Journey from Leh to Kargyak in less than 80 days :)

Part 1 : Leh - Padum 13 January 2010 We set out early in the morning. For the first time, we meet our porters and guides for chadar : Lobzang and Jampell from Ichar, Tashi Dawa from Pipcha (later on, we got to know that Tashi was Zanskar widely famous pop-star :) and with azhang-le Tundup (or with uncle Tundup) from Sani. Jeep should take as about 2-3 hours far from Leh. We are sitting in the front and we are watching out from widely open windows (they must be like that, otherwise we would have a frozen view...). On the way we are trying to observe degree of freezing of Indus and Zanskar rivers. We have an inauspicious feeling of unexperienced "chadar walkers" that they are frozen rather sporadically and so our exitement is rising. We are pulling up from our frozen lethargy by sheet houses of road builders. In one of them, we are defrosting after a while thanks to chinese noodles (is´t a bit conflict of interests, but here we are really thankful). From there few more kilometres in the jeep and then hurray onto the ice! Our first icy steps are reassuring as well is testing stick of azhang-le Tundup. This one serves to tapping on the ice which helps to distinguish holowness or stability if the ice. Holowness similar to drum is quite dangerous, but you can survive it :). We try to distinguish hundreds of kinds of ice cracking and we are admiring countless amount of ice freezing : transparent, flakes, crystals, white, blue, tasselled, with or without bubbles. It´s good today. Ice is sufficientlz firm, there is only one place where we have to climb and one place which we have to crawl through. At dinner time, Tashi is singing aleato-le (about friendship) and azhang-le reveals irresistibility of tsampa (roast barley powder). We are waiting for our first night in cave. 14 January It´s a very long day today. We are "icing" more than 10 hours. The cave in which we should have slept, is already full, that´s why we have to go two hours further. We are arriving to the first place where ice isn´t even as solid as a drum, people are even though going through without getting wet. However it seems that the ice becomes more and more fragile with every other person. And that must be exactly on that place where we meet about 20 people (exceptionnaly Zanskaris and we...). So we are cowardly passing among the first ones. The water is rising approximately up to ankles. 15 January We are approaching Nierak. Not far away from there, there is a sacred juniper, majestic gate to Zanskar region. Lobzang gifted us with a small juniper stick which should protect us and lead us happily on the following chadar. This stick is given to everybody who is experiencing chadar for the first time. It´s like a chadar baptism. By late afternoon, we are reaching a goatshed in Nierak (it´s a luxury that we can´t refuse after the several "cave nights" :). Radim begins with his flute lessons. Everyone tries it, flute is squealing and everyone is contentedly listening to the warm sound of fire. 16 January The last 4 hours of chadar are ahead. Target station = Tsarakdo. We have to take off our shoes for the first time and we are fording, but what happened? Lobzang who was going like the first one was calling about 50 metres later that we couldn´t pass and that we have to go back and wait either for evening either for another morning. And so we are returning to our goatshed. We were fording absolutely in vain!!! We are taking a big lesson from that : never be rash as far as fording is concerned. 17 January Attempt number 2 Nierak-Tsarakdo. This time, we don´t have to ford, but for a change we have to climb on ferratas few metres before Tsarakdo (there is really no lack of thrills on chadar). Under the ferratas, there is a nun waiting for us who accompanies us cheerfully to sheet houses of road builders. About five minutes after we have passed the building site, there is a big rock blast (as I say, no one can say that there would be a lack of thrills on chadar...). In quite a late afternoon and after a hot sweet milk tea, we have to again jump up to the jeep which should take us some 3-4 hours away from Tsarakdo, precisely to the city of Padum. Joyfully, with a wide open window, slowly freezing to our seat, we get at 9 o´clock at night to Padum. The only one guesthouse is closed, jeep driver recommends to try a home-stay. We bet on azhang-le Tundup and just a few minutes later, we are watching an indian soap opera which seems like from a sci-fi movie after those nights in caves... 18 january We should meet two Kargyak villagers in Padum, Dawa and Samtem Namgyel. Even though we have never seen each other, we get together quite easily and soon we are taking off for the second part of our journey to Kargyak´s Sun school.

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