Journey from Manali to Leh

Julley! We have arrived safely in Leh after our rigorous two-day journey through the Himalayas. Our trip began in Manali, in the foothills on the southern side of the Great Himalayan range. We traveled through four mountain passes, each being progressively higher the last. The final pass, Tanglang La, stands at staggering 17,552 ft, the second highest road pass in the world! We arrived in Leh in the evening of the second day, exhausted from the journey, but in awe of what we had just experienced.

The 450 km trip took us from forest-clad mountains to high mountain plateaus to the alpine deserts. I am not sure what was more dramatic – the drastic change in ecosystems or the shear enormity of the Himalayan landscape.

In Leh, we will be meeting with different organizations working on sustainable development issues in the region. Ladakhis are grappling with how to modernize without losing their traditional beliefs and values, while maintaining a balance with their fragile ecosystem. There are many competing visions for how this should be accomplished - from the National Government to the local community organizations - and it is a tremendous place for students of development to explore these complex issues.

On Wednesday, we depart for five days to the remote Changtang region near the border with Tibet. We will be meeting with a community of pastoral nomads and celebrating the Dalai Lama's birthday in the village. We return on July 9th and will have one day in town before departing for Zanskar.