Journey to mountains and first days in Kargyak
We left Manali in early morning hours on Saturday, May 24th so we would avoid the morning rush hour as the Rotang Pass, which we were going through, is a popular tourist destination. We managed to fit all the building equipment and other materials in one jeep while our group (Kamila, Milada, Honza, Martin, Lada and Marketa) was traveling, together with our luggage fastened to the roof, in another one. Both groups of workers, Nepali and so called “Raju group”, traveled by bus and all of us met in Darcha.
The journey to Darcha took about 8 hours including breakfast and a tea break. The only surprising event along the way was that we had to report our arrival on a police check point in every village we were going through (there were just 2 so it wasn’t that bad). Some of us managed to get lunch while waiting for the workers in Darcha, while others had a short nap and Kamila with Milada also managed to arrange another place to sell postcards in order to raise money for the project.
Our first camp site was a place at the end of the road where we were dropped off by the jeep. (Groups which arrived to Darcha by bus had to reach the camp site on foot.) Unloading various boxes and bags and covering it against rain took us several hours. We made a tent for ourselves by tightening large tarpaulin over a carriage and to near by trees and spent the rest of the evening by cooking dinner and playing Bang. We went to bed quite early us some of us were experiencing slight headache. The next morning came a caravan of 15 horses-we could hear the bells they had around their necks for quite some time before they arrived. We managed to pack everything and load the horses around noon and then set off to our next campsite at Zanskar Sumdo. The journey should have taken 2-3 hours but it took us somewhat longer-Nepalese and Raju people were far ahead of us-but it was nowhere to rush anyway. When our group arrived the horsemen had already prepared dinner of rice and dhal for us as well as hot tea.
We spent on this place which reminded us of a football pitch 3 days mainly because of health problems caused by not well heated mustard oil but also because the group of Indian boys underestimated the situation and did not bring sleeping mats and blankets so we had to send some of them back to Darcha to get some. Three of the Raju boys had to also return because of high altitude illness they were suffering from. Nepalese set off together with the horses for Kargyak and Tashi with 2 horses, which were carrying our food and few other things for the rest of the journey, stayed with us. We slept on another two camp sites before reaching Sinku La pass at 5090 m.
We got up at 3 am on the last and most difficult day of the journey to be able to set off before down so we could get through the pass before the sun melts the snow. Hot tea and porridge defrosted our hands frozen by packing and the walk uphill made us even warmer. We again split into several groups depending on our speed of walking. We reached the pass at about 8am-the sun just lit the surrounding mountains as well as the frozen lake; our hands were frozen but we could not resist taking pictures. We met the caravan of horses on their way back to Darcha just when we started descending the pass. At times we were sliding down on plastic bags or without them and we all met again in the sunny valley under the pass.
We were deciding during our lunch few hours later whether to set a camp once more or to reach our destination. As the last part of the journey was apart from crossing small river easy we decided to go all the way and reached the village at about 8pm. We were greeted first by stupas along the way and later in the village by Tennam and Tenzin Yiga, new Tibetan teacher, and finally by the villagers. After 7 days journey and final 13 hours hike we finally reached Kargyak. We were accommodated and greeted with tea and biscuits by Dorje and Cherten in their house. Many neighbors and children came to see us but we were so tired that we hardly paid attention. We ate our dinner half asleep and wished each other good night.
I got up at about 10am yesterday, Lada and Milada were still in their sleeping bags and Honza and Kamila already got up. We went for a walk around the village after breakfast and visited school. There are currently 31 children attending the school and they mainly study outside when the weather allows because even though the school room is cozy, it is very small. Other activities like setting the solar panels, washing clothes, cooking, writing diaries, watching film and so on followed.
Today is Sunday, which is supposed to be a rest day but there are many tasks ahead of us. We have to set up the schedule for school for the 3 teachers available – we will include more English lessons and have fewer Hindi as there is only 1 teacher who can currently teach it. Tennam can help out if necessary and we are also expecting another teacher to come. It is also necessary to make a revision of teaching materials and textbooks and last but not least prepare for tomorrow’s lessons. We plan to revise other Surya equipment and are working on accommodation of Surya team during these days. Nepalese are working on stone preparation for the school building and Dorje is going for provisions to Padum in few days.
I can smell chapatti and onion from the kitchen now as breakfast seem to be get.
Written by Marketa, translated by Milada