Thursday, October 16, 2008

Getting high

Feeling acclimatised we venture off for a five-day trek, morale boosted by a rucksack full of Cadbury's Dairy Milk and a huge block of Dutch Gouda (made by a real Dutchman in Srinagar). We begin at the inevitable gompa, in Lamayuru, and trek over three passes to reach the Zanskar river. Once we leave the newly-built roads, we get a taste of traditional Ladakhi village life. The flat-roofed houses are topped with bundles of recently-harvested hay. The locals sing as they winnow their barley, tossing the stalks into the air with pitchforks. The grains are toasted and then ground into flour and often eaten simply mixed with water. We camp the first night beside a tiny watermill, fed by a channel run off the river. The next day I put my feet twice into the same river at crossings - probably the result of too many chicken masalas in Leh.
The walking isn't so strenuous until we reach the big passes. We find ourselves walking the same stages as a young Belgian couple, Ellen and Pieter, and a German group with ponies, cooks, and guides. Thankfully we can camp well apart. The early days of sunshine give way to mixed weather, including light snow a couple of nights, and it's fre
ezing at night. Pieter and Ellen show us how to make a campfire - our first - and we burn about half a ton of dead wood for the luxury of continuous pots of hot tea. The fresh snow on the mountain tops make the views from the high passes rather special. It's a great feeling to be sat up high after an hour of huffing and puffing uphill and get these huge panoramic vistas. We are enjoying it so much that we plan another trek before we finish the first.

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