Expedition Zanskar

14th report - Dharamsala and home

Enjoying myself in Dharamsala, the centre of the Tibetan exile government and the centre of the world for all Tibetan Buddhists, which all the same is a very quiet place, whether the Dalai Lama is here or not - he is, at present. The rains are heavy, the monsoon goes on for yet another week, so I have hardly seen the sun since I came down from the last high pass (Rohtang). Altogether, this journey has given me 10% sunshine, 50% rains and 40% clouds. Let's stick to the 10% unforgettable sunshine.

Here in Dharamsala you can do one of the loveliest walks in India up to a place called Triund very close to the snowline (at 4000 meters). There is a convenient path all the way up, so you don't mind climbing about 1200 meters straight up. In the mornings it has not yet started raining, and if you are lucky you get down in time not to get wet. Up there this morning I met with a lovely Irish couple from Dublin who had spent the night there, and they had actually managed to get their clothes dry - a miracle! They are the first Irish I have met on this journey.

I usually start or end all my Indian journeys here in Dharamsala because of this convenient walk possibility straight up to the mountains, which is so good for me - one of the reasons why I come to India so regularly is for health reasons, I always recovered from everything here, where I generally reach the top of my health.

And all this I have to leave behind, as I have to take a seat tomorrow evening (Wednesday) on a bus to Delhi to commence a horrible home journey. There are no morning buses to Delhi from here, so I have to take a night bus and then wait all day for my flight the following night. That day I will spend at the Tibetan colony in Delhi, a charming place called Mauno Ka Tilla, so the last friends I leave in India are the Tibetans. My flight for Moscow is at 4.30 in the morning (Friday), and then I have to wait for 12 hours in Moscow airport for my connecting flight to Copenhagen, which I will reach about 22 hrs on Friday night. There I take the last bus to Gothenburg, which I will reach around 3-4 on Saturday morning. The good thing is that there will be no jet lag, since I travel in the right direction.  I might even be able to anticipate some necessary sleep in a chair at Moscow.

The Himalayan Symphony

Do you hear the hills resounding with this glory
of our symphony of triumph, glorifying all the beauty
of the world, of all the freedom of Dame Nature,
of our harmony and love? Thus sings my heart for joy
and hovers without bounds among the highest mountains
just to sing the praise of all the beauty of this world,
of you, our friendship and our love.
What matters the extremest separation in a case like this,
when love just frees itself from all the confines of the world,
of all mortality, of matter, space and time
to just exist in glory, flying above all vanity,
and gloriously enjoy the highest, purest music,
that of perfect silence in eternal stillness,
the sublimest music of the soul,
transcending heaven and eternity.

13th report - back in Manali

Back in Manali (down to only 200 meters!) the ways of life are gradually returning to normal after three weeks of extremes. I can eat again and with good appetite, but the two health crises on this journey need some explanation, since both of them never have happened to me in India before (in 18 journeys!) The first one was perfectly logical. After three intensive days of the conference with desperate efforts at the same time to organize my Zanskar expedition, ending with disastrous rains which turned everything upside down, after which there were 9 hours of incessant trekking on an empty stomach, after which I made the mistake of overeating, being all too famished. That was stupid, and that was the drop that turned me inside out. After one day's rest I was completely restored, though. I never vomited in India before.

The second fall is more difficult to explain. There was definitely something going around which brought half of Leh to their beds and especially the conference people, who were all exhausted after two months' preparations for the conference and then hard work non-stop day and night, but I don't think I caught their syndrome. The day before I got sick, a local friend invited me for some local momos (a delicious Tibetan course) with some alien spices, which probably were what my system reacted against. 6 diarrhoeas in a day, and that was all, which did not hinder me from embarking on the toughest bus ride in India for 20 hours immediately after the 6th one. Again, one day's rest (on the bus), and I was completely rerstored, but I have never used medication in India before. An Austrian nurse offered me 2 pills of Imodium, a strong thing to put under the tongue.

