Sat 19 July
A day at Hanupatta to acclimatise. The tent immediately overheats as the sun comes up over the mountains, then luckily we get some partial cloud. We take water from the stream for washing and hang socks to dry on the rose bushes. A side valley between the camp and the village offers a good route for an acclimatisation walk; we cross a bridge and skirt the hillside before starting a long steady climb with good views back to Hanupatta. The trail passes well-built stone shepherd’s huts and roses in full bloom; pashmina goats cross the path just in front of us, bleating; the climb gets steeper as we approach the saddle, Bev continues at a steady pace and summits first at 4405metres. There are clear views down into the next valley and the sharp mountains ahead of us; there’s no noise and no breeze. I climb up the crags hoping for views of our camp but, to everyone’s relief, give up and turn back down. Descending the valley there are good views of Hanupatta though we wait in vain for good sunlight for photos; shepherds are on the hillside whistling at their goats. 

Back at camp we’re tired and after soup and a pillau, we lie in dappled sun under willows before strolling back down the path to Hanupatta. We meet Stanzin coming back up the track - he’d been to see the village pharmacist about a rash on his hand - and with him we perform a simple puja by the large village stupa. Namo Buddhiya. We add a khata (a white Tibetan prayer scarf) to the hundreds already tied to the big tree. 

Down in the village Graham is talking with Tsering. She’s a clever girl from a larger village on the main road but marriage has trapped her in this quiet place with no prospects and she’s desperate to get back to education and maybe a job in Leh. She’s very small and beautiful and I can’t help thinking of Rita in Bob Dylan’s Motorpsycho Nitemare. Bev and I sit outside with some of the villagers, talking and taking photos, especially of Jolee. The village pharmacist is delighted by the prospect of the new road and quicker travel times. So is Tsering who will be able to visit her parents more easily. Her husband is in the army stationed at Rumbak which we’ll pass through in a couple of weeks. He’s just finished his 2 weeks annual leave and she won’t see him for several months - she wraps a bag of walnuts which we promise to deliver to his garrison. 
Goats kick up clouds of dust on the path back to our tents; the light in this quiet valley just before dusk is sublime. Just above camp I call to Bev to drop down onto a lower path, miss my footing and turn my ankle. I hobble over to a couple of witnesses, a Dutch couple sitting outside their tent called Ray and Odette, who we’ll see again over the next two weeks. Painful knee night, too hot, poor sleep.


Zanskar - Hanupatta