Zanskar. Magical land squeezed between Ladakh and the Great Himalayan Range, remote and wild. To get to the capital of Zanskar – Padum, one must travel over 230 kilometres on a mainly unpaved, rough road leading from Kargil. This is the only way in and way out that could be travelled by car. Otherwise one must enter a trail and walk over the mountains. In the winter time the Zanskar valley is almost completely cut out from the rest of the world. Almost, because there is one option for the bravest and most determined travellers – the “Chadar trek” on a frozen Zanskar river.
We knew that we want to visit this remote area of Jammu and Kashmir and we really did not want to cycle out of there the same route we came. Since we like high mountain adventures, it did not take long to make a decision of crossing the Himalayan Range – taking a long and treacherous trail leading from Padum to Darcha.
However, before we started our trek, we had to go back to Leh, all the way from Padum (where we left our bikes) to pick up a DHL parcel sent to us by Anna’s father. We hoped to receive it while we were in Leh, but instead of 2 weeks it took 28 days for the parcel to arrive! We had 5 brand new tires in that box (a gift from Schwalbe), new brake pads from KoolStop, new cables for our dynamo hub charger from Busch & Müller, some spare parts for brake levers and protein supplements. As you can see on the photos, apparently the box served as a football for the Indian post office workers…
Luckily Schwalbe makes their tires out of kevlar and rubber, not glass, so everything was fine at the end and we could go back to Padum.
We decided to hitchhike (mostly to save money) and it was definitely a nice experience.
We passed the villages that we already knew, where people were harvesting grass for the winter.
Do not be confused – not only woman work hard during that time:
One funny thing about being so high in the mountains – most of the food is packed at low altitudes. When the products are transported higher, the air in the package expands, so in some locations it is almost impossible to find a sealed pack of chips!
Schoolboys from Kargil:
Zanskar is the land where the time stopped. People live there as they lived for centuries, wearing traditional clothes and following the path of Buddha.
Each house in Zanskar has a garden and a field of barley right next to it. This way people can remain self – sufficient and they need very little from the outside.
Since there are very little trees available, yak dung is the primary source of fuel in the winter. It must be collected and dried before burning, though.
When entering Zanskar we crossed over the Penzila Pass and the magnificent Darang Durung glacier.
In Zanskar houses and monasteries are blended with the landscape. Everything functions very well together and it is a joy to witness that harmony.
Back in Padum we could prepare our bikes for crossing the mountains, mount the new tires and fix the cables and brakes – so we were well prepared for the difficult days on the trail. What happened there? You will see in the next entries!