Day 12 Friday 13 July. Chandra - Kargil 50km

There was a brief shower in the night and a cloudy start to the morning. We had black tea and noodles for breakfast. Alan has a huge bruise on his knee and is having difficulty walking. We had about a 50km trip down the Suru Valley to get to Kargil. The advantage is we know the conditions and what to expect. We know the last 25km into Kargil is a beautiful smooth road. We stopped at Sankoo for mutton samosas without any mutton and have milky tea with cardamom. Alan and I love our tea. We took photos of ourselves with our bikes outside the shop. Four glasses of chai and 8 samosas Rs 100 ($2). When we hit the sealed road we were ecstatic, freewheeling and swerving all over the road.

Returning to Kargil is great. Shortly after we rolled into town a young man came up to me, shook my hand beaming. “Hello how are you? I saw you and your friend come back from Zanskar.” I couldn’t remember where I had befriended him but we chatted like old friends. Alan and I booked back into Paradise Hotel and were helped up all the stairs with our bikes to the rooftop room. There is something comforting about familiarity. People nodded in recognition as we passed them in the shops and on the streets. We know our way around so everything is easier the second time around.

We went to the internet café and caught up with everyone from home. Alan tried to organise for some new spokes to be sent from his bike shop in Thailand to Leh. It may take weeks. He has some uncommon flat spokes, the same type I have on my mountain bike back home. We have nothing to lose for trying.

Alan turned up at Dr Abdul Lilal’s surgery limping. He didn’t have to wait. After looking at Alan’s toe again he advised on an x-ray to see if the infection has spread into the bone and joint. We walked down the road and without having to wait had the x-ray taken then returned to the doctor. No infection in the joint which was good news. He dressed the gaping ulcerated wound and prescribed more drugs. We collected the prescriptions next door. The whole consultation, treatment and purchasing of drugs took about an hour. This was better service than I would expect in Sydney. No appointment, no waiting. While the buildings and rooms are filthy the quality of the service and expertise was excellent. I would have no hesitation trusting Abdul with major surgery, no problem.

We went out for street food and to buy some supplies. Alan had a shave for Rs 20 (40 cents). I did some clothes washing and am going to bed now while the camera is charging. Alan is contemplating flying home from Leh. If we get to Leh. One step at a time. He is under pressure from home from his big sister, Aisha, to come back to Australia. There is concern he will jeopardise the settlement of his legal case regarding his accident (no not an accident, an attempt at being murdered...while cycling!) if they know he is cycling about in the Himalayas. burden. It’s a heavy burden.

I managed to draw some money from the ATM while it was working. A group of young men were crowded around trying to get their own money out. They offered for me to go ahead of them but I politely refused not wanting to push in. The maximum withdrawal is Rs 10,000 (<$200). When it was my turn they all hovered over me explaining what I had to do as if I had never used an ATM before. Most people would not trust the situation. “Put your card there, now enter the amount, there, now your PIN, yes, look at all that money!! Quick put it all away.” They all shook my hand and were so pleased I got such good service and said goodbye. I love Kargil.