Meeting old and new friends on the Manali Leh Highway

There is always something to look forward to when returning. It may be small changes, like roadside flowers that you had never noticed before. There is also something comforting  in that nothing has changed either, in this case, no mountains have been moved! Then there is the anticipation of meeting old friends again and meeting new ones too.

Last year we visited the remote village of Chumikgiarsa at 4000m,  https://www.spanafrican-adventures.co.za/himalayan-villages-chumikgiarsa-at-4000m/ this year I was eager to return to see Tenzin and her then 10mth old daughter Padme and local grand dad Dom Dom Namgyal.

Insect-like Janet, negotiates her way down the Baralacha-la pass to the plains of Sarcchu where Chumikgiarsa village occurs dot-like beneath a crumbling mass of mountain.
Mesmerized by the colours and magnitude, I never tire of this descent.
Our campsite right beside the Highway, about 2km beyond of Sarcchu dhabba village. An 1.5 hr walk from here to Chumikgiarsa.
Prayer flags adorn the bridge crossing the river. The village is around the folded sedimentary rocks to the right.
Everything was as it was when were here last year. Padme’s house surrounded glacier fed wheat and barley fields. I was then disappointed to learn that she wasn’t at home or in the village for that matter.
Showing a photo of Tenzin and Padme to Tsering, she shook her head and pointed back to Sarcchu.
Dom Dom wasn’t at home either.
And then I spotted him. Way off in the distance a lone figure in the barley fields. “Dom Dom Namgyal”, I called, “Khamzang-in le meme le?'” (how are you grand dad).  Janet managed to take this lovely photo of us meeting dwarfed by the landscape.
It was a precious moment when I handed him the photographs Caroline and I had taken of him last year. He patted me with delight and laughed in appreciation. “Ma  gyalla, ma gyalla!” (very good, very good) I was almost certain it was the first time he had received a photo of himself.
I showed him the pictures of Tenzin, he also pointed to Sarchhu
Shortly Dom Dom’s friend came over to see what all the fuss was about.
Just as before he proudly stood for another photograph, first carefully replacing his hat, patting his hair and making sure his coral and turquoise beads were visible. We will return once more.
Although I have taken so many photos like this, its hard not to appreciate the detail in Ladakhi villages. Here fodder is stored on the rooftop.
Sun baked bricks
or the delicate wetland flowers
or a cute himalayan kid
Back in Sarchhu, I was still on a mission to find ama and nome (mother and daughter). We stopped off at this little dhabba owned by Tsering Tsemo also from Chumikgiarsa to ask her if she knew them. Padme was evidently being looked after by a friend at Dolma dhabba just up the road.
but first of cup of chai.
and some drawing and games with brothers Tenzin Lashe and Tenzin Namtrel
Animals from Africa, a combined effort of Stefan and my artistic skills. Colour them in please!
Thanks Tsering, Tenzin and Tenzin, see you next time!
And there she was. Pretty little Padme wearing the same green jersey she was wearing last year.
Looking at herself and her Ama in the pictures.
Much to her distress I had to wrestle the photos back before they got all crunched!
And finally I found her delighted Ama-le (Tenzin) who was working at the road worker station with her dad. She nearly cried when she saw the pictures, the time when she kindly invited us into her home for tea in Chumikgiarsa.

Bridget Ringdahl

Pedaling has been natural to me since the tender age of three. Cycling is practical, fun, it gets you to the corner café, across countries, continents, keeps you fit and is by far the most efficient and environmentally friendly transport option around, being virtually carbon neutral.

I live in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal which is great cycling country, within 10 minutes I can be bouncing along some of the finest single tracks in the province.

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6 thoughts on “Meeting old and new friends on the Manali Leh Highway
  • Bridgi - there is a different emotion in your postings this time. Interesting. Wonderful words and pictures as always. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures with us more sedentary souls.

  • Cath Ford

    Thanks once again for sending through such a lovely story! I love being a virtual traveller through your eyes - you really capture the essence and beauty of the scenery around you!

  • Susan Donald

    Hi Bridget, What a lovely journey you took us readers on as we read your account and looked at the photos. Thanks For that Susan :) _____

  • fatima cachalia

    Oh Bridget, this is so heart -warming and humbling. fatima

  • Cathy Dzerefos
  • Amar

    amazing ...

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