Tuesday 3 August.
At last the adventure proper begins. Today we left Leh at 11 am to travel in a lovely old fashioned, bone shaker bus with curtains and the luggage tied on the roof. We were going to Tackmachik, a village of about sixty families, 100 km up the road in a Northern direction. We were travelling along the main Leh to Kargil road. This is the main artery to the Ladakh border.
Yesterday, Monday, several of us went to the 'Amchi' to get medicine and pick me ups to keep us well on our visit to the remote villages. The Amchi is the traditional Tibetan/Ladakhi medicine woman, or man. She determines ones state of health by assessing the type of pulse you have. You sit quietly and she puts the three fingers of her right hand in a line down your pulse vein. She can tell if your pulse is rolling, light, heavy, erratic, constant. What depth it has, what type of rhythm it has. From an accurate assessment of your pulse she can tell where your aches and pains are, what ails you. I was lucky. She said 'not much wrong here' - and that was before I gave her the minature of Bruichladdich! But she prescribed me wee, spherical pills made from herbs and barks to be taken 3 times a day for the next ten days. This would keep me at optimum health, and it did!
Before I left Islay, Bruichladdich and their kindly team gifted me with a tray of minatures to share with the people of Ladakh. It is traditional to give the Amchi something in return for their help, but nowadays people just pay for their perscription and the Amchi is paid a salary from the hospital.
So, now on Tuesday, we were all excited and happy to finally be going to meet our families and see what our homestay would be like.
I loved the bus journey. At first, we traversed a huge plain. All tiny scrub and endless sand and gravel. Then we moved up into the mountains through a narrow torturous route, very windey and the bus wheels were right on the edge of the precipice. We then decended to drive along the banks of the Indus. The heavy, turbulent water was pale brown in colour from all the soil and alluvial deposits it carries on its journey down the mountains. It took us all day to reach Tackmachik. We arrived in the village in late afternoon. Tachmachik means 'medal 1', Chik means 'one'. So, I took it to mean 1 medal - 'first prize village'. When I told Stanzin my interpretation she thought it was good!