Day 13 Saturday 14 July. Kargil - Mulbek 42km

Today was a good day all round. Alan seems to have improved, his thigh and knee not as painful and the antibiotics working on his toe. We covered around 42km rising from Kargil at a height of 2720m to Mulbek at 3307m. Our average speed is about 8km/hr. We left at 6.30am after Kashmiri bread and tomatoes. The road varied from some new asphalt to terribly rocky. Alan didn’t fall over and we just took our time. We are leaving the Moslem influences and entering Buddhist villages. We saw prayer flags strewn atop homes and Ladakhi women with turquoise jewellery walking from the fields. We turned off the Srinagar - Leh “highway” to our first monastery at Shergole. It was a steep climb of only a few kilometres. The monastery is perched way up on a hill where the soft rock has been dug out to produce cave-like rooms. There was no one else there and no information about the monastery so we just admired it at face value. It was a great place worth the detour. At the small village of Shergole we had 2 cups of chai and 4 boiled eggs each for lunch at the only tea shop.

After climbing up to the monastery and having some lunch we headed back on the road to Mulbek where there is a small monastery and a Buddha carved into the rock face. After making a donation and taking a photo we headed on to Mulbek. As we approached the small town there was a guesthouse that had a camping area out the back beneath apricot trees. A place to set up the tent and a cold shower cost us Rs 2 ($2) for the night.

We cooked up onions, tomatoes, lentils and rice from supplies I carried from Kargil. There were a few other foreign tourists staying in the guest house and another group of 4 on a camping tour where their tents were set up and locals cooked meals for them. We had a bit of a chat with the other tourists and asked about the condition of the road ahead. Alan is likely to fly home from Leh. He has been weighing up all the issues and this will be a serious option. It is a difficult decision. Personally I want to finish this whole trip together but Alan is doing it tough and conditions may get worse. The whole insurance claim is weighing heavy on him and there is pressure for him to get back to Australia.

I finished writing my journal entry at 7pm and we were ready to sleep after a big day even before the sun had set. The sky has been mostly cloudy not the classic cobalt blue that Ladakh is famous for and that I recall from when I was here with Keryn 30 years ago.