Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pictures from Ladakh

Some of the scenery on our bus journey north to Ladakh - this is at the pass through the Great Himalaya Range, near Baralacha La. I had no ideabefore arriving here, but what most people generally refer to as the Himalya is really a series of over a dozen separate moutain ranges, all squeezed together and covering the area from Bhutan up to Kazhakstan. The Great Himalaya, the Zanskar, the Karakoram, the Dhauladar, the Pir Pinjal, the Hindu Kush, etc. etc. They all have different histories, appearances, characteristics, climates. You could spend lifetimes here and be confronted with new scenery every day.

Road workers near the Baralacha La, most of whom come from the plains, particularly Bihar province (notoriously poor), and earn ~80 rupees a day ($2), plus food and lodging. Food is rice and some dal (lentil soup), and lodging consists of a tarp strung between some rocks. Almost everything is done by hand, including smashing rocks to make the road foundations. The smoke you see comes from the boiling tar. They cook it in big barrels, and lay it down by the shovelful. I don't want to think about what this type of work does to their life expectancy...

Prayer flags leading to the monastary sitting high above Leh. It's close to 1000 years old, and gives spectacular views of the area. It also gives spectacular views of the foreign tourists. This is a highly Buddhist, highly conservative area, and to take this photo, I had to maneuver around a European tourist who was sunbathing against the stupa. He had his shirt off, and his shorts pulled down to his knees, revealing his g-string leaopard print underwear below. Needless to say, his tan was superb, if not his judgement.

A skyline view of the Zanskar Mountains. The tallest one on the right is Stok Kangri, at 6153 m (~20000ft). We climbed it after an 8 day trek around the mountain range. It's really high, but really easy, and sharing the summit with 200-odd fat, elderly white guys definitely ensured that our egos stayed firmly underfoot.

This is me at the top of the Kardung La. It's advertised by the Indian Government as being 5600 m high, but apparently this up for debate. Some people say 5400, some people say 5500, I say, it was bloody high, and a really stupid idea to take a bicycle strapped with all of our belongings to the top. It alomost killed me. I rached the top, and collpsed in a qiuvering mass. Abby, of course, had ben at the top, running back and forth to sdmire the pretty views for almost 20 minutes by the time I got there, and had a genuine look of concern on her face when she came to sheck on me. She also told me that no less than three separate army men came to do welfare checks. I don't really remember them, I was too busy trying to fill my lungs with oxygen. We took a bus to the top on the way back.

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