The German advised me to practice riding before he’d go with me to Lamayur. And so I set off for Basgo, perhaps 50 km west of Leh on a hired Royal Enfield. I’d made it through Leh’s constricting city gates and navigated the imperial-sided roundabout near the airport just outside of town, and set away west, opening the throttle along with the defensive horn, on the road that ran to Lamayuru, then Kargil, eventually following the contested perimeter of India to Dras and Sringagar far beyond. Queued behind military trucks, I’m reluctant to pass until they flinch and slow to a crawl up steep switchbacks. This is high altitude desert now, spaced away from the Indus with the spiny ridge of the Ladakh range trying to catch up far off the right-hand-side of a paved black ribbon. Easing back for the river now, the road turns tightly and winds down, then an accelerating straight: Suddenly the road turns sharply right and the several hundred meter drop down to the Indus opens up. A caricature of a highway, the road follows the gorge as it winds up, passes the confluence of the Indus and Zaskar, then descends for Nimmu. Then, I pass through Basgo, the site visible from the road but harder to reach. I ask a local standing along the roadway in a switchback about the approach; a bridge is out, but the river bed is shallow, I’m told. He takes me for a fool, I wonder; even across this river and up a rugged stretch, the narrow, unnatural line sloping up the adjacent hillside hardly looks a road.
It is not until late in October when I come back with the Austrian on hired bikes that we actually cross the river bed, and wind up the road to the monastery at Basgo without difficulty.