It's very sad to leave all these lovely mountains behind, especially when the days really started to get beautiful, and with a failed Zanskar project also, but I must try again next year. Today here in Manali I had my first hot shower for three weeks, but I miss all the cold ones, which really stirred you up.

12th report - sad departure from Leh

The small remnant of the conference people are most of them in a rather miserable state of sickness - no wonder, after all that over-straining in organizing such a thing!

The damages here are now gradually being summed up. One village is completely gone, and eight families have lost their homes - their houses were simply completely washed away. Everyone discusses this problem in Leh, since there is no insurance system here. The damages and villages washed away are even more and much more numerous in Kashmir.

I am myself rather weak, and it will be good to return to lower altitudes after three weeks of above 3500 meters - hopefully I will get my appetite back. Many of my friends here have been struck with this sickness too - diarrhoea and weakness from over-exertion.

It is especially sad to leave here now as the weather is returning to normal with wonderful sunshine and sunsets over the clear mountains every day. Now would be the time to arrive here and start trekking - whereas people instead are leaving, shops closing for the season and the street life thinning out. One of my best local friends here advised me to come later in the season next year.

Next stop Manali.

11th report - Just a few notes about my friends and connections here and in India in general.

The conference people you already know: an exquisite bunch of wonderful, constructive and idealistic people from all over the world, of all nationalities.

I have met very few Americans and Germans here, I never met a German who was not at a loss in India, but there was at least one wonderful American for an exception who was cultivated, knowledgeable, charming and of the best kind of world travellers, a kind which is rarely found here among Americans. Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, however, are all perfect travellers, good-natured, cheerful and very good friends. Among these people I never met anyone who was not thoroughly agreeable.

The French are more difficult and not very popular. They tend to be arrogant and pretentious, and I never made a good lasting friend of a Frenchman in India.

The Swiss and Austrians are excellent trekkers and mountain climbers and very trustworthy as hardy sportsmen, although you seldom get into any intimate friendship with them. The Austrians are then easier.
The Dutch are also extremely good sportsmen, and you can easily make good friends out of them, although they tend to be a bit over-intrepid. The Belgians are gentler.

The Italians are the best possible travelling companions, always humouristic and spiritual, wonderfully entertaining, and although they can be very particular about details (second only to Israelis in making great deals out of nothing) they are the best to travel with in groups.

The Israelis are a difficult chapter. They are generally youngsters who come here in rowdy groups directly after their military service (of several years) to break loose. They generally don't know anything about India, they keep only to themselves, they want only Israeli food, they are dominant and make a lot of noise, they always quarrel about money, they speak only Hebrew and bad English only if they must, they are uneducated and shockingly ignorant, and no one likes them. Only if they come travelling here alone individually, they can be of the very best kind of travellers. Many Russian Israelis come here alone, and I always made great friends out of them.

I have met few Spaniards and never any Portuguese. Scandinavians are even more rare, this time I have only met one from Sweden, who has been living here for 28 years and refuses to speak any word of Swedish. I will meet another Swede in Manali who is also naturalized here.

The best, though, are the British. They know something about India, they know how to travel here and how things work, they understand the Indians, they are cultivated and spiritual, they know what they are doing, they are efficient and alert and make things work - they have a knack for making life easy here in India for anyone around them. At the same time, they always have something to bring and to teach you. They are simply the cleverest and best educated India travellers.

The eastern Europeans (including Russians) are more difficult to get at, since they tend to keep to themselves. Some Poles, Czechs and Hungarians, though, have been very agreeable and very brave trekkers.

On Friday morning I leave for Manali (2 days' journey), so my last day here will be tomorrow.

10th report - my letter to the conference.

Dear Friends,

When I came to Leh just in time for the conference I did not know about it. It was Ella Saltmarshe who informed me about it as we had breakfast together at Lung Snon, the Green Valley guest house, Dolma Tsering's place, one hour before the conference started. Since I had very much to do on my first day in Leh and Ladakh, I could not attend the talks as much as I would have wanted to, but I think I managed to produce a pretty good summary of the whole thing already after the first day, which you'll find published on my blog: (see 4th report)

Like myself, Ella was just a guest and observer, but still I think her view of things perhaps should have been given more attention than was the case, since her very field of research is the greatest world environmental problem of all: the global warming.

