Day 11 Thursday 12 July. Tongal - Randum- Chandara 63km

I awoke before 5am and boiled water for tea with sugar for breakfast. We hoped to get a meal or snack at the village of Parkachik. The road continued to climb and wind up the valley and several times I turned to check to see where Alan was and watched helplessly as he fell over. It usually happened when a car passed by on the narrow road. Where did they expect us to go?

We arrived at Parkachik around 9am and there was a small tea shop setting up. We had milky tea, four boiled eggs each and a dry bread bun. Some boys and a few men gathered around as we sat on some rocks outside the shop. They enquired about Alan’s injuries and we explained the best we could. One young man spoke good English so we enquired about the road conditions ahead to Rangdum. He said the road gets even steeper and is in a worse condition that what we had already travelled. He also informed us that Randum is a nice town with a Buddhist monastery. This is the border between Moslem and Buddhist regions he explained. At Randum we would be able to buy petrol for our stove which was getting low.

We mounted our bikes and headed through the village and upwards. Shortly after snaking our way along the road a few kilometres two high peaks come into view, Kun at 7,087m and Nun at 7,135m. Apparently they are destinations for climbers in the Zanskar Valley. A little further on workers were blasting high above us on the mountainside next to the road. Men with red rags on sticks signalled for them to stop blasting while we cycled past.

I’m soon ahead of Alan and wait for him on a high bend in the road where I can see him approach from afar. I straddled my bike and headed back down the mountain. I waited around 1½ hours after which I sensed something may be wrong. I found Alan at the side of the road sitting with his bike. “A car clipped my pannier and I fell over again but I’ve twisted my leg in the frame. I have a buckled wheel and several broken spokes. The bastards wouldn’t stop, but they slowed down and saw me lying on the road. I picked up a rock and threw at them. They would have passed you an hour ago".

I trued the wheel the best I could but there wasn’t enough of the right size spokes. Alan has a swollen knee and thigh and blood is caked over his arm. Before I say too much he says “It’s not over till the fat lady sings.” I don’t know where that saying comes from but I looked around in vain for a fat lady to ask to sing. The wheel has a bad wobble and Alan is unable to peddle up these rocky hills. He suggested however that he would be able to peddle down hill back to Kargil. I’m amazed at his tenacity and help him back onto his bike and we continue back the way we had come.

We arrived back at Parkachik at 2pm after having breakfast at the same spot five hours ago. The men and boys came around again and listened with amazement as Alan told his story and showed his wounds. I put a compression bandage on his knee and thigh to try and reduce the swelling. We bought a few packets of noodles, two onions and a cup of rice. It was all the “shop” could spare. Back on our bikes and down hill was still not easy having to negotiate brick size rocks all over the road surface. Alan and his bike just keep going.

We stopped to camp at 4.30pm just before Chandra on a grassy flat by the river. All the major rivers are grey with sediment. We can’t wash clothes as they turn out disgusting. I’ve worn the same shirt for 11 days and washed it once in Kargil. As Alan says “We are becoming the same colour as the landscape, grey.” We are far away from villages so have a peaceful afternoon and night. We ate well.

My bike is holding up extremely well. There is no suspension so my hands and bum take a hiding with the vibration but as long as the bike holds together I will be happy. The Ortlieb panniers are very dust and water-proof however the system for attaching them to the racks is complex and poorly designed. On average European roads they would be fine but in India they are bouncing off. I have used a cord to fasten them more securely which is working OK. I have worked out a better design which I will implement when I get home. Our Schwalbe Marathon tyres are incredible. We have not had a single puncture and they look unworn. There are no thorns, glass or sharp wire which usually causes punctures. We are running them with high pressure to prevent punctures but the downside is a hard ride. Our stove (MSR Whisperlite) is great. At home I cook over a fire but most of our trip is above the tree line so we use the stove. One litre of unleaded petrol has lasted us over a week of camping. Tomorrow we should reach Kargil by lunch time. We are tucked up in our sleeping bags by 8pm before it is even dark.