This photo is from the Leh to Manali road and taken in 1995 or 1996. I’d spent a few weeks in Ladakh and decided to leave overland rather than fly in, as I’d done to get there. And, I thought the road more reliable since bad weather frequently means planes (like mine going to Leh) aren’t allowed to land in Leh and have to return to Delhi or Srinagar. The road was more than a bit hair-raising as there are long stretches where the steep cliff mean if you do tumble you tumble hundreds of meters. And when you look out the window you iften can see straight down which made many of us wonder how indented was the wheelbase. Nonetheless, it was an amazing journey. Initially, some travelers went rooftop, but they soon came back inside, maybe because if they dozed off and then fell off, they’d wake up in the afterlife.
I came upon this woman while visiting monasteries and markets in Ladakh, in the Indian Himalayas. Ladakh is pretty much a high-altitude desert and it’s one where you can get a sunburn and frostbite together, if you lose track of time and it’s cold enough, when resting partly in the sun and partly in the shade. Winter temperatures can go down to -40F and stay there. One way to keep your energy levels up during those frigid months, aside from staying close to the kitchen fireplace, is by drinking yak or dzo (half yak, half cow) butter tea. For me, that drink was an acquired taste. The woman in this picture, while past middle-age, looked vitally strong and happy as a lark.