Day 8 Monday 9 July. Kargil

Alan has more injuries and disabilities resulting from being hit by a car while cycling in WA than I had first realised. Three years ago an employee hit him at 100km/hr on the road as he cycled home from work. Three years of rehabilitation and numerous operations has left Alan with a week right leg; tendon and muscle damage; a dropped right foot and a hamstring that barely functions. He walks with a stick and not that gracefully. His foot drops and he cannot walk on his heal or lift his toes towards his knee. Alan’s shoulder is also weak and damaged after being severely dislocated. At the airport I was shocked to tell the truth. We had communicated via email and on the phone. Alan would tell me about his injuries but I really didn’t fully understand. proposal. I would say to him that only he knows if he is capable of our proposal.

The Kargil Hospital is opposite our hotel and the street is lined with medical centres and doctors surgeries. Alan plans to see a doctor about his big toe tomorrow morning. He has to wear clip in cycling shoes to keep his foot on the pedal, but his toes have a clawing action leading to pressure, especially on the big toe. This is something Alan has been managing for the past three years but he is worried he will now lose the big toe.

Alan takes off his shoe and I am almost sick. There is a huge ulcer below and the toe is twice the normal size. I cannot understand how he has come this far. There is no feeling in the toe which is good and bad. Alan has incredible determination and despite his condition keeps a great sense of humour. We wait outside the surgery with other patients among the rubbish and unswept concrete floor. We both go in. The doctor is horrified wondering what on earth Alan is doing. He recommends Alan go home. Alan wants to go on and asks for antibiotics and a clean out of the ulcerated wound. Alan returns in the afternoon for treatment.

I tried to find an ATM but failed to get any money out of the machine. managed to get $100 of Rupees. I tried later but only I brought $2500 in cash but no one is interested in changing money not even the bank. People here are so poor I can’t imagine them saving $US to travel overseas. We find an internet café and email home. There are numerous blackouts throughout the day and night when the ATMs, internet and charging the camera batteries come to a stop. dried apricots for the next leg of our journey. is pressure on his toe. I used the time to shop for fruit, bread, noodles, tea, lentils and I studied Alan’s shoe and can see why there I decided to go and buy a hacksaw blade and get to work cutting the sole away from Alan’s shoe where his big toe is rubbing. We are optimistic as his toe now dangles freely. The doctor has cleaned the toe and dressed it. We plan a six day side trip through the Zanskar Range following the Suru River toward Rangdum where there is a Buddhist monastery. It is a secondary road so we expect the conditions to be even worse than the road so far. We will return to Kargil to see the doctor in a week’s time. This will give Alan a chance to test himself for the rest of the trip up to Leh and beyond.

We went back into town to have a feed from the food stalls setting up on the side of the streets. We bought boiled eggs, lamb mommos, tea and noodles. It is not a tourist town with western cafes and I also took the opportunity and walked into a barber shop for a haircut Rs 30 (60 cents). The barber was pleased to see me and we talked about life in Kargil and Australia. We like Kargil. People are friendly and seem genuine. No one gawks at us. tourist shops. We quickly learn to say “Salam-alaykum” (Peace be upon you), “wa alaykum salam”(and peace be with you) and “koodah hafis” (God be with you). We use these phrases extensively at every opportunity with gusto and receive a great response.