Day 22 Monday 23 July. Khardong - Leh 71km

What a night! Alan developed diarrhoea and vomiting during the night. He threw up in the tent (lucky it doesn’t have a floor) and we had to move the tent. We are camping at 5,000m and any sort of activity has you breathing heavily. Poor Alan. He is a wreck. He ended up sleeping OK only because he is so exhausted. In the morning he just passed water. Alan can’t squat due to his injuries so he had to bend over and just let fly.

We decided this was far enough and we just need to get back to Leh. I boiled several litres of water for the trip back over the pass. We had only ridden 500m back up the hill and Alan could go no further. At a convenient bend in the road we waited for a passing Tata truck heading back to Leh for a lift. I hailed down the first truck that looked empty. The driver didn’t speak any English (we didn’t expect him to) so through gestures he was happy to throw Alan’s bike in the back and have Alan share the cabin. I cycled on and we agreed to meet back in Leh at our guest house.

A few hours later I arrived at Pollin where Alan was sitting at a table outside a tea shop. The road is so dangerous they only let traffic travel one direction. Alan’s truck had to wait till 1pm to allow on coming traffic to pass. The road is just too narrow to allow two trucks to pass. The officials allowed me to take the risk on my bike and cycle into on coming traffic.

After 50km of rough road heading up and over the pass I was on sealed road, a real luxury, and coasted down hill for an hour and the remaining 25km to Leh. I arrived back at Tara Guest house and booked in. Alan hadn’t arrived so I cycled back into town to wait for him at a strategically located café. It was only a couple of hours later when Alan cruised into Leh. Already at the lower altitude and after a good rest we both feel better. After a shower, shave and clean up we returned to town this time on foot and had a simple tea. We walked home in the dark under a half moon and watched Scorpius rise majestically in the east. I was having trouble with the water filter but after cleaning the filter stone and greasing the O-rings with papaya Vaseline cream I managed to get it working again.

In town we also found some Yos - traditional puffed barley. So much has changed in Leh in the 30 years since Keryn and I were here last. We only stayed two days and I had severe altitude sickness and had to descend by bus. The only way to Leh was a daily bus from Srinagar, not from Manali. Now there are 4WD taxis, rented motor bikes and private vehicles. In the morning he just passed water. I met someone who has been here for over 30 years and he recalls that there was only four guest houses and not the 500 or so now, and there was much less traffic and tourists.