I awoke well-rested and looking forward to exploring the town. I had known beforehand that Ziro is home to the Apatani tribe and was curious to see their way of life. My guide, a 26-year-old Apatani named Tallo, arrived promptly at 8 am and asked if I would prefer to walk or go by around by motorbike. I chose walking.
Tallo informed me that there are six major villages in Ziro: Hari, Diibo, Hong, Hija, Bulla, and Tajang. As Tallo and I walked along the road towards Hong, his own village, I realized that this place is truly unique—an oasis, really. There is a contrast between modern, colorful suburban-style homes you might expect to find in the west with small, traditional bamboo abodes that you are probably more likely to envision when considering the dwellings of tribespeople. The villages are set against a backdrop of numerous far-reaching rice fields. The interesting thing about these fields is that they they also contain fish, i.e., fish and rice are harvested together.
The Sumo ride to Ziro was a fun (and somewhat dangerous) one, which often seem to go hand-in-hand in my choice of recreational and holiday activities.
Including me, there were nine passengers packed into the vehicle. The driver looked like a punk kid, having an arm tattoo, spiky hair, and wearing a black wife beater. There were five young guys in the front and back seats combined, and four women (including me) in the middle seats. After strapping our luggage to the roof, we pulled out of Naharlagun and began the winding, bumpy ride. This punk kid surprised me—he expertly maneuvered the uneven road boobytrapped with numerous craters, as well as the oncoming Sumos that appeared out of nowhere around the sharp corners.
The oncoming traffic was probably the most dangerous part of the ride, and we narrowly swerved a few vehicles. Avoiding collision depends on the drivers honking continuously around the corners, which seemed effective enough. All the while, the soundtrack to this obstacle course was a mixture of Hindi ballads and western pop music. Totally unfit for the occasion (the occasion being on the potential brink of death), but the contrast was amusing and made me smile.
On May 12th, I set out for Leh airport from my guesthouse at 7 am to catch my morning flight to Guwahati. I had booked my AirBnB accommodations literally ten minutes before leaving, just barely managing it with the in-and-out wifi signal. I know by now that I prefer to have my accommodations booked before I set foot in a new place, at least for the first night. It saves time, energy, and potential stress, especially in a chaotic, big city like Guwahati. The guesthouse I chose (Shimzun Guest House) is owned by Chihan, who lives with his sister and nephew in a separate apartment downstairs (with some communal areas). He was happy to have me stay with them despite booking at the last minute.
Today is Day 4 of the trek, and the most difficult thus far. First of all, it’s IDGAF-level cold both inside and outside. “Achoochoo” is my layman’s interpretation of how to express “really damn cold” in Ladakhi (ok, the ‘damn’ is my insertion, and yes, it’s pronounced like the sound effect for a sneeze). The top priority now is to stay warm. The good thing about cold, dry weather is that the consequence of not showering for x number of days is slowed down. Continue reading
Since I last wrote in this blog in 2014, a hell of a lot has happened, for better and for worse (but mostly for the better). A few of these events I could have imagined, but others I could never have predicted.
Travelling to Thailand for two and a half months in 2014, following the death of my father, was my first flirtation with rebellion and adventure. I did not outright quit my PhD program in chemistry—I initially took a four-month leave of absence in order to maintain a safety net. Still, in my mind, I was finally channeling my inner badass, a formerly dilligent graduate student gone rogue. I temporarily detoured from academia in the hope of gaining a renewed vitality in being estranged from my normal way of life.
Today consisted of 6-7 hours of trekking through Markha Valley, which sits at an altitude of 3770 m, a bit higher than Leh. It was cloudy and windy for most of the day, with brief periods of snow (which promptly melted).
This morning, my guide (Ishey) and porter (Deachen) picked me up from my guesthouse around 7:30 am. I left a load of belongings with the guesthouse owners for safekeeping during the trek, resorting only to the absolute essentials. We set out by taxi to drive towards the mountains, on the mostly rocky (and very bumpy) road to Chilling (3210 m), which took several hours.
At one point that offered a stunning view of turquoise water against the mountain backdrop, Ishey asked the driver to stop so that I could take a photo. I pulled out my little Apeman camera from my jacket pocket, ready to start snapping away, and, much to my horror, the camera did not turn on. I had fully charged it the night before (or so I thought), but obviously something had gone awry. Power outages intermittently occur at my guesthouse, which could have been the cause, or maybe I accidentally turned off the switch that powered the outlet. Either way, like an idiot, I had forgotten to charge the backup batteries and didn’t bring a backup camera source (iPad, phone), choosing to leave them at the guesthouse. Maybe the altitude had gotten to my head.