“Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road.”
365 days of homestays, high altitude cycling, and beautiful landscapes throughout India (a second time).
“A wise person knows there is something to be learned from everybody.”
As we were driving towards Leh we hit rush hour and I made a mental note not to drive on country roads after six p.m. It’s definitely not the type of rush hour you are thinking about though, remember this is a road that only sees a handful of cars everyday. Instead of cars, this rush hour involves lots of sheep, goats, cows, and the occasional yak.
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
Since we were unable to cycle through Zanskar a few weeks ago we decided instead to return with our backpacks in order to experience this completely isolated part of the world. Throughout eight months of the year, the one unpaved road leading onto the valley is snowed in and therefore completely inaccessible. This road was only built in the early 1980’s which reflects how new development and tourism to this area still is. During the winter, the only way out of the region is a long, dangerous, and treacherous trek out on the frozen river, an undertaking some of the children make in order to attend school in different regions. Parts of this valley are considered the coldest yearly inhabited areas in the world, and though there aren’t many left, there are still a few nomadic tribes who live in the area as well. The permanent settlements are still impressive in themselves as they are days away from any road, with passes ranging from 5,000m to 6,000m separating them from the rest of the world. There are also many famous monasteries in the region, literally in the middle of no where, carved into the rocks.
“What we all want in life is to travel, fall in love, and be happy.”
Halfway between Srinagar and Leh we decided to take a 250km detour down to Padum which is situated in the very cold and isolated Tibetan area of Zanskar Valley. First though, we had to traverse Suru Valley which is a lush green area with high snow covered peaks in the distance. The inhabitants are Tibeto-Dard meaning they are of both Chinese and Pakistani (and Afghani) descent. Though the region use to be Buddhist like its neighbor Zanskar, the inhabitants converted to Islam during the 16th century so mosques and headscarfs were in abundance.