While packing up this morning we had a few 'helpers' from the local village; kids who were interested in the funny looking crazy people in tents. For the most part they picked things up for us and helped fold tents, generally being very helpful. Only when we made to leave did Steve "Who needs them anyway?" Wyatt realised that his gloves were missing and the prime suspects was among the group of 'Butter wouldn't melt their, even if it did come from a cow and not yak' kids now watching us. With about as much chance of recovering said swiped item as Neil Armstrong popping back for his wallet he left on the moon we moved on. Our one consolation was that one kid kept showing us a chunk of meat on a bone he would chew every now and then, declaring it to be chicken. Son, that didn't come from any chicken. Still I'm sure someone will tell me that in fact slightly rotting canine carcass is good for the immune system.
On paper today was a short day, 45km, which just goes to show how misleading paper can be. With plenty of dust from Land Cruisers and corrugated gravel all the way I summed it up in my diary as 'bloody hard work' and in case the reader didn't get the point I tried a different tactic 'slow slow going'. We set off with both supported groups and a hare and tortoise scenario was soon being played out; with the extra weight we were the tortoise. What probably also helped them was a sensible intake of calories at lunch, Steve "Starving" Wyatt was particularly vocal about how inadequate our lunch was turning out to be; stale bread, hard jam and a power bar. A more poetic man would say that we had a feast of views to sustain ourselves but I think Steve "Ultra pragmatic" Wyatt would have cut this down in a second.
We reached the Rongbuk monastery just before the end of my tether but it was a close call. With both supported groups camping at the monastery, as well as a small hut serving food and beer I assumed we had reached our destination and I had mentally got off my bike and drank the first beer when Steve "Masochist" Wyatt floated the idea of pushing on another few kilometers to a tent city we had read about in out Tibet "Fall for it one more time" guidebook. This was what I will diplomatically call a decision point. To me it seemed like a given that being absolutely beat, having found a place to campwith views of Everest which coincidentally has somewhere for hot food and a drink during what promises to be a cold evening; we should be pitching up. I'm told that the look on my face made that argument without the words coming out of my mouth but Andy "Can see sense either" Cross appeared to have been swayed with the push on option. I took a moment to check they weren't winding me up, I wasn't hallucinating before weighing up whether I should just throw my toys out the cot and refuse to go any further. Outvoted, and not really a toy throwing person, we moved on and I wistfully watched warmth and food disappear behind me.
After three kilometers we found that the Tibet "Outright liar" guidebook had put the best possible gloss on what turned out to be a ramshackle collection of tents which exist solely to fleece tourists who want to say they have camped at Everest base camp. Steve "Not so sure now" Wyatt and Andy "You tell him" Cross had a debate about who was going to tell Colin "flagging and fucked" Bolton that they thought we should head back to the nice little spot near the monastery. For food we had a choice of the nice Tibetan hut or a pink Chinese hotel and since we intended to have several meals we tried the pink palace first. The reception area was more like a scene from a hospital casualty, with people laying and sitting everywhere with oxygen masks covering their faces. A warning to anyone who gains altitude quickly - you will feel poorly and in extreme cases you can die. Still we felt very smug as most of the passengers in the Land Cruisers which had made a credible effort at running us off the road on the way up could only watch with envy as we bounded up the stairs still chatting away. Once in the hotel restaurant the smugness did take a bit of a dent as we realised that without a room they weren't going to serve us any food and we were soon heading back down the stairs declaring that we didn't want to eat there anyway, resisting the temptation to naughtily mention the rats in the kitchen to those who were already suffering. In the hotel there was a telescope for viewing Everest which we made copious use of before wondering off.
Back to the Tibetan hut we ate their entire menu, not hard as it only consisted of the normal noodles, egg fried rice and pancakes. We had a good evening chatting to a couple of fellow bikers who had biked from Denmark - making our trip seem quite short in comparison. I'm pleased to say that we made full use of the food and warmth on offer but eventually had to give in to weariness and head to bed. We had prepared for a very chilly night but in actual fact it wasn't so bad, a fact we tested with some rare midnight toilet trips - perhaps the last beer was one to many, for our bladders at least.