I am myself entirely a cultural worker, in all my life I have done no farming at all, so I am a complete outsider in the Green Revolution, which maybe is why I can understand and sympathize with it so well. Whatever was said during the three days of the conference, I never found anything at all to object to, while instead I was impressed by how all these people from all over the world, with their individual very special insight and experience of the vitality of grass-root work, had been assembled together to join hands and exchange knowledge and experience of how to handle the major problems of humanity.

As I said in the small seminar in which I was invited to partake, my chief concern is the degeneration and vulgarization of culture, i.e. the damaging effects of the brainwash culture (TV and other mass media) on the true culture, the survival of which is important for humanity, that is (for my part) traditional and classical literature and music, above all in music in contrast to the western rock culture of drugs, loudspeaker accentuation and 'hard metal' percussion dominance, and tonal music in contrast to atonal music, which isn't music any more. A parallel case is the sex and violence domination of the cinema, while young people never get the opportunity to see Charlie Chaplin, Vittorio de Sica, the British Gainsborough films of the 40s, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers and other classics in black and white. Also modern literature in drama (like Beckett), novels (like "Ulysses") and poetry (like Ezra Pound) that is not even intelligible I find totally meaningless in contrast to classics like Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Victor Hugo, Ibsen, H.C.Andersen and the great realists, to name a few examples. In brief, in the field of culture there is also very much old knowledge and skills that have been buried alive by 20th century technocracy that would deserve to be resurrected.

Something like this would have been my argument as a contribution to this vital grass-root conference, which hopefully will lead to maybe a chain reaction of follow-ups in the future.

yours sincerely,

Christian Lanciai, writer and musician, born an Italian citizen in Finland, working mainly as an editor in Gothenburg, Sweden.

9th report - getting busy in Leh.

The vast salt lake of Pangong Tso comes into Ladakh like a bay from the sea, like a fiord in northern Norway, and it is a wonder to come down to this lake at 4300 meters to hear the waves roll onto the beaches. It gives a most unreal impression, and the fact that (like all the great Tibetan lakes) it has no outlet, and the salt in the air, enhances the illusion of the sea. At the same time mountains of 6500 meters soar above the lake, which gives the landscape a wildly romantic aspect, like something of the final port of Gandalf's and Frodo's leave of Eriador. We were lucky to have some sunshine when we reached it late in the afternoon, but the following morning it was raining again. As travelling companions on this escursion I had five young merry Italians from Florence.

Back in Leh, the damages of the incessant rains continue. There was supposed to have been some dancing and singing today for the Indian Independence Day by Ladakhi folklore choirs in the Polo ground, but it looks like they will have to do it in the rain. The damages are unsurveyable. Practically all Ladakh is a disaster area, in Leh, the capital, two important roads with bridges have been completely washed away in the very centre, but the worst is the problem with the roofs. The Ladakhi homes are built of clay with stamped flat roofs, mainly used to dry fruits on, they can take rains but only to a limited scale. With rains ten times worse than ever, people are forced to put tarpaulins across their roofs each time it's raining not to have the dissolved clay come into their houses.

Many foreigners come here this season only for trekking, and many of them had to leave without having done a single trek. That at least was better than to get rained in in some weird isolated place without being able to get out. My Zanskar expedition was ruined, like so many other visitors' dreams here, but instead I was given this very remarkable Leh Conference, one of the key questions of which was the global warming problem, which was more palpable than ever in Ladakh at this time, since this problem about the rains in Ladakh is only due to the global warming. Since the Himalayas are highest in the world and vast like a continent, the problem is more focused here and affects people more drastically than in other places, which means, that if disaster strikes the Himalayas, that is only a warning signal of what is to follow in the rest of the world; while people like president Bush turns a blind eye to the well researched purely scientific investigation of the problem made available on a documentary film by Al Gore and simply refuses to see it.

