In Dha, Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair . . .
Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
195Trip End Feb 28, 2013
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Where I stayed
Skyabapa Guesthouse, Dha
BEER AND COCA COLA
Since most of the staff at Moon Land Hotel was let go for the winter season, the menu was scaled back. No fried potatoes with breakfast. The omelet and toast was passable. Our total bill came to 1050 ($20US) including the room, dinner, breakfast and one large beer. At 150 rupees ($2.85) beer is expensive compared with most things in India. Beer, as far as we have seen, never appears on the menu and isn't visible in display cases. But in three tourist restaurants where Dave has asked, they have had it for sale. Ubiquitous Coca Cola, on the other hand, typically runs 25 or 30 rupees (47 or 57 cents) at restaurants.
ROAD WORKERS HAVE A HARD LIFE IN INDIA
And at 9 am, we ascended to the towards Photo La (pass) at 4100 m (13479ft), the highest point on the Srinagar to Leh road. It has many alternate spellings such as Foti La, Foto La and Fotula etc…..
An enormously long military convoy passed going in the opposite direction which made for eating a lot of dirt and dust for us. One jeep pulled over to us and the passenger reminded us that photographing military vehicles it is not allowed.
Road construction crews were emerging from their tents, their blankets spread out to freshen in the sunshine. One was getting a haircut, another brushing his teeth. From a distance, it looked like dal and rice was served for breakfast. We have been told that most the workers are from Bihar state in north eastern India. They are willing to work here for a song because the economic situation is dire at home.
TURN FROM THE LEH-SHRINAGAR ROAD AT KHANGRAL
The name of the town at the cut-off we needed was not marked on our map and we didn't know what to ask for. Our hotel staff didn't know the name but said it was in about 18 km after and obscure town that wasn't on our map. The odometer on the motorcycle was broken so that would be difficult to judge. Dah was too far away to use that name. We knew about where to keep our eyes open for side road. A small road that dropped into the village of Khangral went in the right direction and, by the look of the terrain, appeared to be a candidate. We saw another sight stating 'Samjak 24’.Luckily, we made the right choice.
Starting at Khangral, we were in a predominantly Muslim area. Even the smallest village boasts a humble mosque and the women wore colorful hijab (head scarves), long tunics and comfortably loose pants.
WEDDING PARTY OF 900
We entered a narrow canyon along a serpentine Sangeluma River with villagers along the way moving herds of goats, cows and even donkeys. People tended vegetable plots and harvesting rice and we watched all that entails with interest. Huge bags of straw sewn shot awaited pick up on the side of the road. Communal water-pumps always seem to be the meeting place.
We stopped to see what a huge gathering was all about. Soon we were told it was a wedding and people from as far as Lamayuru and Dha were in attendance. 900 guests were expected. A nice fellow took us under his wing and explained what was going on.
Striking to us was that the men and woman were seated in separate places and even the food for the women was prepared by women and men's food was prepared by men. Enormous soot blackened pans filled to the brim with all sorts of delicacies, chutney, mutton, rice and more. We were too early for the mutton to be ready. Also trays filled with shiny metal bowl with apricots in juice were passed around. Everyone was in a festive mood.
Our arrival caused quite a sensation, especially with the kids. The bride and groom had not arrived but the important male relatives were gathered in separate enclosures.
One area was set up to receive and document the gifts.
We left after about an hour. We were grateful that we had small peek into their customs.
CHIKTAN KHAR & LAHOCK
A bit further along the road, Chiktan Khar, a 16th century ruin, dominated the town view from a bluff. A group of villagers washed rice at the stream. A few more were stooped working in a nearby vegetable field.
Just before we crossed the Indus river, our permit got checked at a police checkpoint. At every checkpoint we handed in a copy of our permit. The bus stop was labeled "Lahock"
We reached the larger Indus River and followed the road to a gated bridge that was heavily guarded by the military. Again, our permit was checked and the guard explained that we needed to take the cut-off up from the Indus, park by the bridge, and walk four minutes to the village of Dha.
WHOOPS, WE ALMOST DROVE TO PAKISTAN
The next bridge led to another bridge, then another, as the windy road crisscrossed the river flowing down the canyon. We passed a deserted military campground and concluded we had gone too far. We stopped a military convoy truck, and sure enough, we were on our way to Pakistan. Dha was miles back down the canyon.
BROKPA PEOPLE OF DHA
The Mamas & the Papas sung; "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair". The Brokpa have been wearing flowers in their hair well before the "Summer of Love." They live in Dha.
We found the parking area for Dha. Dha is reached by footpaths from here or from access at the opposite end of the village, west. There are no signs and when we asked villagers for a home-stay or guesthouse, we were pointed to follow this path or that. No English was spoken. We passed a large Buddhist style prayer wheel. We realized that are not in Muslim territory any longer.
We reached Skyabapa Guesthouse, the only place we could stay. The other home-stay options in Dah were closed for the season. And eccentric Dutch guy and a lone German woman were relaxing in the garden. They weren't together. We were met by the proprietor, Lundhup Dorjey and given a choice of drab dusty cube rooms. The rooms on the roof had view but that was reached by a rickety bridge made of scrap corrugated metal. No electricity or running water at this guesthouse. Toilet is out back.
Lundhup visited with us and showed us several books about the unique inhabitants of Dha. Two were academic publications written in an obtuse Indian style. The other was a Blurb photo book published by a 17 year old American, Brenton Swarzenbach (See www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/950758).
Brokpa are thin faced caucasoid hazel eyed Dard people thought by some to be the purest descendants of the ancient Indo-Europeans. They are Tibetan Buddhist, Bön, Animist who speak an archaic form of the Shina language. Dha people are known to be extraordinarily productive with the small their small plots. Locally grown staples are barley and hardy wheat. Other important foods include potatoes, radishes, and turnips, apples, apricots and walnuts. We saw tomatoes being harvested in the fields and drying on every horizontal sun soaked rock or roof surface. Much of the production is taken to Leh for sale.
Under a solar powered garden light, Lundhup brought tea, chapattis and a big pot of his version on spaghetti, made from locally available ingredients. The four of us ate our fill. It was quite tasty considering he did not use cheese or meat.