I climbed the last steep climb up the Changspa to Babylon German Bakery this morning, feeling accomplished. Doug and I completed our final block of training and it was HARD!
Our host family came out to bid as good luck on our trip and we were very grateful for their thoughtfulness. I learned right when we got back that Kalzang tried to contact us to find out how we were doing because the weather was not what we expected to be. We had no wifi or phone signal at all the last four days. Even if we had it, which would be unexpected it probably would not work because of the weather and remoteness of where we are.
The remoteness is what made our trip so fantastic.
We met nomadic people and saw for the first time how they lived. It was a bit awkward at first when we first met a mother, a grandmother and two children inviting us to come over to their tent. I need to learn more about nomads. They all looked dirty in a sense because they have water scarcity where they are. It reminded me of the nomadic Mongolian photos I see on the web. Right by their nomadic parachute tent was a goat pen where the very expensive Pashmina wool come from. It is their livelihood. The grandmother and children opened their palms with some sort of crystals. I’ve seen an old man at the bazaar that had the same rocks. We didn’t understand each other and our visit was cut short due to the dark clouds starting to linger towards our path. We also got a glimpse of how they got to shear the goats passing through the nomadic camps. Some of them had cars, specially in a nomadic village called Debring. Nomads put up their tea stalls and some offer rooms for board in their tent. We had a quick stop at a tea stall for lunch and had wonderful rice, dal and veggies. The hot milk tea on a cold ride really hit the spot!
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We were able to stay at our first three home stays in Ladakh. It’s really very cool. There would be signs that would indicated that the home is a home stay. It is very much like a Nepal tea house set-up except that it’s not mandatory to eat breakfast or dinner at the same home. The hosts are wonderful and extremely caring. One thing I learned about Ladakhi’s is that they are extremely hospitable in places we’ve stayed. We also get to keep our bikes in our room and all of the home stays were so cool about it. The food is fantastic and they normally serve rice, dal and veggies accompanied with spicy veggie pickles. The first home stay in Latho was wonderful with a large room and super clean toilets. The second home was in Thukje, a village right by Tso Lake. A basic room at 15,100 ft, again with really good food. The last home stay was at Hamya which was late in the afternoon because we did an 82 mile day that day, in the rain. We chose the first home stay we saw and luckily they had a room. I think it was their puja room because it had a shrine with a picture of a Ringpoche or Lama and decoration. We slept at one of the seatings by the window and listened to the rain all night. The toilet was outside so we got some time running in the rain to go to the toilet. Mud and all but the toilet was very clean and we had to keep it clean. There is always a bucket of water to flush a squat toilet and rinse the platform.
All the home stays had no electricity. No wifi and not phones. Water had to be carried in to the toilets from a creek. There was no option to shower, if there is it would be cold creek water.
We saw a lot of wild animals, that is if you consider a marmot wild! We noticed that marmot can be seen above 16,000+ ft. There are a lot of roaming donkeys, cows and even yaks in the pastures. But, the most beautiful animal we’ve encountered in the wild in Ladakh is definitely the wild ass running in groups at the Tso Lake (Salt Lake). Wow, what a sight to see! All of them in shades of light brown running like gazelles.
All the villages are so picturesque and so remotely. Everyone we met always greets us “Julley!” specially children. It reminded me of riding through the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, the children would always say “Hello!” as we pass by. It’s all so peaceful and we saw a mom and child gathered barley in the field as the small patch of sun shined through. The chortens on the hills and the village gompa high up in the hills looking down the village. We actually saw many mani walls in this trip. Absolutely spiritual.
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The terrain was also hard along with four days of rain on and off. We encountered a few cloud burst wherein and heavy dark cloud would form a small storm system in minutes, literally then just burst of this heavy down pour for a few minutes then stops. We got a few of them the first day! The high passes had a snow storm about 5 kms to the top at 17,582 ft, Tanglang La. We were very cold and the wind chill was hard on the skin. But, right after we descended to about 15,000 ft the temperature was tolerable.
In this trip, we learned much more about being uncomfortable in almost everything. We learned to tolerate a lot of things because we can take the inconveniences for what we have experienced. It is an amazing experience!