The Gift

A plaintive singing drifted through the camp; similar to the Buddhist prayer songs we had heard while staying with a family in Kham, the easternmost cultural kingdom of Tibet, on our In Search of Shangri-La journey.

The singing was strangely moving, and unusual for mid afternoon. We walked in the direction of the pit toilets so our path would take us near the old woman. She sat beside a cow on the ground, singing to it, and feeding it fresh green hay. In our experience it has been the oldest woman of the family singing prayers. And it was again, the grandmother of the family owned parachute camp at Whiskey Nalla, half-way between Leh and Manali, in a 15,000 ft Great Himalaya Range desert valley.SAM_2040R

Something was not right. Cows stand when they eat.

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Crossing The Great Himalaya Range

We rode out of Leh, a long downhill we would pay for later, with growing excitement and more than a little trepidation. Facing us were four passes, one of them the second highest in the world, several days between 15,000 and 17,000 feet with potential for altitude sickness, bad weather, and little information about services. We also would be seeing a dramatic part of the highest mountains in the world; if we could handle the physical and mental challenges. DSCF8135R We have gained confidence over the past 20 years of bicycle touring around the world. But much of it was when we were a lot younger. At 50 and 70, we couldn’t expect to perform at earlier levels to tackle arguably the highest most challenging road in the world. Or could we? We had ridden Khardung La, highest motorable road in the world at 18,380 ft. But that didn’t include remaining at high altitudes for well over a week.

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