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All the while as a group we weren’t only pushing ourselves intellectually. We pushed ourselves physically as well.
To start off with – the dry toilets. ‘Nuff said. Coming in primarily from the cities, much too pampered with our everyday comforts and luxuries (depending on which end of the continuum you are at and consider these as essentials), we learnt the Ladakhi way of making do with available resources in a way in which you minimize (actually eliminate) any form of wastage (in this case water) and conserve better (that being compost). About 10 days of following that regime and now I wince every time I have to use a flush. Or even hear one.
Trekking through the dry, arid landscape with the Ladakhi summer sun smiling generously on us, we learnt to be mindful. In fact one just had to be mindful – to focus on nothing but two things: the rhythm of your breath and the rhythm of your steps. Almost Zen-like! Up and down the terrain comprising of loose mud and sand, very little vegetation and even little oxygen lugged with our backpacks, we ascended to around 13000 ft above sea level.
Cycling down 39 kms on the highest motorable road; Khardung-La (18030 ft above sea level) has had to be the highest of highs (except of course of the 10 km odd bumpy stretch that renders your rear end rather numb for more than a while thereafter)!
‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare’. Yet another Zen challenge – because no matter how much one would want to admire the snow-capped peaks in the distance or the rays of the setting sun kissing the rims of the mountains, you couldn’t do it whilst zig-zagging down the curves! It meant finding your own pace, sticking to it and enjoying the wind in your hair and the warmth of the sun on your back.
We camped outdoors – twice! Under the starry skies. Watching out for a shooting star to wish upon. Bracing ourselves to brave the chilly winds through the night even though we were ensconced in our tents beneath layers of clothing, sleeping bags and blankets!
Adventure was further upped when we rafted 28 exhilarating kms through the Zanskar Valley. We watched as the river waters had incised rocks. A different high altogether nevertheless – ensuring we rowed the oars in sync, grinning and shivering as the rapids struck. O adrenaline rush.
Part 3 of 4 continues here