The conference people are waking up now and getting active, so more news is to follow.

8th report - Defeat.
Today the sun is shining, but you don't believe in it any more. Yesterday the bus station authorities told me the road to Zanskar (from Kargil to Padum) was open and working, but then there were some new rains, and the road was closed again. So I have given up Zanskar for this journey. Instead I go for a few days up to Pangong Tso, the highest and largest lake in Ladakh stretching for 150 kilometers into Tibet. At least something. Then there will be three days left for me in Leh before returning to Manali and Dharamsala. Thus the retreat will at least not be very stressful.

The conference people seem all to have fallen sick, I met the secretary today, he was sick, and Helena (the leading lady) is not even available. So everything is rather walking on its knees after the worst rains here in history. Next report after the Pangong expedition. An illustrating poem:

Leaking tents

It's not just that it's wet and dreary, but it's freezing cold as well,
and there is no way to get warm in soaked blankets and with drippings
following you mercilessly in whatever way you turn
to helplessly escape the cold and pouring streams
that find their way wherever you have something sensitive,
like papers, books, your camera, your toilet paper;
and whatever that can not survive a touch with water
will be sought out by the waters of the leaking tent
to cheer you up and force you out of bed
with an umbrella sitting upright all the night in freezing cold
 until the rain stops, which it never does.
It could be worse, though. Drippings only torture,
but if something happens to the ground and waters move it,
you'll end up in a flood of mud and never wake up any more.

7th report - back in Leh.
Back from trekking in the wilderness, which in spite of all was a success, no matter how much it kept on raining. I have experienced rains at Lamayuru before, which is in the middle of a moonscape desert area, but then it was only faint drizzles, which nevertheless meant total havoc with destroyed mainroads all over Ladakh; but this time it was ten times worse, pouring down like hell. But it was, I believe and hope, the turning point. Then came the full moon with a complete change of weather and a clear sky for the first time on this journey - after two weeks. I have never before been obliged to cross high desert passes with an umbrella, but this time it rained on every pass. In Temisgam, one of my favourite villages with some of my best local friends, I had a complete digestion system breakdown after a nine hour trek in the desert, probably because of over-exertion ('un esaurimento nervoso'). I might have lost 10% of my weight in one day; and it was the first time ever in India (not before the 18th journey!) that I was compelled to thorough puking, turning myself inside out most unwillingly and utterly. That gave me an extra day at Temisgam, which I was partly glad of, because of my friends there. I have also met very interesting Frenchmen and hoards of Italians. In Lamayuru there was a group of 13 northern Italians, all sick, who passed their breakfast mainly exchanging medicines between themselves, but were all very cheerful anyway, as Italians always are abroad, no matter how shipwrecked they are. As soon as they had gone, (to Temisgam, on my recommendation,) there arrived an even greater Italian group. Tutti questi italiani! Because of the crowds of foreign trekkers at Lamayuru, I had to sleep one night on the floor in the kitchen. It was hard but good.

Now the only thing to do is to wait for the road to Zanskar to be cleared at last. At Lamayuru, which is on the threshold to Zanskar, they told me it would take another 5-6 days, which would be critical, since I only have one week left in Ladakh. There is still hope but less every day. - The weather (i.e. the global warming) has messed up this whole journey, not only for me but for almost every foreigner here, who comes here mainly for trekking; but I wouldn't have missed that Leh conference for all the world!

Here in Leh I also hope for some news from the conference people, which I hope to get this afternoon.

