Breaking the Cycle in Ladakh

Sep 04

Leh to Khalse

Published at 01:26
Dispatch created from email
Day 1
Leh to Khalse


I had been told not to expect to find any internet between Leh and
Mulbekh, on arrival at the Khalse Secondary School this evening I was
pleasantly surprised to find out that they had just received access to
the internet last year. I therefore feel I need to make the most of the

After all that had happened in the last ten days, I was really looking
forward to setting off. Jigmet, the young cameraman who will accompany
me all the way to Phe (where I will meet the rest of the GHE group for
the village electrification and innovation centre set-ups), was raring
to go, turning up at 7.00am as agreed to start filming. Hussain arrived
at 7.30 and I was on the road just after 8am.

The first day was always going to be a good challenge, to reach Khalse
village almost 100km away, given my limited preparation and short time
to acclimatise, but I needed to get there in time to present to the
students the next day.

Stage 1 of the ride, Leh to Nimu, was very familiar as I had pedalled it
during the World Expeditions trip that I escorted in 2016. From Leh at
3500m, the highway drops 400metres to Spituk Monastery, overlooking the
Indus River. The route from there to Khalse in general tracks the Indus,
veering away twice, both times involving 400metre climbs.

Coming from the flattest continent on Earth, the scale of this landscape
is hard to fathom. Craggy, dramatic peaks rise almost sheer from the
valleys. Purple, red and jade green striations must signify that there
is a lot of iron in the mountains, side by side with yellows, browns and
oranges on adjacent slopes. The landscape is bone dry except for verdant
green oases that indicate small settlements.

Highlights for the day were the climb away from Basgo village and
monastery, the junction of the Zanskar and Indus Rivers.

I seemed to handle the altitude a little better than I remember I did
last time, possibly due to the acclimatisation I did at home sleeping in
the altitude tent. I made the 97km to Khalse in good time, though it was
more than enough for the first day. At the Secondary College, I was
greeted and given tea by the Buddhist warden, and later on, by Sonam
Dorjey, the counsellor of Lingshed (a remote village that was
electrified by GHE last year). Sonam has been setting up my visits to
the four schools in the region and had travelled here by foot and
vehicle to oversee my talks.

I am staying in one of the staff’s accommodation in the girls boarding
house. Tomorrow I will give my first talk to the 150 students, then
cycle 20km to the next village, Wanla, just off the highway, and present
to the students there.



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