This is the true story of a spiritual journey combined with a very real adventure across the Great Himalayas. A journey on foot that began in Dharamsala, Northern India, home of His Holiness Fourteenth Dalai Lama, as well as that of the author. The journey took the form of a 21 day trek across the Kashmir Valley and into the remote area of Zanskar, traversing nine passes all above 4000 metres and ending in the city of Leh, Ladakh. I undertook this journey accompanied by my wife, two guides and several pack horses. The story describes the hardship of high altitude trekking and makes parallels with Buddhist philosophy, describing both the scenery and the mental and physical difficulties experienced over the duration of the trek. Experiences are also drawn from my earlier visits to India that provide the basic background that leads to this particular journey.
I retired from a successful business in the U.K in March 2006 to live in Dharamsala and study Buddhist philosophy. With hardly any trekking experience, and with some reluctance, I decided to undertake one of the most difficult and physically demanding treks in India. The story begins with a chance meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and interlaces experiences of Buddhist philosophy, a three month long meditation retreat along with the physical and mental demands of high altitude trekking in one of the most scenic and remote areas of the world. It is a unique journey of discovery and adventure including, exhaustion in a snow storm at 18,000 ft, meeting a wild Yak that literally rescued me and showed our party the way down from a high altitude pass through a snow storm, how we encountered a snow leopard, climbed a remote glacier and swam in a freezing high altitude lake.
Learning about Buddhist philosophy is one thing, applying it to every day life and especially the hardships of trekking is a completely different ball-game, this is the story of that ball-game.
- Michael Smith, July 2011
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