Day 1: 28/11/2010
Me and Dawa set to make our Visit to a village called Charasa and other villages nearby. Charasa village is located 80 kms away from Disket. But in winter time, people cross over the frozen bed of Siachen river, which cut short the distance by half. So, our plan was to take public bus up to the village opposite to Charasa village and then to cross over the river and to stay overnight their and to visit the neighboring villages as well. Anyway, we started in the afternoon to catch the bus which leaves at 2:30 pm .
We got into bus. It was jam packed with passengers and luckily, we had asked a patient of mine who visited me in the hospital to keep two seats reserved for me and Dawa. He kept a front seat next to driver for me and seat behind for Dawa. Before the bus started it engine two more people squeeze in between me n driver, which is otherwise supposed to be empty.
After fifteen minutes of journey in Bus, I realized that there was no space for me to move my legs; it was as if though I have been tied down to seat. I looked back to Dawa and he was in no better situation. After a while, conductor came to me with his body twisted into four different direction and was asking for a ticket. Bad to worst, my cash was in jeans pocket and there was no way I could take it out. So I asked him, I’ll pay it later on.
Reached third bus stop, a monk saw me sitting in the bus .He greeted me and navigated toward me through the crowed bus. He asked me; where I am leading. I told him my plan. After listening to me, he plead me to visit his monastery, it seems around 30 novices of the monastery is down with sore throat. I discussed with Dawa because visiting the monastery means change in our tour plan. Anyhow, we decided that we will visit the monastery.
We reached Kaygar Village, where we had to get down to visit the monastery. This village is three villages ahead of our planned boarding off village. So, we started walking toward Samtanling Monastery, which lies 1.5 km from the bus stop. After 10 minute walking, we got a lift in Toyota car. Inside the car, soft Hindi music was playing which was very conducive for our mood.
We started the health check up of the novices. 34 children were treated for Upper respiratory tract infection. Most of our antibiotics and cough syrup got over, which means we will ran out of medical stock on visiting two villages. Although, our plan was to hit at least 3 villages along with Charasa.
Health check up got over and we were back on road. It was getting dark, chill wind was blowing outside and was wondering where to stay. So, we decided to stay overnight in the same village. We met a villager on the way asked him, if we could stay in their home. He recognized me and invited to his home.
We unpacked our luggage Our host, Mr. Lobzang, served us hot butter tea and local bread. He owns a nice and cozy home, but lacking cross ventilation and air was thick with smoke. All I cared was, it was warm and the mouth watering aroma of the food which was being prepared on the chulla (iron box with chimney on which cooking is done).
We had a delicious dinner and had a long conversation about the host‚Äôs grand parents who was working as potter cum guide during the silk route time. As this part of the Nubra Valley was once part of the silk trade route between Xianjang province (Khotan) and Kashmir. Later on, we tried making telephone call to the villages we wanted to visit next day but in vain. So the owner suggested us to visit the village called Burma, which lies just opposite to his village across the river instead of Charasa Village.
Off to bed.
Got up and packed up everything. It was very cold outside, temperature out side was minus 15, sky was clear though.
Had a breakfast, our host suggested us to follow the footstep and showed us the direction in which the temporary bridge is laid down by the villager. He also told us that a carpenter from the opposite village will be coming from the opposite direction and he will help out to find the way. We bade him farewell and left some Paracetamol tablets.
We met a villager who was taking his livestock for grazing. We greeted him and asked for the way to Burma Village. It was a beautiful morning; the trail of dust raised by the cows walking behind with the beam of sunlight through poplar trees was breath taking view.
Reached Burma village. We met a boy on a cycle, who guided us to the house of village head. We met him and he took us to community hall and sent two persons to call all the women. Meanwhile, he served us tea and biscuit.
We started our health check up and it took us more then one hour as every villager wanted to get their health check up and we couldn‚Äôt refuse. In our back of our mind, we were wondering if we could make it to next village or not.
We started our health education on cervical cancer and women‚Äôs health on general. They were listening very carefully and we could make out from their face. There was very good response at the end of session as each and every woman came to us and thanked us. Many of them asked, if they could get a screening test for cervical cancer next day
Health education got over finally and villager were inviting us for lunch but we had constrained of time. We took a final group snaps. And then, we started off to Charasa village. It took us one and half hours to reach Charasa. We were hungry and tired when we reached Charasa village.
Reached Charasa Village, a historical village. This village was once the winter palace of king of Ladakh. We could see the majestic palace on the eastern side of the village, surrounded by the Siachen River on one side and rows of Stupa on other. Hardly any tourist make a visit to this village as it remains cut off from other part of the valley by overflowing river. This village‚Äôs soil is rich in iron. In olden days, iron materials were being supplied from here to entire Ladakh region; therefore, literal meaning of Charasa is Iron- ore soil village.
We started our village clinic, all our medical supply for the tour got over and we had no other choice then to return back to our niche. We met a lady named Norzom with a seizure disorder, she lives with her mother and they managed to earn little amount of money by growing vegetables. Most of her earning goes into buying drugs for herself and often she had to discontinue the drugs and had episodes of seizure. So, both I and Dawa, decided to sponsored her treatment for next ten years. She was very happy and we were too as we had an opportunity to help out somebody in need.
It was turning dark and we decided to hit back to our hospital by hitch hiking. Otherwise it is difficult to reach back home and we didn‚Äôt know where to stay. Dawa was quiet positive about reaching back home by midnight but I was bit scared and uncomfortable. Anyhow, we reach on the roadside by 5:40pm and it was already dark and icy cold.
I asked him again, if it is a good idea to go back or to stay overnight in close by village. Luckily, we saw two head light approaching, it was a car and it stopped. We asked if we could get a lift till Disket. But driver told that he is going up to half way through to a village called Sumoor. Anyhow, we got into car.
We reached Summor village and we could see our hospital. It will take us at least 7 hours on foot if we follow the motor road, and there was a chance that we might get another lift. So, we started walking again. We took our torch light and prayed for a any car to pass through. Nothing happens for next 20 minute, I was bit scared and confused. There was many question our mind, was it a good decision to walk like this??
We could make out a car approaching in our direction, we were very happy, but car didn‚Äôt stopped. In fact, car sped up more on reaching close to us. We were amazed and then we thought, probably the car driver though that we were ghost or some alien because nobody walks at this point of time. We had a good laugh yet swearing at him.
Another car came, this time we remove our monkey cap and presented us in such a way that, hello!!! We are a human being. It worked, he stopped but unfortunately, he said he can give us lift up to the Khalsar bridge which is 25 km away from our destination. Then we though, ok!! At least we can reach back home by midnight.
Reached Khalsar bridge, restaurant nearby bridge was open. We decided to have a hot tea. Went inside, to our amazement, one our hospital co-worker was inside too. He was returning back from Leh and was heading to the same destination as ours. It was such a relief. We hopped into his car.
Back home. We were dead tired and hungry too. More tired then hungry, so we decided to sleep and postponed the cooking for next morning.