Thursday, December 31, 2009

Being a Nomad in the Trans-Himalaya

The people I work with, people from Kibber, are not nomads. They are settled Agro-pastoralists, growing barley and green peas along with rearing livestock. With green pea fetching good price in the markets of Delhi the dependence of these people is shifting from livestock to farming (agriculture).

But last year I got an opportunity to experience the nomadic lives of the Changpa people of the Tibetan plateau. Some Changpa people had travelled to Kibber and I had briefly spoken to them about their lives. I really fantasised their ways of the horse back living. Very soon I got an opportunity to survey some very remote areas of Himachal Pradesh. These areas could only be accessed from Changthang (Ladakh) as it was already November and all the high passes were closed. But accessing this place from Changthang meant that the expedition will have to be a large one as the approach march was over 150 km through very remote area. With winter approaching there was a serious threat of getting stuck due to sudden heavy snowfall.

The strategy had to be a mixed one. I wanted to light and fast like an Alpinist but also wanted to reduce the risk of getting stuck in deep in the remote area so I needed a back up to get out should things go wrong. And the solution clear... do it the changapa way.. the way of the Tibetan nomads.

A team of six people and six horses and off we went


The team (from right) Kalzang Pulzor, Rinchen, Tenzin Thillay, Sheru, Chudim and Me


The plateau around Tso Khar


The Water of Tso Moriri

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Tso Moriri and Gya peak in the Distance. Gya is the tallest peak of Himachal Pradesh



After a break


45km Along the banks of Tso Moriri

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Thats me


Kalzang Pulzor


I raced ahead to photograph a Black-necked crane. Other coming to join me.

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After 45 km we could turn around and still see the spot where we started from earlier in the day. Its just a vast bowl.


Small snow melt feeding the Tso



Tea time


In the middle of nowhere we say a Horse! yes its a horse not a Kiang. It had probably escapes from one of the nomad camps and then just got lost in the vast landscape. Then began the chase of the cowboys to tame the wild mustang. We caught him and then after the expedition left him at Korzok for the owner to come and find him.


Our horses would graze throughout the night and we would round them up at day time. Early morning the horses are grazing my the Tso


The Camp


Once away from the Tso. the floor was very sandy

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It feels like a scene form a desert but its sub zero temperature.

The survey was a success. We (including the horses) also managed to come back safe and sound. The same way as we went. It was the most amazing horse riding of my life.

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