A mexican boy named Conrad who we do not know suddendly wrote us saying that he always read our blog and that he was wondering where we were and above all if we were well. His email ended wishing us health and clarity in our walk.
After reading it we found the energy, the mood to writte about all these last monts since the last post that we published until this very moment.
Thank you Conrad for your nice email, is comforting to know that there are people on the other side of this bright screen.
Ladakh is one of those delicious homemade desserts that are so delicous , that one would like to have it every day, in every meal… a bit again to delight the palate.
We chose Leh to stay due to its life and special atmosphere, is the lowest point of the area with little more than 3,000 m above sea level.
Ladakies and Tibetans are living here for hundreds of years (according with what a villager had told us) in which already populated lands, a Tibetan king decided to settle down without a clear social structure, and raised the “city”. This little Empire converted in meeting point for traders coming from India to Tibet.
The caravans of yaks which formerly raised dust in this semi-desert of the heights, today are rows of cars and small vans full of tourists wich arrived attracted by many different reasons: trekking, bike trails, visit the Pangong Lake (barge rages among the Hindus of upper middle class because there was recording a very comercial Boolywood film) , climbing high peaks or even follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ wich some registers says was in retreat in a very old monastery of this area.
Seguidamente, un poquito de alguna de esas escapadas avanzando, explorando estas tierras altas, este Tibet-Indú y algunos de sus rincones:
The presence of the Kashmiris gives a touch of exoticism to the center of Leh: their mosques and the sound of the call to pray. In the narrow streets of the Bazaar always there is delicious bread freshly baked and some small shops with cottage cheese and yoghourt always fresh and tasty.
Undoubtedly a special and comfortable place where you can relax for little money in a hotel, and to eat a great variety of flavors by even less. The presence of tourism since many years make possible for example to enjoy a real espresso or even an apple pie in one of the docens of cafes and bakerys full of buns, breads and cakes which are the most popular places for Westerners.
There is so much to do in these valleys and plains that we didn´t stop inventing getaways: to a Lake, a Valley, a former monastery, to make this route that another cyclist advised us and like this we finally spent around five months in the area… people… this part of the world is a true paradise!!!
Now, a bit of some of those months moving, exploring these highlands, this Indian part of Tibet or this Tibetan piece in India:
To explore these lands here means that you have climb a mountain pass which means around 40 kms of ascension and climb above the 5000 meters high. The highest one is the “Khandur – La” which, the Indians likes to name as: “the highest motorable pass on the world”, they say that it reaches 5.600 m height, but anyone who has an altimeter can verify that the measurement is not real and as far as we know, the highest motorable pass is in Bolivia but the Indians have spoofed the numbers and thus attracts crowds of tourists who come to climb by car, motorcycle, bike to take the photo at the summit. The funniest thing we saw there was that people like to get the top in a van and once there take a bike and ride it just the downhill. Of course the photo at the summit is on the bicycle… funny.
We climbed it from the north side and our kilometer counter marked that there were 63 kms of ascent to the Summit… 63 kms!!! that climb is more patience and continuity than strengh or stamina.
As we had already experienced in all this time happened that, crossing the 4.200-4.500 meters high, then began the miseries… due to the shortage of oxygen and to the weight our bibycles, the feeling is to don´t have push, not power, just to pedal for some meters is thaugh, meter by meter, meter by meter and …finally you climb it, at the end, as always, sooner or later…everything changes. Is that the eternal constant, changing, and I hold mentally to it to not come down and to remind me: “Enjoy also this moment, this difficulty because it will not return, along with everything, forever…”
The trip to Pangon Lake requires the traveler to go and back the same way and this made us discover and reflect on ourselves, this nomadic way of living that we have chosen.
To come and go through the same way is something that by our way of travelling, we don´t do. The way is always new, the road is always unknown and what we´ll find, a surprise, this is our routine: the uncertain. The uncertainty is something that does not make us lose calm or no sleep, and it is because we have become accustomed to it, yes, but also to trust. To trust in something that I don´t know how to explain, it is just trust in nothing but in everything, it is just a feeling of trusting and maybe sounds like madness, but we are confident that all is well, all is right, and the most important: if it is not fine anymore … anyway it will be fine. There´s nothing to worry. It is this a certainty that does not come from reflections, but from the deep, from there where reasons and “whys” are not required to know.
Taking the same path in both directions brought an additive which facilitated things and was knowing exactly where was going to began the hardness of the pass, where the most steep part and most importantly of all: where would end. By experiencing a really taugh physical momentst in recent years we have discovered that, when you know what you have ahead, how many kms remaining to the end, everything is strangely transformed. The road and hardness are the same and I don’t even know if it is the certainty of the end, seeing how it get closer and closer and perhaps the gently to distribute energy but what is certain is that everything changes.
