Dadu Aur Madak

We hired a car and driver in Srinigar for our trip up to Leh in the Ladakh region of the Himalayas. We had decided to break up what is normally a two day trip into three and do one night of camping in Sonamarg. The trip was all inclusive--meaning the tents and meals at the campsite were all arranged. Our expectations were not that high, but it turned out that this was one of the better decisions we had made. We expected musty old tents but we had our own sleeping bags so we figured it wouldn't be too bad. What we found was almost elegant compared to some of the accommodations we would find elsewhere.

The spotlessly maintained tents had queen-sized brass beds, and a separate room with a sink with cold running water. That room also had a metal drain pan built into the floor and boys would bring buckets of hot water for bathing. In the evenings they would bring hot water bottles to place between the mattress and the bedding to preheat your bed for you. The chef prepared meals that were the best we had had in India to date, topped by a warm banana custard for dessert that I have been looking for ever since.

Our host Hanif was extremely articulate, and was a wealth of information about the region and its people. He arranged a guide to take us on horseback up to the Thajiwas Glacier, one of many in this area that is popular with trekkers. On the right is a view of our camp near the river.

The local people our nomadic, following their Pashmina goats (above). The prized wool is taken to market by caravan (below).

Along the way, our guide stopped at one of the temporary camps to have a smoke with the herders. They offered us a delicious cha masala (spiced tea) and asked if we had any medicine for chest congestion. Hanif tells us that they seem to think that westerners all carry powerful medicines, and it is common for them to ask. Karen gave them a baggy of Advil, the only thing we had with us. The women were friendly and polite, but remained inside the tent.

Once again the only thing that mars the tranquility of the region is the presence of India military. The town is home to the area's largest bootcamp. These trainees have to reach each numbered station in a specified amount of time. Some of the numbers are high up (see the recruit at arrow), and the men have to scramble to them un-roped. The area is dotted with foxholes. The one below had a fox in it.