I wake up from a cold, rainy night in the farmlands around Stayangs at 4100m. Loaded with jam-butter spread chapattis I climb up the nearby Kyupka La at 4400m towards my destination of the day: Nerak village.After the pass the trail descends in the valley towards the next hamlet of Yulchung. BRO workers are in full swing building a two lane highway between Leh and Padum through this part of Zanskar.At one of the homes decorated with a festival tent a friendly man calls me over for tea. Food preparation is in full progress in a tent buzzing with people for a local marriage later today. The same person suggests I halt at Yulchung to attend the marriage and stay over at his home.I happily agree to his hospitality eager to see a traditional Ladakhi marriage. As I catch up with some pending blogging guests arrive on foot for the festivities from the nearby villages. Short Ladakhi elder people in traditional dresses.Later in the morning a group of people dancing, singing and playing music are approaching from the distance. The boy’s side from Photoksar is walking towards the girl’s home in Yulchung.Elders dressed up in traditional clothes wearing gold shining hats are singing and slowly walking forward. From the girls home another group differently dressed elderly men and ladies are meeting them halfway the road.A kind of symbolic face off follows in which the boy’s group continues to dance and sing trying to get closer to the girls home while the other group is challenging their way forward. Traditional Ladakhi instruments guide the spectacle.Finally the guests are invited into the girls home where the dancing, singing of traditional Ladakhi songs continues. A big tent has put up to shade the guests from the hot mid day sun.Elder ladies wearing beautiful traditional dresses and jewellery are serving the guests Chang (barley based alcochol) and Ladakhi tea (butter, salt). Thick rottis are distributed as early snacks.The dancing continues in the tent with friends, monks and relatives, men and women taking turns to dance and sing around the seated guests enjoying the performance.Drinks keep flowing non stop to keep the guests in the mood. Around 4pm finally after non stop dance, songs and music the guests are finally invited to a sumptuous buffet of rice, veggies, mutton, chicken, canned fruits, eggs and more.Everyone spreads out around the house to eat a belated lunch as relatives catch up with each other. Not a single young person to be seen around, including groom and bride. It s like a gathering and ritual of the elders of both villages.
After food (5pm) I decide to push ahead to Nerak where I m supposed to meet Ganapathy 4 days after he left me towards Rangdum after we crossed the Kanji La. I continue walking along the newly constructed two lane highway connecting Ladakh and Zanskar.The surrounding mountains and deeply cut canyons form an impressive setting to walk across. Crossing two small passes, the Kong la 3940m and Chochogori La 3960m I descend down to the Zanskar river at 3200m below.Just below Nerak village the Zanskar runs through a narrow passage where a wooden bridge was built to connect both sides. The BRO (Border Roads Organisation) has now placed a steel bridge.I cross the bridge and climb up 400m along the old path towards Nerak village above where me and Ganapathy have agreed to meet the next day. An elder lady invites me for tea and – as everywhere else in Ladakh / Zanskar – sees me as a potential customer for a lucrative home stay.I kindly deny pointing to my camping gears and settle down in a small enclosure below a Tibetan prayer wheel. The night is warm and peaceful at 3700m with the mighty Zanskar buzzing softly in the distance below.