Day 14 Sunday July 15. Mulbek - Lamayuru 66km

It was a big day today as we had to cross two passes Namika La at 3,827m and Fotu La at 4,105m (the highest point between Srinagar and Leh). We rolled out of Mulbek camping area at 6.30am then cycled for 12 hours minus a couple of tea breaks. It was a long slow climb but not overly steep. Once I settled into a rhythm in the right gear I was able to make ascents without stopping. Alan did it tough but never gave up. It’s hard to ride at someone else’s pace so I would ride ahead and then wait for him to catch up, sometimes boiling the billy for tea or noodles so when Alan caught up there would be a snack for him. I stopped at a spot where I had a good view of the looping bends below so I could watch for him as he made his way up the mountain.

Both the passes had prayer flags suspended from a small stupa. However the Indian government had insensitively erected telecommunications towers there as well. There were not many tea stalls on the way today and it is always a gamble if you pass one there may not be another at the next town. In the end we had to resort to a couple of noodle packets to see us through the day.

Coming down the other side of the passes was a great downhill ride though the sections of road were under repair which meant we still had to ride fairly slowly. We coasted into the town of Lamayuru as the sun set creating a beautiful light on the monastery set high on the hill. We met a man who stopped us on our bikes and directed us to his home which a guest house in town. We promised to stop and have a look. We found the guest house and both agreed it was a great place. It is the type of place I had imagined we would stay in when I was in Australia. The host family are lovely and there are a few other tourists staying so it is a great atmosphere. It is Rs 500 ($10) for both of us with a huge room and double bed, lounge, breakfast and dinner included. So we can have a warm wash mama heats up a bucket of water and knocks at the door when it is ready.

Mama cooked up a big pot of traditional noodles and chicken and all the guests sat on large cushions in the main room around small low tables. The house is constructed from mud brick painted white with a flat roof. There are small timber windows and doors. We are tired and will get an early night as usual then explore the town tomorrow.