buddhist_monkbuddhist_monk field_mountainsfield_mountains girl_skydoorgirl_skydoor
girls_kittensgirls_kittens field_harvestfield_harvest mother_daughtermother_daughter
namastenamaste stupa_lehstupa_leh sister_brothersister_brother
winnowingwinnowing young_girlyoung_girl ox_ladakhox_ladakh
buddhabuddha prayer_flagsprayer_flags women_mkt_lehwomen_mkt_leh

Ladakh

Generally speaking, I don't do travel pieces, but I made Ladakh an exception, in part because the time I spent there - only a few weeks - was too short to accomplish anything of substance, and because I was able to undertake what the trade calls adventure travel, the sort of adventure that only those with money can buy or -as in this case - money can't buy at all.

Back packers call Ladakh "Little Tibet", because it harbors the most concentrated community of Buddhists outside that country: from every hilltop, their prayer flags, diaphanous as gossamer, and faded to barely discernible pastels, snap in the biting wind, chortens mark mountain passes, and prayer walls of carved stones line the entrances to settlements. I wanted to learn more about these remarkable people and I felt that the best way was to undertake a trek leaving behind even the modest -sized city of Leh, Ladak's central hub.

That trek began in Lekir, an hour north of Leh by jeep where I made arrangements to hire out Bumbu a single-minded donkey with a homing instinct, whose 17 year-old owner, Rigzen, was part of the deal. Within minutes of reaching an agreement, Rigzen had saddled up Bumbu who was to carry my camera equipment, packed up his schoolbooks, and, still dressed in his grey flannel school pants and blue button-down shirt, Rigzen , Bumbu and I were off. Together we headed north to Yangtang, then Hemis Shupakchan, hamlets where vehicles have not, as yet, penetrated. On the third day we returned to "civilization" in the growing village of Temonsgan, which is connected by road to Leh. And then we retraced our steps. It was a trip of 110 km. over sinuous paths so narrow they seem more fit for the long-haired goats that graze the verdant summer pastures than for humans, a difficult trip, but one full of the magic of encounters with people whom the excesses of tourism had not yet tainted.

The article that emerged was published in The World & I in October of 2000