Welcome (Back) to Northern India
Welcome to Northern India, and the magical land of Ladakh. This is a repeat trip--I was here in '04. Now, have come back to do more trekking, attempt a 6400 meter peak, and learn more about this fascinating area that's been a crossroads for trade and travel for more than 1500 years. Along with the native Ladakhis who inhabit this harsh and beautiful landscape, there are many other ethnic groups, chiefly Tibetans, Nepalis, Kashmiris, and Hindis. Most of the area follows the Buddhist faith, but there are also Muslims, Sikhs, Jains.
Harvest by hand
Barley harvest around Leh, northern India. Mostly still done by hand, the barlet harvest is a central facet of life here. Barley makes 'sampa' a local cereal grain, as well as 'chang', a local brew that can be mild, or bitter. There's always a price to pay for over-indulging.
Barley fields, Markah Valley. This area is pretty heavily trekked out in the summer. Water quality is starting to decline in some areas. These fields are often the only thing (maybe other than prayer flags) which give color in an otherwise arid landscape.
This is about midway along a ten-day trek I took with Sonam Lama (a Nepali guide from two years ago) and our trusty horseman Ogu (see next page), this field is fairly typical of high elevation cultivation that goes on in these otherwise dry and somwewhat inhospitable valleys. Elevation here is about 11,000'. Note the trail going up valley. This was a 10-day trek with horses, culminating in a failed attempt to climb a nearby 6400 meter peak, Kangyatse
OK, it might not look too sanitary, but after weeks of rice, dahl and vegetables, you start craving a little of the beast to augment the diet. While most Ladakhis are Buddhists (and opposed to killing even a fly), they let others do the killing for them, freely admitting that mutton soup, mo mos, and mutton kabobs are all quite tasty. The head's out front to let you know what's fresh.
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