Friday 3rd August. Dat to Yar La base camp

Back: Dat

Next Yar La and Lingmoche

I sit in the mess tent and take photos of Dawa making chapattis. Then apply a plaster to a ponyman’s rope gashed thumb. We break camp at 8.40, two dogs are prowling around camp and exciting the marmots. Multiple watercourses run down the valley; we pass Datgo, the camp with the horse riding 22 stone trekker. Datgo looks even poorer than Dat. We face a strong headwind. Crickets with white wings launch up at our feet and somehow stay in the air for 20 seconds. A small mani wall with a solitary green prayer flag marks the narrowed end of the Dat valley, beyond this the hills fall back and we enter a very wide plain. Occasional side valleys, small green scrubby plants, terracotta hills changing to black in the distance. An early lunch by a mani wall, the horses and crew pass by. A dry valley to our left, we keep straight on. We’re now in a soft green valley with black mountains to our sides, we pass small mani walls but generally it’s a somewhat featureless, unchanging landscape and, as it gets increasingly hot; the lack of reference points and sense of progress makes for tiring afternoon. Back in the fifties, when I was still wearing short trousers, in a popular song called The Black Hills of Dakota, I was enchanted by Doris Day singing of “the beautiful Indian country that I love”. I’m surrounded now by the beautiful Black Hills of Karnak but I’m less than enchanted, though I should be. The fact is that walking on the flat tires me more than walking up and down hills, and my back aches. But, for the record, it is beautiful.

A mini tornado swirls acoss the path ahead of us, just a few yards from Graham, a rare moment of excitement. Just before we catch up with Graham and Stenzin I spot a solitary khyang, a small wild horse. The walking today has been tiring and undramatic but the landscape is beautiful in a way we haven’t previously encountered - we’re now truly on the wide open plains of Karnak. Graham and Stenzin were waiting for us by the wecome turnoff to the Yar La, the valley closes in again and we walk over the pathless, stony, dry riverbed. Ahead we can see the long zig zags that mark the motorable road alongside the Yar La. You can actually see this track on Google Earth, I’m relieved that there’s a shorter and steeper, and older, path that we can use, tomorrow. There are caves on the hillside to our left, soft scree to our right. We cross a patch of vivid green tufty moss. Beyond a bend in the valley at the foot of tomorrow’s pass we see our horses and then our tents. I’m tired but relived to find that the crew are tired also. Maybe it’s the headwind, maybe it’s the flatness or maybe it’s the lack of nearby features in the landscape as we walked. Maybe it’s the twelth day of trekking. I’m not sure, but we’re ready to rest. The sky clears and the temperature drops. The Milky Way is magnificent.

TO VIEW THE PHOTOS: Double click on the photos to enlarge and scroll through using the arrows.