Wonder-struck on the Frozen Zanskar Trek

Posted on Posted in italy, kashmir, ladakh, travel blog, trek

“How do you know that I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.” (Carroll, 1865)

Probably, the Cat is right. Probably Alice should have not come here but she’s a tough one to convince. She came here in search of a wonderland; for since the day she saw the pictures of the frozen Zanskar River, she felt a mysterious connection to the place.

You may call her a dreamer, for she is too grown up to believe in the existence of a wonderland; but she might be spared for a possible occupational hazard. As she makes advertisements for a candy firm, and interacts with little kids all the time. Even in this era, when social scientists talk about the death of innocence even in kids, and rise of Facebook babies; kids still talk to her about their fantasies, of talking birds, flying homes, and chocolaty clouds.

She has always found the concept of ‘wonderland’ queer. Having travelled to a good many countries and lived in major metros, she had never felt wonder-struck. Everything, in fact everything appears NORMAL to her. Nothing alarms, not even sub-zero temperatures. So it wasn’t unexpected of her, to leave the comfort of her warm home and head for the Frozen Zanskar River trek.

A sudden strong snowfall on the second day almost stalled the trek, and everyone was rushed inside the tents. Alice however, took her camera out for a walk. And, there, standing on the edge of the frozen river, she saw something that she had never seen or imagined before.

Everything was white – so dangerously white – so beautifully white – the frozen river, snow covered tents; with no trace of any other colour. An average painter, her work had almost always depicted landscapes. The sun, the snow-capped mountains, the green valleys and the flowing streams – always featured in her paintings. But, this was so different – so unlike her imagination, so beyond her imagination – so threateningly white, but yet so mesmerizingly beautiful.

In that stillness, she was joined by a flock of Alpine Chough who surprisingly acknowledged her presence. The birds hovered around, calling out to her and Alice ran after them. They sat with her to enjoy the silence, and then talked as if they could understand her, and finally, they sang to her. Leaving her inhibitions aside, she danced. And how!

From that moment onwards, everything appeared magical to her; everything became exciting and every sound musical. And, once again, she became the self that she had lost over the years, the ever curious Alice.

“How do you know that I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.” (Carroll, 1865)

Only here, Alice is me and ‘the Cat’, a middle-aged vegetable seller that I happened to meet on the streets of Leh, Ladakh, India. She can’t understand why a girl has come this far in the biting cold and what fun will she have, spending days together on the frozen river trek.

Some pictures of the trek

Chadar Trek - Frozen River Trek
Here’s the first glimpse of frozen river at Tilad Do — at Zanskar River.
Not so frozen river in some stretches
Frozen River
Frozen waterfalls along the way
Home away from home
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