“Always be a little unexpected.”
What we hadn’t realized before starting out on our trek is the number of roads currently being built through this once totally isolated part of the world. Not only were our first few days on a road, but we also saw plans or new dirt paths in other areas connecting many of the small villages, villages which for thousands of years have only been accessible by foot. Thankfully the road we were on was in no way a “real road” yet as no one in the area owns a car. In fact, we did not once see a vehicle of any kind and ended up sharing the road with a few yak and sheep instead.
The yaks were being herded up to higher ground for the summer where they are free to roam and graze until their owners herd them back to their village before winter. My favorite of all were the baby yaks who looked like small fuzzy black bears running after their mothers.
We also met a few sheep (and goat) herders who were walking through the mountains with their flock. We have seen many of these groups throughout northern Indian, and unlike the yaks who get to wander alone, there is always a herder with this bunch. Typically one or two people take everyone’s sheep from the village at a time to graze, and then sort them back to their respected houses at night. They rotate whose family’s turn it is so the work is spread out throughout the village. (They do this same thing with the cows as well.) If you look closely you can see this man’s sheep in front of him.
Here is the town we started out in, Lamaryuru, which is famous for its very old monastery. It was also the last place we would see a store of any kind until we reach Padum, eight or nine days away.
This village (the tiny clump of houses on the edge), which is surrounded by 5,000m passes on each side, is situated at 4,300m and is probably one of the coldest places with so many inhabitants. It is composed of 43 houses and is the the largest villages we saw along our trek.
Most of the villages we saw looked more like this, a few houses high on a hill in the middle of nowhere. I actually had to hike an extra twenty minutes uphill from the trail to visit this one.
The landscape resembled the moon with absolutely nothing in sight but rock most of the time. This was very typical of Ladakh, a high mountainous desert with the occasional river.