Sun 27 July Snertse to Hanamur over the Parfi La 
Up early again and in good spirits. There’s about 50 horses standing around the camp, some with their faces in nose bags. We leave at 8, crosssing to the right bank and climbing quickly. A side path runs onto a sandy ridge that juts out over the gorge with good views of the valley and the Parfi La on the opposite hillside. Back on the main path we begin a long dusty descent to the river bottom and a rough log bridge. 9am, this is Zinchen, an alternative camp to Snertse. We buy a coke and some biscuits from a small shop and keep a steady pace up the dusty lower track. It’s a busy path, half way up we talk to a fit sandalled German, a mountain guide, coming down from the pass. He’s come from Lahaul over the difficult Kang La after exploring the high mountains east of the Lingti valey in Spiti. The low scrub gives way to roses, the path becomes rockier and the zig zags smaller. We can see prayer flags ahead but in fact the summit isn’t revealed ‘til near the top. There’s a double string of prayer flags and a rough llato of horns where we burn incense. It’s our last pass and we don’t want to leave; others come and go; we climb another 50 metres to an outcrop above the pass and add to the flags we saw from below. Two German girls join us for photographs on the top.

We descend towards two rivers, the Zinchen and the river into which it runs, the mighty Zanskar. Almost beyond belief, a road is being cut into the scree slopes on the far side of the Zanskar. Down below us the road stops abruptly before a series of forbidding outcrops by a bend in the river. The hillside is steeper than 45 degrees and composed of loose scree but we can see yellow bulldozers waiting for the next section of rock to be blasted away. It looks impossible. We’re walking against the flow, on the true left bank of the Zanskar on a path that at times seems foolhardy. One section of path is on the top edge of a vertical line of rock and very exposed. But it’s dry and there is no wind. The Zanskar is a thousand feet below us, turbulent with multilayered eddies and thick with silt. It gets hotter as we descend and we’re glad of the shade from willows as we lunch by a side stream, our feet in the cold water. Several skilfully balanced piles of stones mark the spot. The horses go upstream looking for grass. 
50 minutes later and we’re at camp, a green paradise of tent pitches among winding irrigation streams and trees. A mud brick box of a building claims to be a hotel. We doze on our mats in dappled sun; the parachute tent has plastic chairs and beer. We share a bottle over dinner after frisbee with the crew. A sky clear and full of stars.

Zanskar - Snertse to Hanamur over the Parfi La