Chadar Trek: 100 Miles on Zanskar’s Blanket of Ice


A small Zanskari woman in maroon woolen robes takes my hand to guide me into her clay brick home. Stanzin’s hand is dry and cracked, rough against my palm. Smells of hay and animals linger in the air, but I can’t tell where these musky scents originate – the immediate darkness of the interior is a blinding contrast to the bright snow outside. Stooping to fit through doorways, I step over one knee-high threshold, then another, groping the clay wall to find my way through the small openings. I tighten my grip as we get farther into the house in utter blackness. Finally dim daylight filters through an opening. Stanzin tugs my hand, but something soft at my knees blocks my progress. There’s movement in the shadows, then a solid, curving horn brushes under my outstretched palm. Goats? Stanzin tosses the small animals out of my path, and at last I stumble into the light. Five surprised faces turn at the commotion of my entry. It’s teatime.


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