Team Surya is struggling with himalayan winter

This year's unusually hot winter has taken us all by surprise including the volunteer team Surya in the Indian part of the Himalayas. They have planned to transport the wood necessary for building the ecological school up a frozen mountain river to the village of Kargyak, but the snow is now melting rapidly even in the Himalayas. The winter voyage on the frozen river, so called chadar, is the only way of getting an abnormal load to the altitude of 4200 metres above sea level. The narrow winding paths on the slopes of the surrounding mountains are impassable for bigger transports.

Honza Tilinger, Jara Pechacek and the Tibetian teacher Tennam moved to the city Kargil after their arrival in India. Kargil is the administrative centre of Zanskar valley, within which the village Kargyak, where the team Surya is building the school heated directly by the sun's energy, lies. Kargil is located directly in the midst of the high mountains on the Indo-Pakistani border. "There are lots of Muslims, for whom we are an attraction," notifies Jara Pechacek from Kargil. Just a few years ago people were fighting for Kashmir in this area and it can still be clearly seen on the buildings. The place is isolated from the lower-lying areas during the winter, and so the supply route doesn't work and only a very monotonous food source is available. "A smart boy has been able to obtain eggs and a few tomatoes from the army and he has prepared an omelette for us. He's a king!" writes the team Surya. Fortunately, its' members still have some left-over chocolate and salamis (cured meat) which they have brought with them from the Czech Republic.

Honza and Jara now have to get to Ichar, from where the purchased wood must be dragged to Kargyak. Their plans change constantly depending on the weather. At first, they tried to walk on the frozen river, although its lower part should have been impassable for a chadar. "But we returned in the end, for it was really risky. The ice was cracking under our feet. Then even the natives didn't want to continue with us, they weren't willing to risk the thin ice and heavy baggage," Jara describes the turn of events.

Now the members of the team Surya are imprisoned in a cut off near Kargil, hoping they will be able to fly by helicopter to the village Padum and from there walk for the wood to Ichar. But the situation isn't easy, there are lots of people in Kargil waiting for the helicopter, some of them for 20 days. The helicopter still isn't coming because of statutory orders, unfavorable weather, malfunctions, and so on. "We're waiting and hoping. This morning we have gone to the heliport, but in the end the helicopter again didn't arrive, maybe due to the weather," says Jara, adding that there are more people waiting impatiently, than is the capacity of passengers of the helicopter. But there is always a chance, maybe tomorrow...

The team isn't giving up yet and has found another possibility: to trek across the mountain-pass Pensi-La at an altitude 4500 metres. Thanks to the unusually small amount of snow it could be possible to get to Padum by jeep, horse and on foot in several days. If the hope for the helicopter flight fades in the next days, the team will set off for the 140 kilometer long journey across mountains. It would surely take five days in the rough terrain and high altitude. The courageous crossing of the pass should succeed thanks to the reliable equipment from the companies Moira and Humi and the satellite telephone loaned to us by the well-known mountaineer Martin Minarik.

"The team is healthy, in a surprisingly good mood and the everlasting surprises on the part of the locals are keeping us in a state of optimistic expectations towards the future. Nothing can stop us," the boys from the Himalayas are sending word and wishing happy Losar 1996. It is the Tibetian New Year, which three-day celebrations are just taking place.

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