Sunday, 9 December 2012


Green villa is representative of the home of a Ladakhi family who are reasonably well off. The younger daughter of the family is studying a Masters Degree in political science from Delhi University. The older sister is married and her husband works as a guide for people who wish to go trekking. The couple have a baby boy called Karma Wangdey Gyatso. The sisters names are Rinchen Dolma and Rinchen Angmo. Rinchen Angmo is Wangdey's mother. The sisters were named by the lama.

Green Villa is a lovely, large home. It is new, having been built only 6 or 7 years ago. It is unusual in the area, as the first floor is constructed entirely from stone. Ladakhi houses are usually built with a stone foundation, then dried mud bricks form the house walls. Nowadays, the majority of houses have steel reinforcing rods between the courses of bricks. Previously, I am unsure what they used. The ceilings beams are whole Willow trunks. The tree is left whole. Thin Poplar sticks line the spaces between each beam. In good construction, the Poplar has a slice shaved off each end of the stick so it can sit flat on the beam. After the Poplar sticks are laid close together to form the ceiling of the room below, paper is laid, then brush similar to dried heather is placed over, then earth is smoothed over the top to seal it all. Above the windows and doors in traditional Ladakhi homes are wooden lintels. Some are very intricate, comprising stepped borders of carved pattern. They are a beautiful addition to a building. It is expensive to have these lintels as they are carved by hand.

All homes have lines of prayer flags fluttering from the corners of their roofs. It is lovely to see and makes the buildings seem very alive. The winds carry the prayers to the universe. The Om Mani Pad Me Hum prayer is all encompassing and very popular on the flags.
Green Villa has running water and flushing toilets. Outside the Poplar stick garden gate is a fast flowing stream. The family wash in this stream, allowing the guests access to the piped water. Most guests who stay at Green Villa are sympathetic to the traditional Ladakhi way of life. So, guests can be seen washing their clothes, and occasionally their face, in the freezing mountain water.

A traditional Ladakhi compost toilet is available for the use of the guests. This comprises of a small elevated room with earth on the floor and a rectangular hole cut in the floor. After one has made use of the facility one just pours a shovel full of earth down the hole. This is a very efficient, clean sewerage system. There is no smell, and the compost will be used in the future to maintain the garden production.

I slept and rested most of the day of Thursday 29 July. Leh is at an elevation of around 3600 metres. The air is thin, and until one becomes acclimatised the slightest exersion leaves one breathless. The only way to adjust to is rest and drink plenty, plenty, plenty water.

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