpleasant ride. I donned my Biggles style of eye wear to try to keep the worst of it out of my eyes and ploughed on. After getting used to a stream of lorries thundering past in the opposite direction I was kept on my toes by two trucks overtaking hurtling towards me with, I assume, little thought to stop for a mere man on a bike. After I'd introduced myself to the ditch at the side of the road and calmed my heart rate down a bit we moved off.
With little to eat in reserve we were glad to find a small village for lunch, although it was touched with a hint of disappointment as we thought we had passed through this village about 20km ago, we still needed to get used to the scale of the map a bit. Sitting in the only shop we had a feast of what was on offer, which turned out to be little that you could eat off the shelf, so we chopped through some random bits and pieces. The owner of the shop seemed very interested in the compass on the top of my bag and I think he may have been trying to buy it but we couldn't understand a word of what he said, and when he wrote it down to help us out it didn't make it much clearer. Leaving the village we saw Amy and Dan walking down the road with their thumbs out, the last lift hadn't quite gone all the way. They seemed a little deflated to hear they still had 30km to go so walking wasn't going to help but gamely pushed on with crossed fingers.
Having developed a healthy hatred of large trucks we finally came across the point of it all, a gaggle of workers laying down the road. It's hard to tell what most locals think of bikers in such a remote place, but I can fairly safe to say that this bunch were sad to see us go; we were good value for entertainment. A truck was spraying the road, and between this and a JCB the road was blocked so we all pulled up smoothly behind it. All except Andy that is who mis-judged it and forgot to unclip his foot from his peddle. It can happen to anyone I'm told, but in front of an audience is not the ideal time to fall on ones arse. The first round of entertainment over we were looking for a way to sneak past the truck spraying. Handily it turned it's spray off and Steve took this for a sign that we were to squeeze past the narrow gap. Having shuffled forward the truck backed up a bit to close the gap and proceeded to spray the hapless Steve. I'm guessing that not much happens in the middle of nowhere so I like to think we were doing the charitable Laurel and Hardy act and providing some amusement; keep em laughing as you go as they say.
With that obstacle out the way we kept heading on and found some patches of tarmac which gave us a bit of speed. To make the downhills a bit more interesting we tried some coasting competitions. The rules are simple, start stationary together and your not allowed to peddle and first to the finish line. This makes the question of how much speed to take into a corner quite interesting, slow up and it's hard to regain the speed, too much has it's own obvious dangers. Needless to say that Andy "gravity racer" Cross generally came out on top. After these antics Andy, contrary to Steve's assertion early that day, summed up his general well being as about 900,000 pounds (a million dollars roughly) which was unfortunate timing as the bugs in his stomach were waiting for just such a foolish statement before striking. With Andy engaged in an emergency stop Steve commented that Andy must have his self-assessment all wrong because it looked more like he was overdrawn and talking to the loan sharks.
It was a long hard slog to Gyanste and we were all fairly tired by the time we rolled into town so we dumped our bags in a hostel and went out for evening meal number one. On the way out we bumped into Amy and Dan who it seemed had picked up another lift and made it here before us. Sustenance consumed we showered and changed at the hotel and set out for a much needed evening meal number two. Another early night seemed on the cards given our peak physical condition but this was offset by letting the other two have a go at recording the video diary. I regretted deleting Andy's first few attempts at summing up the day, having written it all out word for word it he still felt the need to stamp out any lingering spontaneity and so began a long hour of stop start recording. Eventually it was a wrap and we could hit the sack