I'm back in India!
It’s the morning January 1, 2009, I was woken up from the nice dreaming by the pilot a few minutes before landing in New Delhi. Without a few days it is exactly a one year since I first arrived to this so interesting country - now I’m back here fulfilling my big dream.
We are just cutting through the thick cloud of smog which is not that much exceptional in Delhi at this time of year. My connecting flight heading to Leh is gone due to the unplanned eight-hour layover in Istanbul, and so thanks to the happy accident I find myself together with my new friend Karel in front of the Czech embassy in Delhi meeting his friends who work here. Eventually, I spent five brilliant days there having had the opportunity, again after few months, to wander through the mysterious streets of Old Delhi, to visit the majestic mosque Jama Masjid, to smile watching the crowds in the brand new Delhi metro....on the whole...that smell, that atmosphere...gave me a very pleasant thrill and let me know that again there’s really a lot to look forward to.
Looking out from the window of the plane heading towards the north, I just cannot believe my eyes. Am I daydreaming or what? The clear blue sky is just uncovering the never ending strip of the Himalayas summits totally covered by snow everywhere below me. After a while we’re descending. The summits are not below me anymore but right next to me. Wonderful! The valley is cut off at this time of year so the only possible way how to get here is by plane. Leh (3500 m above sea level), the capital of Ladakh. As I’m not used to such a high elevation, I’m deciding to relax and acclimatize to the thin air in the Kunsang Guest House where a hospitality has no borders. I spent my days drinking tea, relaxing, reading, drinking tea, reading and drinking tea again :)
After two days of real chill out I set out for a walk through the centre of Leh. Asura, a muslim feast, is just taking place. During this feast many young fanatic boys hit themselves by their fists to the loud and evocative music. Some of them even cut and hit themselves with stones and knifes producing many bloody injuries on their shoulders and heads. I stare trying to understand their intentions and thinking about Islam, Samuel Huntington and his book The Clashes of Civilizations and about the diversity of various religions.
This part of India in this time of year has been famous for many centuries for one particular event. "THE CHADAR TREK OPENS". This trek connects two valleys with the Zanskar River - a river that freezes over only for two months a year being during that time the only way for the people of Zanskar (which is otherwise absolutely cut off from civilization during winter) how to get to Leh. I will have to go through the trek so naturally I spend the following days hunting for information about the thickness of ice and searching for a sherpa and cook who are to become my only company for the upcoming days on the river. As a single person I am not interesting from the commercial point of view and no travel agency therefore offers me anything so I have to search among the locals who I might join. So, Lobsang from Pidma (he’s been carrying things on Chadar for over 40 years and he’s also the only one in Leh willing to carry my 30 kg) and Jigmet from Ufti became my new friends who will lead me through this extremely difficult but one of the most interesting treks in the world.
The rest of the story in the next update
Note: Pepa is our new teacher. He is replacing Martin who stayed in Kargyak from September 2008 till January of this year. Pepa will stay in Kargyak till June.