Donkeys are serious Business | Trek day 2


It’s Day 2 of our trek and we are all excited having been woken up at 6:30 with a hot cuppa chai! The Wanla river serves as a source for morning ablutions and we have a good breakfast – porridge, cereal, omlettes, etc. Our cook and guide are really awesome!!

Spinning Drums made out of recycled tin packages serve as worship aids
Spinning Drums made out of recycled tin packages serve as worship aids

11:00 AM: we are stuck in Wanla as our donkeys have failed to arrive. Yes I did say donkeys!! Donkeys have never been as serious a business as they seem today! We need them to carry our tents and movable kitchen. Since we are out of all communication aids in this region (no telephones, cellphones etc. work here) we have no idea when our donkeys will arrive!

We decide to take a trip to the monastery to spend some time and amuse ourselves. When we return, the donkeys are still not there, so we decide to leave them behind and continue on the trek. We hope that the donkeys will join us later at Urshi.

Surreal landscape - part desert, part mountains in Ladakh
Surreal landscape – part desert, part mountains in Ladakh

Apricots grow in Ladakh in large numbers and wherever we go, we are treated to apricots (both fresh and dried) by the locals. They are the sweetest apricots I have ever had! After about 3 hours of walking we cool off our heels at the river and watch mountain goats race up and down the hill slopes. It is amazing to see how these creatures survive in this harsh climate! At another village I witness a new technique in recycling old tins and cans! The locals have stacked them up to support infant trees and in some other cases they have been made into the spinning wheels for the Buddhist chant of “Om Padme Mane Hum”. Above is an example!

The stretch is panoramic. It is beautiful, calm, captivating, serene and all that comes to mind that is associated with the word peaceful. We arrive in Urshi sans the donkeys. Since most of us are hungry, we decide to wander into the village and ask the locals for some help. Mind you there are no restaurants, hotels, or any other public conveniences. We are at the mercy of our donkeys! Nevertheless, we found a great guy who took us into his hospitality. We went to his home and he served us hot chai! Along with it, we had a taste of the local Chang, a barley based local beer. It is simple to make and takes about a week of fermentation. The first draft from the barrel is the most potent whereas the strength reduces after several drafts have been made.

Our host informed us that this was from the 2nd one, and so we did not insist on a second serving. The guy has 3 kids, 2 daughters and 1 son. All of them go to school. The boy though went to a residential school in the town of Khaltse. He informed us that the school paid for his lodging, meals, uniform and education. He seemed happy with the arrangement, and so did the kids. It was the Independence day and he was back home for the holiday. On our way back, we spotted the donkeys coming. What a relief!! Now we could have some good food and sleep in our sleeping bags and tents away from the cold and unfriendly weather of the mountains! I finish reading Karma Cola and we have a great dinner before I hit the beds. I am told that it will be a tough climb tomorrow. Although I can see the peak at TarLa, it seems like it will be a good day of work.

Donkeys are serious business when hiking in Ladakh
Donkeys are serious business when hiking in Ladakh

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