Mulbekh is about 2 hours by bus from Kargil. I ended up on a bus that was going to Shargol, which meant that I would be dropped off at the turnoff 9km before Mulbekh. Ok. Sure. Hitchhiking in India is certainly not what I envisioned, considering the status of women in most of India, but here I was. In less than 20 minutes a Sikh man with a HUGE smile (see? What did I tell you about Sikhs??) stopped and helped me lift my bags in. He offered to take me all the way to Leh but I said I wanted to stay in Mulbekh and he said ok no problem. So I was dropped off right in front of Karzoo Guesthouse – which is directly below Mulbekh Gompa. These two Gompas are built on top of a cliff, that seems absolutely impossible to climb.
I meet the lovely family in the guesthouse, tell them I’m hungry, they say wait 30 minutes, and so I say ok and that I’ll go wander around for a few minutes. Which is when I run into Lennie. Total crazy coincidence, on a rainy day in Bharmour when Tashi and I were headed to our dhaba I ran into Lennie on the street with a German couple; they had just arrived and were looking for a place to stay so we gave them a few tips. Anyway, here he is again. He is headed to Shargol Gompa, and I say I would love to go if he doesn’t mind waiting for me to eat first. He agrees, and I head back up.
This guesthouse is like staying in some old-style Tibetan building (I guess it’s also considered Ladakhi, but my reference is Tibetan, apologies…) I have been put in the family room, I think, or guest dining room, which has beautiful Tibetan paintings on the walls, the beams, the carpets are colorful with dragons and Tibetan designs, and there are 5 low tables, perfect height for me to type on ; ) , all painted with that deep Tibetan red. It is a slice of heaven.
So is breakfast – 5 chapattis – 5!!!, an omelette, sautéed spinach and onions in a bit of soy sauce, and perfectly sweetened and milked chai. Yum. So totally refreshed and rejuvenated, I am finishing up my meal when I head Lennie coming up the path, saying there is a ride waiting for us. I gather my things and sprint down to the road, and I jump in the truck…which is driven by an elderly Sikh (again!) man with a wide smile and twinkling eyes. They are from Jammu, and not with approval when I tell them I had recently climbed Vaishno Devi. They asked if I went by horse, and when I said I had walked the whole way, I received more nods of approval. They’re so funny.
We got dropped off near the turnoff to Shargol, and off we went down the dusty path. The climb up to Shargol Gompa looks much more treacherous before you’re on it, and we reach the top quickly. It’s locked, but the views are stupendous. We slowly work our way down and decide to wander through villages until we reach Mulbekh. Thus our adventure through tiny villages and fields where wildflowers burst open and little streams and curious children began. A few hours later we make it to Mulbekh and relax into the quiet that envelops this tiny village.