This walk I took on the frozen path hymns within me like my favourite song;
The steps were like the lyrics but that rhythm, oh! that rhythm, of the flowing river will always long.
While I was far away from Zanskar, planning for the march, it was flowing somewhere;
While I talk to my boss, quit the job, book the tickets, pack the bags, board the flight, fly high, really high to cross the Himalayas, land in Leh and get acclimatized, the water was constantly running back there.
Of course, it had to. The river flows and therefore it is. Isn’t it?
Something like our lives. There is birth, some twists and swirls and then retire or quit.
Anyways, so we were talking about Zanskar which would still be flowing;
Perhaps it was zero degrees when I first saw it. Partially frozen, partially flowing but, mind blowing.
Snow, snow and so much snow everywhere;
A 140 kms trek on a river at an altitude of 3669 mtrs. in -35 degree celsius brought my wander appetite on the square.
In the dramatic set up of Chadar with gigantic gorges on either side;
We were learning to walk all over again on different formations of ice.
Formation of sorts that changes radically;
The sheet of ice, sometimes hard as slab of glass, sometimes crispy and slushy.
Sometimes the path was like clear crystal revealing colour of each pebble where you can also see the cracks that run deep,
Many a times you walk on the reflection of ridges falling on the frozen river beneath your feet.
Just like you have to wear a different mask in front of the world sometimes;
Exactly how that word ‘Frozen’ is an illusion, remember it’s actually flowing all the time.
Everything, I repeat, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g freezes here.
The waves, the fingers, the toes, the tears, the pee, the food, the wet tissues, the batteries, even the waterfall is not spared.
Frozen waterfall, frozen rapids and frozen body of mine , but only thing I could not freeze was this time.
I could just walk. Walk up to the wonders, walk in to the wonders, because I knew, that this too shall pass in no time.
Where was I exactly if someone could care to explain;
This wonderland did not spare me a moment of ecstasy and amused me time and again.
I feel that heaven is missing out on something and should come down to Chadar for a heavy dose of inspiration;
Don’t believe me? Take a shower under the light of galaxy and make believe that few things are just beyond our imagination
I would wake up with the snowfall and moon shining bright in the morning
Or walk into the wild in snow leopard territory to trace the footprints of fox and big cat chasing
Just Walk. Walk alone, walk besides the gushing river, walk on the frozen river, walk along the gorges, walk with the iPod, walk with the team or walk with the locals. Just Walk;
But when you pause, the breath of relief was always the food by the best cook served with the Kahwa while we all share some talk.
I love talking to locals. After-all, they are the first ones to take this path which we now retrace. They surely have some great anecdotes to share.
The guide, porters and cook always wearing such a warm smile will also be there for your care.
Trembling struggling balancing, I finally excelled walking on the river after a few days spent in Sumdo, Shingra Koma, Tibb Caves and Nyerak.
But Destiny brings me to a higher grade heaven named Padum which left me tongue tied and dumbstruck.
Its better not to talk about Padum because words won’t do justice to this unmatched winter vista
Being there brought some tears of joy in my eyes and I can only put up with some pictures to give you a glimpse of its charisma
This foreign land was so dam perfect that I would not even want to move a percentage of its grain from here to there;
Self Sustained Life, colourful homes, courteous people, fresh grown food, sheep woven clothes and of course the flowing Zanskar – which took birth here.
They say grass always looks greener on the other side. Perhaps this time it was only white.
I just felt I will come back here again. Who knew, that I didn’t take the feeling so light.
We repack the bags, do the toodle-oos and return to march on the same track;
Did I just say SAME track? My apologies. Because, every time the same gorges would promise a different sketch.
It surely was different for us, only a lot more challenging;
The higher water levels and mountain climbs were so much more demanding.
Tousled Hair, Chapped Lips, Wet Socks, Bad Falls, Broken camera, Bleeding Nose;
Sometimes the best part is night. At least you can gently go into that good night’s sleep, while the river outside still flows.
Cite the frozen illusion I spoke about earlier. The frozen route now allows the water to seep in and has turned into a brittle walkway;
One moment the boulevard will be white everywhere, another moment only blue and you suddenly can’t see any pathway.
Did I scare you too much? But thats how life is I suppose;
No one said it’s going to be easy, but it will be worth it I hope.
It brings me to the last day of Chadar Trek;
I confessed to each mountain that I will miss them, I promised to the gushing Zanskar that I will cherish each moment until I come back.
The frost floats on the turquoise waters that glides peacefully while I walk back up to civilisation;
I had to tune back in to my music, because the rhythm of the flowing river was slowly getting
This walk I took hymns within me like my favourite song even today;
I scroll down all the pictures and Chadar still takes my breath away.