Ladakh

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Tikse, Ladakh, October 1999. A grocery owner entertains guests at home with tsampa, a rancid-tasting concoction of tea, roasted barley, and yak butter. Une épicière reçoit chez elle avec du tsampa, cette mixture traditionnelle de thé, orge grillé et beurre de yak.

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Leh, Ladakh, October 1999. Well-behaved schoolchildren in the Himalayan capital’s suburbs are as curious as anywhere. Des écoliers dans l’Himalaya comme partout ailleurs.

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Western Himalayas, Jammu & Kashmir, October 1999.

Somewhere between Ladakh and Kashmir, along the Indus river, from one majestic scene to the next, on the second highest road in the world, which reaches 5,328 m at the Taglang La pass. It was already bad enough on the bus, the nausea and headache, the mud-covered “road”, the multi-thousand feet descent to the Sind Valley, by way of tens of hair-pin bends, the rickety vehicle barely stopping inches from the edge, giving us full front-views of the valley down, down there. The numerous spells and amulets adorning the bus seemed to work in protecting us.

I could then just picture how it would be out and up there, the place described by Assad (see Islamabad picture in Kashmir) — who was now a few miles from us, on the other side of the Line of Control, the Cease-Fire Line, or the Line of Actual Control, all terms used in lieu of border. “I’ve been 2,5 months on the Siachen glacier, along the cease-fire line. Just to get there is very hard, and supplies… Helicopters don’t get up there, we use trucks up to Skardu, then jeeps, then on foot. Conditions are horrendous, we need to melt a whole room of snow to get one liter of water. For food, we eat only tin cans.” At 6,700 m, Pakistan and India have the dubious honor of fighting on the highest battleground of the world.

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Tikse Gompa, Ladakh, October 1999. A Buddhist monk offers food to a traveller in the former kingdom’s most beautiful monastery. Un bonze offre un repas au voyageur dans le plus beau monast re de cet ancien royaume himalayen.

“Now, you will always and everywhere be with me, you will follow me in the sky, Papa dearest, […] I will take you to the nude mountains of the Himalayas, in the kingdom of Ladakh we will go up the long steps leading to Tikse Gompa, on the way to the abbot a novice will offer us a tray of rice topped with vegetables, you will see the vivid orange of the curry standing out on the immaculate white of the grains of rice contrasting with the ochre robe showing up on the fiery opale of the firmament”, Letter to Father Dearest, Alexandre Igney, 2000.

“Maintenant tu seras toujours et partout avec moi, tu me suivras dans le ciel, Papa chéri, […] je t’emmènerai dans les montagnes nues de l’Himalaya, au royaume du Ladakh nous monterons les longues marches menant au Tikse Gompa, en chemin vers les cellules de ses supérieurs un novice nous présentera un plateau de riz surmonté de légumes, tu verras l’orange vif du curry tranchant sur le blanc immaculé des grains se détachant sur la robe ocre ou hermine se découpant sur l’opale de feu du firmament”, Lettre à mon Papa chéri, Alexandre Igney, 2000.

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Tikse, Ladakh, October 1999. Lots of harvesting and hay chopping in the Upper Indus Valley. Plein de cultures et de foin dans la haute vallée de l’Indus.

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