THE MAKINGLadakh is a land that has always fascinated me. At first
it was the photographs I saw in travel magazines that blew
me away. The photos imparted impressions of a fabulous
wilderness of mountain and desert. Then, when I read deeper,
I learned of Ladakhs Tibetan history and its connection to the
Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama and his people have always fascinated me.
It was a combination of the plight of the Tibetan people and the beauty of
their land that inspired the book, Ladakh Adventure.
The Snow Leopard casts a spell on anyone who reads about it. I first read about the animal in Peter Matthiessen's classic book, 'The Snow Leopard'. I remember picking up the book in Nepal when I trekked to 'Everest Base Camp'; as a youngster. By the time I finished the book I promised myself that I would search for this creature of legend one day. Many years later, while researching my story, 'Ranthambore Adventure', I met Joanna Van Gruissen. She put me on to her husband, Dr. Raghu Chundawat, who was studying snow leopards in Ladakh at that time. And so, one sunny Ladakhi summer, I set out with Raghu and his colleagues on an expedition to the Rumbak Valley to search for the magnificent leopard of the Himalaya.
Ladakh is the land beyond the Himalaya. It lies on the Tibetan Plateau, also referred to as the 'Roof of the World'. The Tibetans call their plateau, the Changthang, which means the 'northern plain' in their language.
The Changthang, and most of Ladakh, is largely a desert. This is because the Himalayas, the tallest mountains in the world, are a formidable geographical barrier. They halt the monsoon clouds that sweep across India, not allowing them to cross to the Changthang. So Ladakh is a desert; although it isn't a desert in the traditional sense, in that it isn't hot and the sun doesn't fry you to death. Instead Ladakh is quite the opposite. It is a cold, frozen desert.
The people of Ladakh survive by living in valleys where water sourced from snow melt from Himalayan Glaciers flow. Also, the river Indus flows through Ladakh ensuring that water is available year-round.