Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bye bye Zanskar (July 6-7)

We were supposed to leave at 6am, but our driver didn’t show, then we went for breakfast, then he went to the hotel, but then left…huh? Oh India. So we were on the road at about 7am. Namgyal is from Padum, and is super thin. Shy but kind, you can see in the eyes. I love the people here. We do a quick stop in Sani Gompa, and then it’s pretty much straight through til Rangdum Gompa. Beautiful monastery, which I had visited when we passed through Rangdum on the way to Padum, but I hadn’t seen the main hall. It was a long travel day and finally we arrived in Parkachik at around 4.30pm and decided to stop here for the night rather than continuing to Panikhar as originally planned.

Parkachik is a Muslim village, as is a lot (or most?) of the Suru Valley, and the 2 mosques are visible from most places in the vicinity. The patchwork green fields have tiny footpaths threading through them, with wildflowers bursting up wherever they can push through between the crops. The scale here is amazing – I have to carry my macro lens to capture the detail and beauty of the miniscule flowers, the normal lens to illustrate the scene in its entirety, and the zoom to try to show the detail on the icy giants.

The next morning, it looks cloudy but we are determined to go on a hike, and even more determined to try and get some good Nun views. This is a famous mountain above 7000m – I’m not usually one to go crazy for views and icons, but I join in. The chowkidar, or caretaker, of our tourist bungalow is Habib, and he is a GEM of a person. A 43 year old, I didn’t realize what he was saying at first when he was telling me he was Balti. I thought Bhakti? That’s strange coming from a Muslim in the Himalayas…when it did sink in, though, I got chills, as it coincided with reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.

Anyway off we went on our hike. Oh wait, Habib is a very experienced local which means we were going where there was no path, walking essentially STRAIGHT UPHILL. At well above 3500m. The climbing up was actually not so bad, and within 2 hours we reached our destination, Parkachik La where we got phenomenal views of Nun, Parkachik Glacier, and the surrounding mountain scenery. Phenomenal. Habib had assured us that we would be going on a path for our descent, except…he couldn’t find it. So, um, we were going straight down a mountain with no path and I am absolutely horrible at going downhill to begin with. So I whimpered along as Habib held my hand and literally walked me down the mountain. Shukriya shukriya shukriya Habib.

In the afternoon we headed back to Kargil…and that was the end of our Zanskar adventure! Definitely memorable with some outstanding scenery, but even more so, the warmth and genuine hospitality of the people in a very inhospitable climate deeply impressed me.

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