Concerning Lebanon, the problem is that Israel over-reacted from the start and thereby worsened the situation instead of remedying it, multiplying the martyrs and pouring oil on the expanding fire of the terrorist Hizbollah movement instead of quenching it. It's all part of the world's Greenhouse of Madness, Politics, led by fanatical aggressive thinking on the part of leaders of nations like USA (Bush & CO), England (Tony Blah), Australia (John Howard), China (the CCP, with North Korea and Burma as satellites), Israel and Iran. Unfortunately for us, this is the madhouse that is in charge of the world.

with best greetings to you all from the country of the constant desert rains, (Ladakh's next tourism slogan?),


6th report - Complete change of program

Here all is well. It has stopped raining, but the roads are still blocked. No one gets out of here south to Manali, and the road to Zanskar is closed. Hoping it will open again in a week or so, I follow the conference party to the monastery of Likir some 4 hours west to gradually continue west from there, stopping at Themisgang and Lamayuru, where I hope to be able to continue to Zanskar after all. If not, I will be back in a week. A longer absence than 10 days will mean I have reached Zanskar.

The last day of the conference was perhaps the most interesting one, when only the most initiated delegates were left, but I can't give a report of it now, since they are waiting for me.

Some thoughts from a friend:

"The world is going mad and it seems the only thing people who believe in love can do is collectively pray and work to restore a sense of humanity. To keep believing in what is right, cleanse our polluted thought processes and realise that  our positive thoughts and and prayers can create change on a spiritual and psychic level. It's so easy to get bogged down ( speaking for myself!) with our little preoccupations and forget the incredible mystical and spritual potential in us."

Very true.

I try to follow up what's going on in Lebanon, but I can't get any details here - only superficial news of the most important atrocities.

5th report - Disaster!

Sorry, here I am again, stuck in Leh, because the whole of Ladakh has been struck with disaster in the form of torrential rains. It is not supposed to be raining in a desert country like this, the population is not prepared, it's all because of the global warming, and thus all Ladakhi houses are now leaking, hotels in the posh area are being evacuated, the Main Bazaar is flooded by a yellow river of mud, villages are washed away, roads are broken up, and no one can do anything. Until the roads are repaired, no one can move in Ladakh, and all foreigners are terribly frustrated while the locals have a harder time than usual just surviving and keeping the waters out of their homes. Meanwhile I follow up the aftermath of the Conference, make new friends, we are four Italian participants, (there is even a "ristarento italiano" here, where among other things they serve "spageti napoleone",) while we all just have to mobilize all our patience to see the end of the rains.... So the best news you can get from me will be no news at all, which will mean an end to the disaster....

4th report - the Leh Conference

The whole world is here - let's hope to the world's advantage. So far the discussions of the conference have amounted to quite a deal of interesting stuff. A summary so far could include the urgent message, that it is possible not to be dependent on the consumer society, that it's not necessary to use environmentally lethal plastic for everything, that people don't really need Coca-Cola, Pepsi and hamburgers, that no one really must stuff himself with junk food, that no one is obliged to let himself be brainwashed by the consumer society media trash, and so on. The important key to the issue is information - if only people are informed about the lies of the superficial consumer and brainwash society, they will understand to say no to it, for their own better survival. Localization is another key - the opposite of centralization. Another giant problem catastrophically increasing and ignored by the authorities is the accelerating alienation and increasing poverty of the mega-cities with avalanche-like growing slums. In the cities, more and more people are constantly being socially exiled and driven into a poverty trap that can't be remedied - as socially outcast in a city, you are generally a hopeless case.

Another catastrophically growing problem is the loss of identity in an economically globalized world, the reducing of individuals to ciphers, if even that. Another problem is the corruption of the education institutions, which more often than not are politically manipulated and directed. It is possible to educate yourself and learn what you need to learn without being dependent on politically manipulated institutions. The diverse speakers were very much divided between optimism and pessimism, for some the case of humanity was lost, while others still believed there was a way out. In India there is a special high school instituted to teach solely the subject of Freedom, which, in a globalized world, people have a tendency to forget what it is all about, especially people confined in poisonous big cities and brainwashed by media propaganda nonsense.

So one could call the conference a grass-root conference, with eminent grass root pioneers from all over the world participating in discussions about how to save the world.

Thank you, Annika, for your greetings from home. Unfortunately I cannot write in Swedish on foreign keyboards... Thanks also to you, Lars, for your interest.

Since I will now embark on a 10-14 day trek into the wilderness, there will be no more reports for about two weeks.

