Borders and Breakdowns

Mark had been relieved to find that I hadn’t lost any of the riders whilst in charge and he once more took the reins. We had an early start, which included a chilly wash at the outside wash stand and a frosty tent for me to take down, reminiscent of my ride through Siberia. Breakfast was served in the yurt with the dung burner throwing out heat to warm us up.

We were told to expect the unexpected with the road to the border, local word was that it had been upgraded to a sort of tarmac effect for the first 80 miles but after that it was an unknown.

The mountains we rode past were perhaps the most beautiful we’d seen so far. I was tail-end Charlie and enjoying the leisurely pace, even more so when I came upon an unfortunate rider with a puncture, luckily for me, Mark had been riding mid-group and so had been first on the scene and was the one helping the rider. It was a particularly bleak and cold spot on an exposed stretch of gravel track with an icy wind howling. I offered my help and continued onwards to keep an eye on the rest of the team.

Looming ahead of us was the border for China, a country known for its love of bureaucracy. We were not to be disappointed- in all it took us 10 hours from arriving at the border to actually leaving the Customs compound on the other side.

I won’t go into the painful detail of our prolonged sojourn, matters were not helped by the fact that the Customs officials have a three hour lunch break at which point we were left in the deserted building on our own. I went out to have a look at what was beyond the exit door the yard at which point an armed guard was promptly assigned to us to prevent us wandering unchecked into their country. However, during my fleeting taste of freedom I was lucky enough to spot our erstwhile Chinese guides who had been frantically searching for us. They were allowed to briefly talk to us and had some bad news, an earthquake had struck north west China.