It was cold when we went to bed and the situation report in the morning maintained the same outlook - the ice on the bikes giving it away first, shortly followed by the freezing trip to the facilities after. Keeping busy kept us warm and we thought we were hustling around an efficient campsite when halfway through breakfast the Whitehaven couple sailed past us; just what time do they get up in the morning! Still the one benefit of only just making it over the top the day before is that this morning we had a splendid downhill to look forward to. Being a bit off the beaten track we not only had the added excitement of not having any information from the guide book to lead us but also a lack of vehicles flashing past which made for a more wild abandon approach to the slope. This was soon to change. While trying to keep up with Andy 'catch me if you can' Cross and Steve 'bye' Wyatt I had the unusual experience of my back wheel slowly overtaking my front wheel. Friends, this is not a good place to go. With gravel liberally sprinkled on the track and a sharp corner being taken at speed I found the weight on my rear wheel just couldn't resist the race with the front and I couldn't seem to find any leverage to do anything about it. Except that is to plant my face on the floor; come to think about it that worked a treat. Having had a perfectly peaceful morning I had enough time to start the assessment of limbs and bike when I heard the roar of a 4x4 speeding around the corner, obviously also enjoying the relatively traffic free trail. Traffic free except for me laying in the middle of it. With sufficient motivation it's amazing when small knocks and bumps can be forgotten, trust me when I say I moved fast. The third 4x4 in the group even had the decency to stop and ask if I was OK which was a nice touch, unconvincingly I assured them that the blood on my leg was only for effect and I was fine. Limping on I caught up with the Andy 'where were ya?' Cross and Steve 'why the blood?' Wyatt.
With the trail leveling off we hit the tarmac road we had left a couple of days before to head up to Everest base camp. Turning left we could see a small town called Tingri in sight where we hoped to have our fill of Yak burgers and any other protein they could offer us. This proved to be little more than a gastric mirage but after being directed to a restaurant by the Whitehaven couple we eventually had very passable chips and pancakes. Food issues aside we had some choices to make. Our guide book mentioned a hostel in town we could crash at, or we could press on to some hot springs further down the road. I'm very glad to say that I think we chose the more entertaining choice.....
Pulling up to the hot springs we got a strong impression. One of desertion at first, but when we found someone, certainly one that they didn't have many Westerns coming to stay. So, not a word of English and it seemed to take a while to persuade them that we would actually like to stay in one of their many empty rooms and pay them cash for the experience. Perhaps they were rightly cautious about plans they had for later...but I get ahead of myself. Entering our room we noted the cute wallpaper which even extended to the ceiling when we couldn't help but also note the old fella who had come in after us to see what Westerners do in their rooms. A certain amount of stalemate developed while we watched him to see what he was going to do in our room as well, this was broken when he pulled out an envelope of unmarked white pills and offered them round. Not even Steve 'see no risk' Wyatt took him up on the offer. Once settled in the room we inspected the 'hot spring'. In reality a large concrete rectangle being fed warm water from what we could only hope was a natural source. Myself and Andy 'yippee' Cross were keen to get straight in, only to be doused in Steve 'normally fearless' Wyatt's concerns over the varieties of Botulism we could catch. Eventually the herd 'all in it together 3 musketters' spirit rekindled itself and we were soon splashing around. While we were enjoying the feeling of hot water and being the center of some local amusement, the latter point became clearer when during the daily video diary moment the chef started to chop the days vegetables in the hot water. It was hard not to mention such activity while bits of peel started to float past. Indeed this wasn't the only use of the multi-activity hot bath; we had seen the kettle being topped up and indeed the dishes being washed here also. Suddenly the herd instinct sided with Steve 'might I have been right?' Wyatt and we hopped out, only to try and join the local mentality and washed our clothes.
Washed and feeling weary we went to the common room for a couple of beers, poker and some passable food to fill up the energy tanks. Unknown to us I think we had stumbled on what counts for a good Saturday night out to the locals and as we went to bed we saw that numerous trackers, carts etc had pulled up to drop their owners off at the hot 'party' springs. It was probably a blessing that it was dark and we couldn't see the number of bodies already in the pool at this stage but lets just say that they sounded like they were have a raucous time. With our room right next to the pool we had a ring side ear to the occasion and it turns out that these guys know how to party, obviously the guy with the white pills hadn't found anything like our reluctance to take a chance. When the party seemed to be hitting it's heights a couple of giggling Tibetan lasses knocked on our door, in an effort to avoid any shot gun wedding scenario we all wisely decided to pretend the message had been lost in translation and dozed off, although I'd be surprised if the local population didn't show a spike 9 months from now