“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.
“If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”
Everything is laborious. It’s either too hot, or too cold. And every three steps you find yourself completely out of breath. That, in short, is what living at altitude is like. Though it sounds nothing short of miserable, and more often than not is, I have definitely felt the pull towards trekking, climbing, and cycling at altitude since my first taste in South America (LINK CLIMBING). After cycling and trekking over 5,000m this trip, I have decided that I enjoy walking up much more than pedaling, but that the descent on a bike is obviously a lot more fun than the treacherous walk down.
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.