Our first night in the tent and the one word which sums it up best: cosy. With three people in there, particularly when one of those is Andy "thrash around in his sleep" Cross, it was snug. It turned out that the four season sleeping bags Steve and I were sporting were defiantly unrequired at such low altitude, adding to the cosy, roasted, feeling. I for one was glad to see the morning and fresh air having lost several pints overnight. The groups either side of us were obviously keener for the day than us, while we set about our breakfast experiment they were busy jumping on bikes and leading the way. For food we had soaked some oats in water overnight with the intention of adding a little hot water and milk powder for a quick to make but sumptuous breakfast to set us up for the day. Readers, don't try this at home. Please. After a long silence settled over us while we were chewing the concrete some joker had left in our pans we didn't need words to agree that we would have to try a different tactic tomorrow.
The day today started with a long slog up the Kamba
la pass, 23.5 km with a height gain of 1100m. In my diary I have
written "long hard slog" which sums it up nicely I feel - I haven't
changed my mind even with rose tinted glasses. Heading up the
switch backs I was pleased to be keeping pace with the back of the
supported groups. Putting people on the road in front of Andy "who
can I beat next" Cross is red rag to a bull stuff and he was soon
chasing them down like his life depended on it. Not being happy
with my sedate pace Steve "Mr Motivator" Wyatt showed his tender
side once again and wrote me a message in the road. It occurs to me
that while all the tourists in land cruisers passing me cheered and
waved my "friend" could only think to write:
"Come on Colin you gay boy"
as his form of supportive encouragement. Much more useful was Andy, once again having to stop to fix yet another flat tyre.
One occasion I caught up with the others where a supported group had pulled up their van and were having a bit of a feed. One member of the Red Spokes crew offered me a banana but I thought it a bit rude to take their supplies with their leader knowing it was being given away so I politely declined. As we pulled away Andy and Steve took the time to tell me that she was in fact the leader and yes, the bananas had tasted very good.
Five hours and we made it to the top of the pass. The supported groups were turning around and heading back the way they had come up, the road ahead was closed to vehicles so we waved them off and prepared to continue. Before heading off Andy "fearless" Cross decided to show Steve "still scared of dogs" Wyatt that the furry muts weren't as bad as they looked and with a similar manner to which he had approached the child the day before tried to make friends with one of the beasts. It must have worked because he still has his fingers although we remained to be convinced by the animals better nature, perhaps this one was just lazy. We spotted a house a few hundred meters done the road, out the wind with a great view of the lake, so we headed their for a break. I'm still not sure if they owner of the house intends to sell food to passing tourists but the three of us pointing at our mouths, and then at his pots of noodles in his cupboard got the message across and we were soon happily eating in his kitchen.
Food eaten, small child played with, money paid we were off. A small rise out of the drive separated us from a 5km downhill section, but that nearly did for my legs having felt them stiffen up nicely. The downhill over we were tracking around the edge of the Scorpion lake - a place of great significance for the Tibetans, which must be why the Chinese are draining it as quickly as they can - but we soon stopped for a power nap in the sun. Andy Cross had hit a bit of wall called altitude sickness so we plodded on for a bit and found a campsite next to the lake and laid him out to sleep. Meanwhile Steve was discovering more holes in his thermarest and set about fixing them, the first task of which is to find the pesky things and after a short time we concluded that the last time this bit of equipment had seem any action was on a bed of nails. Such activities were suspended when we heard the rumble of thunder coming over the hill and we spotted quite a storm brewing at the top of the valley. With everything stowed away and Andy still groaning in bed we dived in and got an early night