Monday, June 18, 2012

The Nomads

On the road from Labrang to Lahmo Town/Monastery. I get to see my 1st nomad family consisting of 3 adults on horseback and several dogs all doing the herding.  They are moving their Yak and sheep further north to a new location.  What was once a dirt road has changed now to a 2 lane highway with a moderate amount of car and truck traffic.  The drivers are impatient, horns are honking and animals are scattering.  Near miss experiences occur with regularity as an animal makes a sudden turn and darts out in-front of a vehicle.  Once again the old is competing with new.

Systematic changes are being instituted by the government as well.  The amount of livestock each family can own is being regulated and reduced, parcels of land partitioned & re-appropriated, nomads moved in too traditional homes with temporary economic incentives and subsidies. Sound familiar?

I really want to see the old ways and my visit is not a minute to soon.  Extended discussion and planning at a trekking company enables Lumbum to arrange a very authentic experience.  1.5 day horseback trek, a lunch visit with one family and an over night stay with another and all the trimmings that come with that.

As we ascend to 4,000 meters the views become ever more breath taking.  Just spectacular blue sky, green grass with spring flowers popping up all over.  The landscape is dotted with nomad tents, their families and livestock.
Lunch stop with a nomad family affords me the opportunity to photograph their children in the most beautiful light at the opening of their tent. I am mesmerized by the shape of their faces and texture of their skin.   

After lunch the middle boy pics up LumBum’s camera and starts to manipulate the controls. 

This is totally unprompted.  We are just cracking up the whole time.

Back on our horses after lunch heading to our over night stay with a nomad family in their tent.  Lots of tea and bread to get to know one another.  Now time to move the animals from the pasture to lines close to the tent is done amidst a rain storm.  They are moved so that they can be milked in the morning starting at 5AM for many hours by the wife.

The rain subsides in the morning for a few hours and out I go.  

Milking the female yaks is a lengthy process. Untie the baby, let it find its mother, drink for a few minutes, separate it from its mom, milk the yak, release both.

A very welcome hot breakfast and then a walk to the lake.  I am rewarded again with wonderful light until the rain resumes.

With this authentic experience comes a lot of reality.  I am not complaining. Yuk dung is burned to head the tent & cook our food, their 4 herding dogs never quite get accustomed to our presence so they bark until 3:30 am, it rains all night so I am chilled to the bone for the next 1.5 days, I smell like hell & my shoes are just caked. The Yaks will be with me for a while mentally and physically.

I think that my toileting “au natural” may be the most unique experience of all which is shared with a very curious male Yak.   Suddenly I hear grunting as he creeps up behind me for a very close and personal encounter.  Geeze ;-)

It’s all worth it I wouldn’t have given up a minute of it.

Carpe Diem,