The ‘Changing’ Land of High Passes / by Trivik Verma

  Evolving landscape  Ladakh is a cold and dry desert in the upper Himalayas. In the recent past, locals have started planting vegetation close to their villages; emerging green patches of trees are sprouting all over the landscape, which in turn cause occasional rain. Photo: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

Evolving landscape Ladakh is a cold and dry desert in the upper Himalayas. In the recent past, locals have started planting vegetation close to their villages; emerging green patches of trees are sprouting all over the landscape, which in turn cause occasional rain. Photo: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

The highest and coldest desert in the world is set for change, both natural and manmade

“People will realize it in twenty years, what they had was so much better,” Tashi Tundup was gripped with emotion. The postmaster of Padum (Zanskar), a perennial remote region of the high Himalayas, explained how the seasons were changing, including farming patterns and river flows. “Roads will be built soon to connect this valley to the rest of Ladakh, when ‘culture, food, and language’, will be lost forever,” he said. Tashi is happy in his environment, a post-master by day and a homestay owner by night, he serves a handful of travelers every summer. Sub-zero winters are spent drinking Chhaang, a locally brewed Nepalese and Tibetan alcoholic beverage, and sitting through large village gatherings around fires with music and food.

  The Military presence in Ladakh  Leh - the once known capital of Ladakh, is a military base that shares its airstrip for public use. In 1998, the Indian Army started a program called Op Sadhbhavana (goodwill) to return some peace to the community. Despite that, military areas occupy majority of inhabited land. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

The Military presence in Ladakh Leh - the once known capital of Ladakh, is a military base that shares its airstrip for public use. In 1998, the Indian Army started a program called Op Sadhbhavana (goodwill) to return some peace to the community. Despite that, military areas occupy majority of inhabited land. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

  A peaceful home for refugees  After her parents fled from Tibet in 1970, Tashi Sinon was born in Leh. Ladakh is at the center of a war waged by three governments - India, China and Pakistan. Yet, things here are peaceful. Tashi reflects that emotion well; she is stylish, makes her own jewelery and speaks fluent English. Photo: Trivik Verma

A peaceful home for refugees After her parents fled from Tibet in 1970, Tashi Sinon was born in Leh. Ladakh is at the center of a war waged by three governments - India, China and Pakistan. Yet, things here are peaceful. Tashi reflects that emotion well; she is stylish, makes her own jewelery and speaks fluent English. Photo: Trivik Verma

  The economy is based on experiential travel  Tourism in Leh and neighboring regions is on the rise. Locals of this region run adventurous activities as a means to support their livelihood. Every shop in the main city of Leh offers a tour or package. “Best adventure company..” they all advertise. Photo: Trivik Verma

The economy is based on experiential travel Tourism in Leh and neighboring regions is on the rise. Locals of this region run adventurous activities as a means to support their livelihood. Every shop in the main city of Leh offers a tour or package. “Best adventure company..” they all advertise. Photo: Trivik Verma

  Receding glaciers of the high Himalayas  "This glacier used to come up to the road connecting Kargil to Zanskar," Stanzin Chotchan recalled, during an interview in the quest of finding the last Mail Runners of India. Chotchan runs an expedition company in Leh. Once the glaciers dry up, the only source of water in Ladakh will disappear. Photo: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

Receding glaciers of the high Himalayas "This glacier used to come up to the road connecting Kargil to Zanskar," Stanzin Chotchan recalled, during an interview in the quest of finding the last Mail Runners of India. Chotchan runs an expedition company in Leh. Once the glaciers dry up, the only source of water in Ladakh will disappear. Photo: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

  Greenery in patches  Purne (Zanskar district) is a three-house village situated at the confluence of two rivers - Tsarap and Kargyak. For the lack of roads, people here run up to the neighbouring Chah village for daily work. For them, the altitude and steep terrain don’t matter. Athleticism is built in their livelihood. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

Greenery in patches Purne (Zanskar district) is a three-house village situated at the confluence of two rivers - Tsarap and Kargyak. For the lack of roads, people here run up to the neighbouring Chah village for daily work. For them, the altitude and steep terrain don’t matter. Athleticism is built in their livelihood. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

  Remote villages of Zanskar  Chah is almost a day’s hike from Ichar, end of the road from Padum. Roads are planned for this region and in a few years life here will change drastically. The region’s 23-year-old postmaster is not too happy about it. “Nobody will care anymore,” he sadly thinks out loud. Photo: Trivik Verma

Remote villages of Zanskar Chah is almost a day’s hike from Ichar, end of the road from Padum. Roads are planned for this region and in a few years life here will change drastically. The region’s 23-year-old postmaster is not too happy about it. “Nobody will care anymore,” he sadly thinks out loud. Photo: Trivik Verma

  A young resident of Chah Village, Zanskar Valley  Chah has a population of merely 500. Adults have to go to Padum or Leh for Jobs. There is a school for basic education in the village but some children go up to Manali for education. There are Homestays among these brick-walled houses and tourists are a common sight throughout summer. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

A young resident of Chah Village, Zanskar Valley Chah has a population of merely 500. Adults have to go to Padum or Leh for Jobs. There is a school for basic education in the village but some children go up to Manali for education. There are Homestays among these brick-walled houses and tourists are a common sight throughout summer. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

  The treacherous valleys of Zanskar  The rivers here are frozen in the winters. They are coined the term Chadar (sheet), symbolising a blanket of ice, on which villagers walk to the closest motorable towns for ration. Mules and horses are used to transport their things. Summers here are not any easier. Photo: Trivik Verma

The treacherous valleys of Zanskar The rivers here are frozen in the winters. They are coined the term Chadar (sheet), symbolising a blanket of ice, on which villagers walk to the closest motorable towns for ration. Mules and horses are used to transport their things. Summers here are not any easier. Photo: Trivik Verma

  Phugtal Gompa in the Lungnak valley in Zanskar  The Lungnak valley is the most remote region of Ladakh, including the Phugtal Gompa (monastery), which is the only monastery that is truly isolated and requires a long trek through difficult terrain. Photo: Trivik Verma

Phugtal Gompa in the Lungnak valley in Zanskar The Lungnak valley is the most remote region of Ladakh, including the Phugtal Gompa (monastery), which is the only monastery that is truly isolated and requires a long trek through difficult terrain. Photo: Trivik Verma

  No phones, no rescue. A place for adventure?  Hiking, Mountaineering and Skiing are some of the sports that draw tourists from around the world. Locals living in such inhospitable conditions are organically more agile. For them, traveling the world for sport doesn’t make much sense, but adventure tourism is part of their livelihood. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

No phones, no rescue. A place for adventure? Hiking, Mountaineering and Skiing are some of the sports that draw tourists from around the world. Locals living in such inhospitable conditions are organically more agile. For them, traveling the world for sport doesn’t make much sense, but adventure tourism is part of their livelihood. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

(As published @ RedBull)