A big earthquake had struck the region we were about to enter, luckily there were no fatalities, but the bad news for us was that a strategic bridge on the only road between the border and the rest of the country was badly damaged. The guides were unable to tell us much more than that before being hustled away by the guards. We pulled out our maps and tried to work out where on our route the problem lay and would we be able to get around it somehow.

Eventually the customs officials came back from their prolonged break, the bikes were “cleaned”, which involved lining the bikes up in a row and then a small van driving around them  with someone leaning out of the front window pathetically and ineffectually squirting an unknown liquid at them. Naturally there was a price to be paid for this cleaning process.

Forms to be completed, luggage to be x-rayed and then the bikes were moved to a customs compound while we awaited the van to be cleared. Much discussion had gone on about the bridge and whether we would be able to cross it with the bikes. Mark decided to go and check it out for himself, zooming off down the mountain on his bike. We waited, in the meantime pushing the van out of one compound and into another (it was still suffering from electrical problems) and then waiting a bit more.

Suddenly it was all hands on deck as we were informed that the customs post would be closing at 8pm – in just 10 minutes time. The bikes could be left in the compound but we needed to go now. It was a scramble to grab our things, and there was no sign of Mark to confirm if we could after all get the bikes across the bridge. We had to set off in a bus with several soldiers sat in the front and our bike gear, clothing and various other belongings hastily shoved into the luggage compartments.

Halfway down the mountain we came across Mark at a checkpoint with the news that there was no way a bike could cross the bridge. He joined us on the bus leaving his bike at the Army barracks. Sure enough, when we got to the bridge, we could see the damage for ourselves, we took our stuff across in relays scrambling over the broken girders. Our guides had done us proud and there was another bus waiting on the other side of the bridge to take us the final 150kms to our destination for the night. Our departure from the border post had been so hurried that it was only now that we were able to reflect that our bikes were going to be 200kms from us and inaccessible for anything between three and seven days according to the various estimates of the soldiers guarding the bridge.