International Lifestyle Magazine Issue 49 - Page 22

HIDDEN NORTH ADVENTURES. While our business picked up, so did our humanitarian activities throughout the region. With the help of friends, visitors and travel groups from all over the world, we raised money, donated stationery or sports equipment to schools, planted tree saplings, collected medicines and first aid items for health posts, cleaned camping sites, or distributed solar lamps to needy families. We also started an ambitious project in which volunteers were helping to construct a community building in Phyang, the village where we live. Our second dream was to own a home cum guest house which could accommodate foreign visitors during the summer months. We started the construction in 1998, and for twelve years we invested our yearly income into the completion of our home. In 2006, a significant natural calamity occurred in Phyang. Due to heavy rain falls in the upper part of the valley, the Phyang tokpo (stream) swell immensely and flooded and destroyed more than twenty houses. Our next humanitarian effort occurred; the affected families got shelter in our house. The local footbridges over the stream were washed away, and so was the main bridge of the National Highway. This caused immense hardship to the entire traffic between the capital Leh and lower Ladakh. The only nearest accommodation was ours, so by evening we were full with travellers. With the limited stock of food and blankets we did our best to provide shelter to everybody. People were sleeping in the rooms, the corridor, our dining room and kitchen. Some days later and with the support of two travel groups from Australia and the U.S., we raised money to buy relief materials (shovels, buckets, ropes, tarpaulins, sanitary items and toys) for the affected inhabitants in Phyang.» In the following years, we expanded our home further: Two lush green terraces, surrounded by fruit, willow and poplar trees, served in summer as a camping place on which up to fifteen tents could be pitched up. A separate building was added which served as a dining hall where 30 people could fit in easily. We ran a restaurant, too, the only in the village, with freshly cooked food from our organic garden. And as we had animals, we were able to serve dairy products as well. We had fields with wheat, barley, lentils, and mustard. «Thanks to the help of Tashi’s uncle Angdu and a Nepali youth who looked after the fields and animals, we were self-sufficient. And finally, in July 2010, we got the wonderful news that I was pregnant. But our luck did not last for long. Cloudbursts caused devastating landslides throughout Ladakh. «Shortly after midnight on that fateful night of August 6, 2010, we had to wake up our guests, among them two minor children of a Spanish family who arrived the day before. Amidst thundering and lightning, the landslide was already entering into the corridor from the back door when we fled the house. Most of us were in pajamas and had no shoes to walk through the mud and rocks. It was cold and windy, and due to the torrential rain we immediately got soaked. With great difficulties and what seemed after a very long time, we eventually managed to reach our neighbour’s house on a hilltop.»