We also had a visit, two Aitor´s brothers and a niece came for 23 days willing to make a long trek, even newly landed, the journey from the airport to the village was on foot. They arrived fuul of energy for exploring new lands new hights even the brought the willing of climb a pic over 6000 meter high.
The first few days as expected were not easy, but once they were getting aclimatice and our legs were adapted to the new movement, everyone could enjoy much more. Landscapes, solitude, the purity and the exotic of this place motivated everyone to keep going ahead each day.
The climax of the trekking was the ascension to Stock-Kangri, a 6.123 meters high peak which was hard, we had to try twice to get the summit due to a bad.
It was the path to the Tso – Moriri lake that we chose to return to the saddle after the trekking because of the number of kms of plain and the lightness of the only mountain pass, a magic stretch of land, really.
Returning to the bike became mentally harder than expected. Accustomed as we were to the good life of the hiking with the Aitor´s family… of course we trekked for 4 or 5 hours and sometimes even 8 loaded with the backpacks, and of course the altitud made it harder but… in the afternoon… life was easy, was just to arrive at the Homestay of one of the families in the tiny villages of the area. The villagers make some money with the tourist in exchange to overnight and to cook for them.
The room is usually the dinning hall of the house or sometimes one of their own rooms, where they sleep: some mattresses on the floor with the size of gym mats, stuffed with wool and about 5cms thick, often are used as armchairs, chairs and even beds… There isn´t all those furniture that we have for something so common in the West. 4 or 5 of those mattresses on the floor and one or two tables that rise two spans of the ground and that is all the furniture. Just arriving in those homestay and life become easy, just release the backpack, sit back and wait for hot tea and dinner which comes with loving sympathy as well as breakfast the next day and you don’t have to do more than sit back and relax… “this is life!!” we said to each other.
In the return to pedaling (as I was telling you) after hours of exercise on the bike, you can´t stop if you want some things to happen: If you want to rest… pich the tent; If you want to drink a cup of tea… making the stove, fetchng the water from the river and heating it up to make it ready and so on with everything. If the day of pedaling is not hard it is made without thinking but sometimes it is so tiring, but to have it standardized as part of life itself, we don´t take care of it actually. It is only now when we were use to do nothing in the evenings, or even the morning when those things was somehow taugh to make again but, after a couple of days, once we got use to it again…. and everything returns to have a sweet taste.
We can´t remeber some adventures and moments they are so many.
The torrential rains of the last August turned in catastrophic in the Kashmir area so we had to lengthen the stay until the roads were reopened just on time to get out of these highlands and descend, before the snow falls and as always, close the road until the next year , the mountain passes will be closed and those people isolated until the following spring. The only possible way to access in or out during the winter months is the aircraft and just, when the weather allows it.
On the plains of India once again began the next adventure.
We was heading this time to park our bicycles and all the material at home of an old friend that we met in Amristad just when we were going to cross into Pakistan in 2008. The plan was that once with everything in a safe place, we would take a plane. The 23 October we were flying to Madrid, without more “why” that to enjoy the family and the old friends for a couple of months. We had been 3 years without seeing them and Christmas, filled with family gatherings would be the timing to be there and share with all moments and spaces.
During this period that in principle would last only a couple of months, it happened that a interesting proposal “fell from the sky” on us: that was to work until the summer in renovation – restoration of a huge settlement in the place of Aitor (Basque country), in return would have a good pay and the chance to live there in the mountains, in a small cottage with fireplace, garden and even horses…
It was a nice chance to make some money.
The proposal surprised us so much that in the begining we didn´t react, we simply let ourselves feel inside anbouth we had the same answer, yes.
So, here we are since November when we started and we will continue until the end of the summer, working and learning a lot: stone, wood, walls, floor, load and chop, make cement and use plenty of machines that are making this old house become a home only with our hands and effort.
In this bracket also we are occasionally giving conferences about our (here curious) way of life. In between the work and the time to rest, the issue of updating the blog has been always for later, for tomorrow… after Conrado´s email and a couple of friends who were concerned, we got the push and start to writte to explain all to you, this little bit of what we have been doing all these months.
And so we are not sttoped we are just paused.
People said that the pause in a text is what give it the meaning and in music, that separating notes by little pauses, is what creates rhythm, harmony…
Now all that view and vivid beauty seems to have been placed after our eyelids and sometimes in a blink longer than normal, a person, a landscape, a view or a mountain appears again in front of us, distant but so close at the same time. A myriad of experiences and moments that in these times of stand appears to be settling in our inner selves leaving space for what will come later.