Trekking in Ladakh and Zanskar

Buddha Buddha Statues Buddhist Himalaya Ladakh Tibet Travel Diary Zanskar

Revisiting Leh

We've just returned from the wonderful landscape and culture of Ladakh and Zanskar, a Buddhist region in northern India sandwiched between Kashmir and Tibet.

It's an ancient culture often called Little Tibet, a high altitude desert region of mountain ranges and deep ravines.

Because of its inaccessibility and proximity to the disputed borders with Pakistan and China, the first permits for visitors were only issued forty years ago.

Eroded Landscape, our Campsite bottom LeftTrekking down into the Zanskar ValleyNonetheless, change is coming, dirt roads are being constructed and you can now drive over the some of the high passes we used to trek.

Local people mostly welcome the thought of new roads but are wary of the inevitable changes to their way of life. Roads mean that schools and medical care are more accessible, and women who've married into a different village can get back to see their family more easily.

Not that there's much road traffic. Nonetheless, the roads will enable people to travel to paid jobs and a more modern way of life in the small towns; inevitably people are starting to leave the hard life in the more remote villages.

Even so, we were there in September and everyone had come back from the towns to help the family harvest. The ties to the family home in the village are still strong, it's a social time before the hard winter sets in and the land is covered in snow.

Approaching the Stongde PassClimbing out of a Ravine on the trek to Stongde

Like many marginal climatic regions of the world, climate change is having a profound effect, the glaciers are shrinking and last winter's snow was very light, just a couple of feet; in some valleys the precious snow melt streams hadn't flowed so full this year.

The Buddhist culture is similar to that of neighbouring Tibet, but unlike Tibet there is religious freedom and the Buddhist Dharma permeates life here.

Some of the monasteries are 1000 years old, many others date from the 12th and 16th centuries. We arrived in the main town of Leh when the Dalai Lama was giving teachings, hundreds of monks and lay people had travelled for several days to be there.

You see the Dharma visibly expressed in the monasteries and thousands of stupas and mani walls in the villages and on the mountain passes, you experience it in the resilience and open hearted generosity and warmth of the people.

The Dalai Lama Greeting a Child in LehCrowds gathered for the Dalai Lama's Teachings at Leh

Our plans turned out well, we were blessed by good fortune. We met people we hadn't seen for many years; taking photos of our previous visits brought memories back to life and it was a delight to catch up and see how life was moving on. People ageing, new babies, just life.

With Tsering and her family at HanupattaSaying goodbye to Sonam at Nierak

Read more about Buddhist monasteries and trekking in Ladakh and Zanskar.

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published