Day 21 Sunday 22 July. Khardong La - Khardong 39km

I’ve had better nights sleep. It’s the first time in years that I wished I had a sleeping mat as well as my ground sheet as the rocks dug into my body regardless of my position. At 4.30 am I rose and took the billy to collect water from a snow melt near the side of the road. Walking by the light of my headlamp I thought about what sort of day lay ahead. We were only 7 km from the pass so I expected to reach the top during the morning. Alan took nearly 4 hours to do the 7 km! It was like watching the movied about climbers struggling up Mt Everest, every step an agonizing effort. He fell into my arms as he reached the top.

Except to say “I have travelled over the highest road in the world” Khardong La pass is a disappointment. Yes there are splendid views similar to a lot of other parts in Ladakh but the location is marred by a military outpost, communications tower, a shitty tea shop that serves tea in plastic cups which were strewn all over the place. There is a diesel generating plant, black with grease and diesel impregnated soil. It’s a hole. The pass is probably very significant to Buddhists as there is a small gompa and dirty prayer flags flapping in the breeze. Tourists in 4WD jeeps arrived in dribs and drabs and when they saw our bikes wanted to talk and shake our hands. I don’t feel proud at all.

It’s a further 86 km to Hunder which was to be our destination in the Nubra Valley however I can’t see Alan making it there and back to Leh for his flight. We decided to continue and head down the valley but keeping cautious about how far we go. The road was horrendous and we made slow progress despite it being down hill. We stopped at a roadside tea house for fried noodles and vegetables but it was pretty filthy. Just before Khardong village we approached a lovely creek and grassy fields. It was a good place to camp and we were a long way from a town or other distractions so we had the place to ourselves.

There was no shade and it was still in the high 20's so we had to put up the tent for shelter. It was a good place to get some washing done and rest up. I boiled the billy and we drank mugs of black sweet tea while we lay back in the tent admiring the view of the mountains.

There was an unusual noise so I stuck my head out the door to see 100's of sheep and goats coming down the valley and some had reached our campsite. A couple of shepherds were coming up the rear. It was quite a spectacle and they moved on just as quick as they arrived.