10th July 2013, Vivek High School, Chandigarh
Sixteen students and six adults from RS schools in eight different countries assembled in New Delhi in early July. In the short time available to us in Delhi, excursions were arranged to landmarks such as India Gate and a little last minute shopping was done at Khan Market and Connaught Place. Very early on the morning of July 10, the group left Indira Gandhi International Airport on the Jet Airways flight to Leh. We spent one night in the Hotel Omasila and two nights in the Ladakh Residency, the establishment owned by Tsering Wangchuk, the founder of Snow Leopard Trails. During this acclimatization period, we walked the colorful streets of the town, hiked up to a spectacular Stupa and took a daylong car trip west, along the Indus, to Likir Monastery and the Zanskar River. Following this brief and luxurious interlude, we headed east to our new home, the village of Thiksey. Our campsite lay in the shadow of the 1000 year old Gompa and the sounds and activities of the monastery were with us day and night for the duration of our stay. Our camp was simple but comfortable. The highlight was the cooking of our culinary magician, Sonam. The lowlight for many was the visit to the 'Thunderbox'! Washing from a bucket with cold water was both bracing and refreshing after a long hot day of work.
The work of the project took place at the Lamdon Model School, close by our camp. We developed a love hate relationship with the thousands of eleven kilogram bricks of sun dried Indus River mud as we carted them around the building site. We mixed and transported thousands of kilograms of mud. We decorated the main hallway of the student hostel with creative and cheerful murals and re-painted the entrance sign. We also spent some time in the school classrooms engaging with the students. We worked alongside local men and women who did much of the skilled work and kept our spirits up with banter and work songs. At the end of our time, they paid us the enormous compliment of saying that we had worked harder than any other group they had ever seen! In the middle of the project, we took a day to visit the famously beautiful Pangong Lake on the Chinese border.
Following a farewell performance and feast organized by the school, we set off on our five-day trek. This was a stern physical challenge for many as we ascended to passes that were well over 5000 meters. Our camps were idyllic and the display of stars at night was a revelation for many. Returning to Leh, we spent our last nights together at the Ladakh Residency before returning to Delhi where we said goodbye to the Indian students and adults. The rest of the group made a lightning trip to the colorful city of Agra where we visited the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal before returning to Delhi and our flights home. click for pictures