The day has started bleakly – pouring rain and a falling temperature. Early start because we have 300kms of mud and gravel roads to cover before we get to the promised land – China! The pass is 3,572m so it’s going to get a lot colder.
Two hours in, first puncture. Brendan’s a puncture-fixing fella anyway so by the time the rest of us are back to him he’s got it virtually finished anyway. The Captain isn’t liking the river crossings too much so he opts to wait for the rest of us to divert to Tash Rabat, site of the 10th century Caravanserai which Marco Polo stopped over at.
Back on track and punctures 2 and 3 come simultaneously. Temperature down to 3 degrees now and riders feeling it as they stand about on puncture duty. If ever motivation was needed to get on the hand pump it wasn’t in these temps – quick way to warm up.
Trucks bounce by showering us with pothole puddle water, as they take scrap iron of ex Soviet factories over the Pass for melting down in China. Bits fall off them continually – hence the punctures. Occasionally one of the artics goes off the edge – we cheer. Funny how the road can turn you into a mean son of a b..
We hit the outermost gate of the China border. Only 120km now to the customs processing facility at the bottom of the mountains. But time’s against us – they shut soon. Off again, another puncture.
Dave’s bike – 2nd for him today. No more inner tubes, have to apply a patch on a patched one. Jo’s there with him – they use elephant glue and 100mph tape. Not too much faith in this.
Couple of drunk locals stop by supposedly to help, then start nicking the gear, Hard to hurry up, fix the tyre and keep the thieves at bay. Things getting ugly. Gareth arrives back from 40kms down the hill. Always one for a stoush he leaps into the fray, Dave is pleased to be able to get back to the job in hand and use his spanner on the bike rather than on a skull.
Racing on, the tyre is slowly deflating but believe it or not Dave gets it to the customs hall, down and just about out. Only to be told that there’s been a paperwork error and his bike will have to spend the night in the cooler anyway.
Good to be here though – tired, soaked and filthy. Our first taste of Chinese cooking confirmed it is made in heaven.
See the photo album.