Third report - Leh

All is well, although the tremendous journey from Manali up here brought some adventures - among other things, in the middle of the desert we were seized by a sudden rainstorm (!) and got stuck in a mudpool - everyone had to get out of the bus and push. The deserts of Ladakh are definitely getting greener. The journey from Keylong here was supposed to have been 14 hours but took 16. Anyway, as soon as I stumbled in at my old family place here, I was warmly embraced as a lost son returned once more and overwhelmingly well taken care of. I always stay with the same family, I was first here six years ago, and nothing hasn't really changed.

Today an international conference starts here conducted by Helena Norberg-Hodge from Devon (born in Sweden), one of the world's leading environmentalists, whom I have known since 2000. The main participants are from India, South America, Asia and Europe, some from California and Canada. The theme of the conference is the global warming problem - infinitely important. She won the alternative Nobel prize for her ecological pioneering research activities in 1979, I think, and is still world active in the field.

Second report - Manali

What I so much enjoy in India is the naturalness of the people. They are not rich but very content with little. Especially mountain people are the best people in the world since they are best at co-operation. The whole miracle tale of India is about co-operation. They are the world experts, since they are so many and so crowded, they just have to co-operate to survive, and in that art the rest of the world has much to learn from them.

I also enjoy the mentality, which is so much faster than the European. the general Indian is very quick-witted, quick in action and in temperament and very fast in thinking. Mentally you always get speeded up here, which only does you a world of good.

Above Manali there is a place called Vashisht with hot springs. The water is very hot, but you don't have to stay in long and may go as many times as you like. There is no charge, since the spring is holy. Religion and above all religious and philosophical thought pervades everything in India - another advantage.

There was a great assembly today at Manali as there arrived a high rinpoche (teacher of wisdom) from Leh. There is a great Buddhist community here, my landlord is the chairman of one of the temples, we are great friends, thus this is one of my favourite homes in India, and today they were all gathered (Tibetans, Nepalis and locals) here to listen to the Rinpoche.

Tomorrow I take the bus for Ladakh early in the morning. The 500 kilometer mountain ride on almost non-existent roads across four passes from 4000 to 5300 meters in elevation will take a few days, so there will be no more report from me before Leh.

First report - 44 hours from Gothenburg to Manali

So far so good. The journey has been smooth enough, and I arrived safely here late last night at Manali at the foot of the Rothang Pass, beyond which is my destination. It rained heavily in Delhi, and also here everything is dripping with humidity - it's the monsoon season with inundations everywhere, but my road to the land beyond the monsoons is open. I have already met here with a few old friends, but naturally I am tired, after two days' and two nights' journeying in nothing but shaking air seats! Yesterday I had nothing to eat at all, since I constantly had to catch connecting buses. Fortunately I will now have two days of comfortable rest here, even sleeping in a bed!

Postat av: Annika

Här är en "gammal vän" som följer med i andan om. Tack för tipset om bloggen. Väntar med iver på att få följa med hur resan framskrider. Här på Sarfsalö står både tiden och luften still. Sommarvärmen fortfar, men hösten gör sitt intrång med kallt vatten och svalare nätter. Vi skulle behöva de monsunregn du beskriver. Önskar dig all lycka på färden!

2006-07-31 @ 09:24:36
Postat av: Lars Lundberg

hej Christian
Roligt att se att resan verkar fortskrida.. ser med spänning framemot
forts.Mvh Lars(mannen med pianot som inte gick att stämma)

2006-08-01 @ 16:16:53
Postat av: Lars Lundberg

Hej Christian!
Hoppas Du kommer vidare nu då . Vet inte om Du är uppdaterad
om Libanon- en resolution om att bla sända en fredsstyrka finns nu som har accepterats av Israel
men inte av Libanons regering ännu.Striderna verkar vara intensivare
än någonsin dock, med många förluster på bägge sidor.
All the best from Lars

2006-08-07 @ 09:44:29
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2007-02-23 @ 02:08:25
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2007-02-24 @ 23:24:19
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2013-10-15 @ 04:47:10

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