At last, our first day on the trail started firmly off the trail. My favorite faff was Steve having to post his stove home as he packed it accidentally and without the fuel bottle was a waste of a kilo in the bags. Other items on the agenda included food shopping, Andy fixing the puncture he got on the way to the post office, buying some more eye wear for me and having a last blast on the internet assuring everyone that we were fine. On the way out of the hotel Andy 'problem child' Cross demonstrated again why he should never go on holiday alone by leaving our remaining stove in the room, only for the cleaning lady to chase us asking if it was important. Only if we wanted to eat for the next few weeks; we count that as a yes readers.
Our jobs wrapped up and lunchtime postponed until we had actually biked somewhere we set out. Sadly it would seem that this epic journey was to start on a not very epic, but busy, road to the airport, which while flat more than lost that slender advantage with the weight of traffic vying for the same bit of tarmac as us. While progress was finally being made Andy still did his best to slow us down, yet another puncture incident as we were pulling away from our lunch spot. A note on our collective choice of tyres. While Steve and myself had invested the weight to bring some heavy duty tyres that only a javelin thrown by Zeus himself count compromise, Andy had sided with light-weight, thin as paper, excuses for rubber. This was the fourth puncture in three days and our stocks of patches, once thought over-estimated, started to look inadequate. The occasion of the fifth puncture was greeted with massive disappointed by Steve and myself as we had to let go of a truck dragging us along at about 35km/hr.
With the tyre fixed Andy and I had the job of catching up with Steve who had forged ahead in the break, a task made much easier by a tractor pulling a trailer obscenely overloaded with bales of hay. As such it made for either air resistance free biking or simply a tow depending on how purist we were feeling. This we managed for a few kilometers and the only potential mishap came when we all stopped for some traffic and the tractor, not being able to see the parasites behind, started to reverse leaving us to scatter out the way.
Good progress was being made and we felt we deserved a drink and a bite to eat so we stopped at a likely looking shop in little village. After wondering around it trying to rustle up an owner for a while, having considered serving ourselves and leaving money but, as ever, nothing had a price on it, we were served by the lady of the house who invited us into their living room to enjoy our snacks. I say living room, not in the sense that we know it but more in the sense that this was the only room they lived in: the ultimate studio flat if you like. We tried our four words of Tibetan and she gamely nodded and smiled during the lulls in conversation. On the way out, Andy spotted a small child and felt the need to try his luck in saying hello. What she though of this tall, Lycra clad freak holding his hand out and grinning like a paedophile I've no idea but it seemed that we didn't have much luck with the communication there either. On the subject of kids, we had experienced a range of reactions from the local little tykes as we biked past. Mostly lots of kids running out to say hello and slap the hand of the biker as we swept past, the odd rebel would try to grab your hand and pull you off the bike. The odd stone was thrown but fortunately with an atrocious aim and one terror took a fancy to Steve and instinctively dropped his trousers. Interesting times.
We made it to the area where we intended to camp and it soon
became obvious exactly where the best spot was. Obvious because two
groups of supported bikers had beaten us there and we were greeted
with the site of two camps of a dozen tents or so. These groups
were doing the same route as us for the most part but had several
1. All their kit was in a truck which followed them
2. They could get in the truck when they were tired
3. Someone put up their tents
4. Their tents were big enough for the occupants
5. Someone cooked their meals
6. They had three meals a day
These minor details aside we were all in the same boat. In actual fact we saw these guys throughout our trip and they gave Andy something to race on the days they were ahead so I should introduce them a little more formally. One group was a UK outfit called Red Spokes and we will refer to this bunch as 'the Red spokes crew'. The other group were being led by a crazy Nepal guy who seemed to be wearing a zebra Lycra outfit and since we never got the name of the company we will refer to these guys as 'not the Red spokes crew'. More about these chaps as we progress on the trail. Our evening meal wasn't as hearty as that being feasted upon either side of us but we had a good feed and an early night