We made the most of the soft beds in the hotel today and slept in a bit, just in case we thought we had too much time in the day. The plan for breakfast in the hotel had a bit of a down turn when the waiter just kept saying 'no menu' - a sure indication that we had overslept. With packed bikes we went into town to see what breakfast choices we would have. If we were missing egg fired rice in our diet then we were in luck but we didn't find much else. Today was checkpoint day, we had two to negotiate and the paper for one was probably in order, the second certainly not. That said we have been buoyed by stories of other biker in a similar paperwork state to us who had no problem, time to wheel out the charming and innocent looks. The first checkpoint came round quickly, only 6km down the trail and looked like quite an official affair. We had been told in Shigatse that our TTP was out of date, but since we couldn't read we were unsure. The general consensus was that soldiers at the check point, despite indications to the contrary, probably could read. With a firmly brazen English man abroad attitude we strolling in and put all our passports on the table. It amused me that they had trouble deciphering which passport photo belonged to which face, leading me to believe that we all look the same to them. Still, no problems and we were waved out the office. No problems that is until Steve "Just one for the scrap book" Wyatt got his camera out to document our easy success and we were soon sent on our way; cue Innocent looks all round.
Only a few kilometers later we turned off the road towards Everest base camp. the camp is about 100km from the junction and we had been generous and given ourselves two days to get there. This might have seemed a bit of am over-estimation but the tarmac road soon gave way to a dry, gravel track. The most notable hindrance being the fact the with the traffic running over the surface it forms ripples like corrugated iron. This is seriously energy sapping stuff to pedal over and the game soon became hunt the flat patch of ground. As the realisation was dawning that the surface wasn't going to improve at all for the next 100km we came to the second check point. According to every guide book we had seen we needed an ATP to get past this one, something we certainly did not have. However, according to everyone we had met you could look suitably innocent and not like a protester in the making (I'd leave the free Tibet t-shirt in the bag) then you would have no problem. Thankfully our Tibet "Did he even leave the UK?" guidebook had it wrong and we sailed through without even a glance at anything other than our Everest region pass. Andy "No worries" Cross and Steve "Desperate" Wyatt were so confident that they even stopped to use the toilet while they were there. Further more Steve "Butter fingers" Wyatt gave them one final chance to turn us around by leaving his glove at the check point but all to no avail - we were heading to Everest.
The rest of the day was mainly spent slogging up 42 switch backs to the top of the Pang la pass. While getting increasingly frustrated with the amount of effort it was taking to haul our bikes up the pass Land Cruisers were whizzing by to show us just how easy they were finding it. Still we made it to the top eventually and relaxed on a viewing platform with our first proper views of Everest itself, still looking very distant. A couple of Land Cruisers had beaten us their and the occupants seemed more interested in taking photos of us than the view and we had a brief insight into the invasion of privacy the Paparazzi deal in. They were a little more concerned for our health than your average Pap however, and they gave us some food before leaving - had we really lost that much weight?
Huge uphills do have something to recommend them, and that is generally the downhill on the far side and this was to be a good specimen. Plenty of steep dirt track to play with, and Andy "Pig in shit" Cross was soon demonstrating the one foot down technique of negotiating gravel hair pin bends, meanwhile Steve "Trying to keep up with Andy" Wyatt was demonstrating the both knees down technique of falling off. Being the first on the scene I did what all good mates would have done - took a picture. With some twisting downhill not much wind to battle with the conditions were perfect for a few races. I nominated myself as cameraman for a couple and left Andy "Me competitive?" Cross and Steve "I'll die before you get past" Wyatt to show off their skills which ended in a one all draw.
At the base of valley we had worked up a hunger so headed into the only restaurant available. Alongside the normal dishes of rice and noodles was the tantalising chicken and we weren't going to turn down a chance to get some protein so ordered it with salivating anticipation. Now I know I'm not a butcher but even I was suspicious as to what animal this meat came from; if someone could point out the knuckle on a chicken I would be most relieved. Noting the lack of stray dogs outside we ate it anyway - real meat is something not to pass up around there, even Andy "Lean and mean" Cross's legs were looking like a good nibble at a push. We pushed on before camping next to a river and it was made quite easy to spot the popular spot to camp with both supported groups having set up next to each other and with the sun rapidly going down we decided we couldn't beat them.