Wednesday 8th August – Day 1
We are up early, with a final pack of our bags and ready for gear weigh-in, which is to be a maximum of 5kg. Rob struggled with trying to figure out how to pack a fresh change of clothes for each day. His first weigh-in of his pack reads 6.5kg. The remainder of his morning is taken up by deciding what to take out. The other 3 all managed to get under the 5kg without too much problem.
Our group was given first choice of the horses for the start of the race, which provided absolutely no advantage at all. We would have had as much success as pulling numbers out of a hat. At this point for us it’s a complete lottery. Only male horses, stallions and geldings are ridden with the mares kept for milk and breeding.
As we move to the horses, each of the herders laugh at the height of Ed, with a combination of amusement and concern, each trying to convince him to take someone else’s horse.
We are all saddled and ready to ride without issue for the 4 of us. 15 minutes from the start time we are told there is a major problem with the satellites and our emergency beepers are not connecting, meaning we would be contactless in the event of an emergency, which the organisers deemed unsafe, so we are stranded at the start line, fully packed up, ready to ride without being able to depart home base.
We are told to get off our horses, unsaddle, and wait.
We are told of some further course changes because of more rain. The course is flooded in parts and there is another storm on the way. We have been given a cut off time of 4pm to depart today or the start is delayed until tomorrow. It’s disappointing but unavoidable.
We have lunch, watch more storms roll over, at which point we are glad to be inside and not on the horses. When the rain passes from over the top of us we are surrounded by hail and water running in full-stream down from the mountains down onto the open steppe in front of us, directly over the first part of the course. The mountains look like it has been snowing there is that much hail. The quantity of water running down has only increased the nerves. It is not lost on us that we have left the worst drought in over 100 years back home, only to be marooned by flash floods. The irony.
At 4pm the race is officially called off for the day as the satelites are yet to come back online. We are given a new scheduled start time for 6am tomorrow morning. As the stormed passed we were hopeful of a race start this afternoon but the satellite problem is unresolved, so we were left with no option. Home camp was largely packed up, so we are told to use our race sleeping equipment which meant unpacking it all again.
It provided Rob the first chance to test out his Aldi sleeping bag. Turns out that while Aldi offer fantastic discounts on household items, their adventure gear, whilst cheap, is anything but good value. Yet to start and after one night undercover Rob is almost being treated for mild hypothermia.
Henry also remembers that he absolutely despises sleeping in a sleeping bag and Jack was so happy with his packing job and the tightness of it on the saddle he refused to undo it, leaving him to sleep fully clothed on the supplied air mattress. We have discovered that Rob didn’t pack his sleeping mat due to the size of his sleeping bag and Jack didn’t bring a down jacket for warmth.