“Sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.”
We had only arrived halfway up the impressively steep path which wound up the monastery in our last village in the Zanskar valley before being ushered into a small house by a monk with a wonderful curly hat. He quickly made us ample tea and fed us biscuits while explaining that trekkers in the region need food since there are no shops or restaurants. While talking with him we discovered that he had lived in this seventy monk monastery for forty years, making him sixty years old now. He shared his small “house” with four young boys (age seven to fourteen) who lived upstairs, and seemed to be a bit of a grandpa to them. We later found out that every house has an older monk with a few youngsters who all live together in a multigenerational community.
“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like an answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life.”
“Homestay homestay?!” The Ladakhi man asked us as we passed through his small village, mostly green pastures with a few houses perched on the only flat ground in the region. We quickly realized that he didn’t know any English except that one important word, so we found another man in the village to translate prices (five dollars each for dinner, breakfast, a whole lot of tea, and a place to sleep) then followed him to his home. Though we have been staying in our tent and cooking for ourselves the last few nights, we were starting to run low on food and figured now would be a great time to try out this homestay arrangement that has become prevalent for trekkers throughout the region. Though I have done plenty of homestays in the past, this one would be different because for my first time I would be a paying guest. As there are no shops or places to buy food along the way, trekkers have taken to paying villagers for a meal and a space on their floor in order to get by.
“Desire! That’s the one secret of every man’s career. Not education. Not being born with hidden talents. Desire.”
Just before reaching the pass that would officially bring us into the Zanskar valley we encountered two Indian motorcyclists who had just come from farther ahead. They flagged us down to explain that the pass had been impossible for them to complete as there was no road. Not a bad road, or a washed out road, simply, no road. And on top of that, there was new snowfall (unsurprising as farther below we had experienced over twelve hours straight of rain) and apparently a river (or part of the non road) which would have water up to our waists due to the extensive snow melt. So, after spending one last night surrounded by beautiful mountains over 7,000m, we decided to cycle out and towards Leh in order to return a few weeks later for a twenty day trans Himalayan trek through the Zanskar valley.