Well another freaky day here in the himalayas, this place is crazy and a tough place to survive, some of the stories i have heard are frightening.
Well my night from interrupted when a huge crash and tinkling of glass burst through my deep dreams. a window in my bedroom had smashed. was there someone in my room? what was going on? i did the only sensible thing and hid under my covers too scared and tired to check it out. in the morning i found the debris scattered all over the floor and gathered that the shoddy workmanship was responsible. Everything here breaks… and nothing runs … the infrastructure here is woefully overchallenged and its so remote its hard to get anything done, especially when its only accessible by road for 3 to 4 months a year and the winters are totally brutal and nothing can be done. Add to that the mixture of cultures and yeah well its organised madness.
Sunnys friend, colonel Arjun Singh from the army here arranged to pick us up at 9am and take us on a tiki tour of the district. This man is the head honcho here and he has seen a lot in his time in the army. This area was the sight of the cargil war with pakistan in recent history and the army also do a lot of work with and for the people of this district. He wasnt allowed to be offcially seen in the company of foreign nationals (me) so i had to be hidden in the back of the jeep. Elumalai was our chauffeur for the day too, one of Colonel Arjuns subordinates. A very nice and quiet young man who knew how to drive in this place. We were in for a very interesting day full of culture and hospitality. I was struggling with the heat and the after effects of yesterdays attack on the pass. And I felt slightly unwell, and nauseated all day in the heat. Add to that the rough cramped ride in the back of the jeep and it all added up to a lot of fun.
First stop on our tour was Stok palace standing at the base of the over 6000m peak of Stok mountain. Here the royal family of ladakh are in residence and we were treated to a tour of the palace and its mueseums. I was in awe of the delicate jewellery work on show and the elaborate turquoise headdresses worn by the royals on special occasions. I looked down the list at the long line of kings and queens reaching back hundreds of years and noted that most did not live past 25. So harsh were the conditions up here. They are very much a hardy bunch of people in this corner of the world.
Next stop was an incredible monastery with over 300 lamas in residence. The temples and shrines to budha are incrediblly intricate and colourful. Here each family in the surrounding 60 villages must give male child to the monastery to become a lama. Lots of little boys wandering around in the wine coloured traditional dress. I wonder what their lives must be like, a life in dedication to their religion and owning no material wealth only spiritual wealth.
Next up another monastery after a hot and wild ride in the jeep with a running commentary frm colonel Arjun. And we were in for a treat. The matho gompa was over six hundred years old but it was the new addition just three years old that wowed me. The shrine to Budha was magnificent and as a colourful as a rainbow. After spinning the prayer wheels in the hope of some help during the race we were treated to a very special lunch with a local family who had obviously been cooking for hours. They had carried the picnic including carpets and pots etc 2 km from their home to lay out below the shade of a beautiful tree next to a river. We had a refreshing wash in the rver we were totally covered in dust, my hair briefly grey instead of dark brown. The apricot juice we were first offered was something devine, followed by some serious beer. This lovely family, the husband one of colonel arjuns soldiers, his lovely shy wife and their niece and another neighbouring lady had prepared a feast fit for a king. we ate gratefully and hungrily enjoying the unusual flavours of the new type of cuisine. The colonel told us many stories and after we visited the families new house before heading home, wary and culturally enriched. The hospitality shown us as strangers was touching, the people really lovely the history and religion their culture and traditions are such an eyeopener for a little kiwi along way from home
Tomorrow the other runners and their crews arrive, bar my three. Looking forward to seeing them all and to catching up with sam especially.
Today i have been able to briefly forget about the immensity of the challenge that lays ahead and have been able to relax and enjoy a little. But always hanging in the background of my mind is the constant tension and yes fear of what lies ahead. But as i have said many times its good to scare the hell out of yourself sometimes and to explore new horizons. just hope it wont be just too impossible this time.