When you run out of toilet paper 4 200 m above see level

So after long winter, we ran out of notebooks. But not just school stuff, we also started to run out of toilet paper. So some action was must be taken - ideally shopping. But shopping here in the Himalayan mountains is not so easy. Local shop in Kargyak and also shops in nearby villages are almost empty, so I had to go to Padum, the only town around here, in Zanskar. I decided to go together with Lobsang, one of the villagers.

The plan sounds simple. We set off  every day quite early (around seven) and in two days of quick walk we reach Padum, do some shopping and return back. We shall start our journey on Sunday at seven o´clock at Lobsang´s house. Because I often have problems with timekeeping I arrive little bit late - 7:15. But because timekeeping in Zanskar is also always a problem, we depart at 8:30 with Lobsang´s cousin and also three yaks. I was quite surprised that we had some cows with us but later I wasn´t angry that yaks would slow us down. Trekking in the Himalayas is an amazing experience and if you are the one to take care about one of the yaks, it is even better! I felt almost like in the movie Himalaya:) During our journey, our flock became actually bigger as we met some more villagers with yaks. All villagers in the valley from Kargyak to Padum seem to be one big family. Everybody is related with everybody - so they borrow yaks from each other and also help each other with ploughing fields. The first night we get to Cha village where we leave our animal friends and stay over at Lobsang´s cousin place.

Zanskari hospitality is amazing but it can ruin you too – here are many stages of welcoming a guest. First they offer you sweet black tea with milk. I like this part and I already know it is better to keep with it. Then they start serving famous zanskari salt tea with butter. Because I don´t have a good experience with this drink, I skipped this part. But then step comes- chang beer and arak liquor. If you ask for a glass of water aside, your hosts will look confused. I think that they thought that we are very special quests so they let us go through the first three parts quickly and then we just kept with arak. Next to me, there was a big cattle full of arak and our host pour arak to my glass every time after I took even a small sip. I realized that waiting for dinner, which is usually around nine or ten pm, is something like suicide. Around eight I went to sleep ( I think just by strength of will). I think that local people deny all biological relations. I don´t understand how a little man (my friend from Kargyak Lobsang) , who is not more than 160 cm tall, can drink arak constantly for seven hours (most of the time with an empty stomach).

Because of this evening our plan to get up early didn´t work so we started (with some problems) around 10 am. As you can guess we didn´t reach Padum that day and we stopped in the village called Raru. From Raru we wanted to take a jeep with other villagers to Padum. Road from Padum to Raru is clear during summer time, but these days there is snow on some places. Because we didn´t catch any jeep on the snow  sidewe had to walk to Padum.

We reached Padum around noon and we chose Phuktal gompa guest house to stay over night. The name of the hostel is not accidental - this guest house is run by monks from the monastery we visited in winter. It´s one of the few opportunities for a monastery to earn some money.

I was wondering how the main street in Padum will look like. When we were here in winter it was like a ghost city. But spring is almost the same here. The center of city is a crossroad which is fringed by concrete garages with iron roller blinds. Every morning some of the blinds come up and show a small shop or cafeteria.

Padum is a strange and unattractive town. The only building that is worth seeing is a Muslim mosque. The rest of the town is just concrete buildings. On the streets, you can see Zanskari people dressed in traditional gonches but there are also young men dressed like actors from bolywood movies. Padum is a mixture of concrete government architecture and traditional ladakhi buildings, so in front of the windows of our guest house, there is a big concrete ground, were children play cricket and men clean their cars, but just next to this ground, there is a fenced small field where you see people ploughing the traditional way with yaks.

Road from Kargil, only way between Padum and rest of the world is still closed, so shops are almost out of stock. But we found what we needed and started our way back the other day around lunch. We took jeep from Padum, so it helped us to go up to the mountains. We reached Ichar village the same day and we wanted to visit local school here. This school is one of three schools in this valley (including our Sun school) work properly during all school year. In two days we finally reached Kargyak, where Petra had been in charge of the school. And it seemed to me that she hardly miss me. :-) Still things worked all right.


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