A: The 2012 Himalayan Health Exchange Kargiakh expedition.
More on all that later, though. We made it through the whole trip relatively intact. The trip was long and productive.
Around 600 people came through the public health and medical camps, with complaints ranging from simple osteoarthritis to worms to primary syphilis (yup!). We were able to sample indoor air quality in six villages across the Zanskar valley - a minor miracle. Remarkably, the levels of pollution during this time of year seem to be a bit lower than expected, though we won’t be able to say anything definitive until we do some more thorough data analysis.
The team arrived post-trek in Manali late on August 24th after a harrowing drive down Rohtang pass. The sky was thick with cotton-gauze fog, sharply contrasted by sticky, dense brown mud smothering the road. Our bus met them both, sliding around corners, sometimes narrowly avoiding steep drops, all the while pummeling through pea soup. The driver performed admirably, exhibiting nerves of steel save occasional bouts of hyperactive profanity. The passengers did alright, as well, though they were clearly many frayed, over-stimulated synapses at the end of the bus ride. Manali is a kitschy oasis of hot showers, beer, and wandering Druids. Our motley crew fits in well and is re-finding their footing among the modern.
We head to Delhi by bus in a few minutes, another long sojourn before we all disperse to our separate homes around the world. It’s been a great trip - and one I look forward to describing more in the coming days.
I arrived in Leh yesterday morning after an exceptionally early start. My taxi arrived at Noida at 2:40a and we began the longish drive to the airport. Typical of all taxi experiences, we made a couple of round-about navigational decisions, had to go a permit renewed, and got stuck in traffic at 3:30a behind large, large trucks struggling up an overpass.
The entire process at Delhi airport was far better than in previous years; the domestic and international airports merged into a single location. Checking in was easy and getting to the gate relatively painless. No re-identification of bags required, either. The flight to Leh was typically beautiful, with the sun rising over the Himalaya, mountains extending in one direction forever, peeking through dense fog. On the other side, the plains of India. The crowd on the plane was interesting — primarily Europeans and Indians, both older than I would have expected.
Development in Leh seems to have slowed a bit over the past four years; there are fewer new hotels and construction than in the past. A good thing, in my opinion. The main strips are still crowded, full of trucks, and a little grungy — but the outskirts of town remain as they have for quite some time. Beautiful, quiet, nice.
Catching up with Hem and the HHE staff was a delight. Much has improved from a logistical / organizational standpoint — and much is still the same. Looking forward to the trip.
Some tragedy — a driver, who had been with HHE for many years, died a few weeks after his marriage. A truck rolled backwards and over him in his home-town, not 50 meters from his house. Truly sad. He was a gentle, kind, and funny man.
Yesterday was a day of rest and acclimatization. Not much to report. Sleep last night was fitful; interrupted at 3:30a by a mournful prayer from the local mosque. The packs of stray dogs that control Leh added a chorus of howls and barks to the lilting dirge. Odd, a bit annoying, and captivating.
Today, I got up early — around 5 — and climbed up to the monastery and palace that overlooks Leh. The views were typically beautiful and the space was blessedly empty. A nice morning.