On the Roof of the World

Kris Leboutillier

Asian Geographic - - On Assignment - Text Sarah Chew Pho­tos

were a crew of 31, and none among them was a sea­soned ex­plorer. But, as they trun­dled along the road on the mud-caked wheels of their trusty, all-ter­rain ve­hi­cles, their as­pi­ra­tion for ad­ven­ture led them from sea level in Sin­ga­pore to the roof of the world in the In­dian Hi­malayas.

They

above ri ght De­spite its large Hindu pop­u­la­tion, north­ern In­dia has many Bud­dhist monas­ter­ies

So com­menced Asian­geo­graphic’s first ex­pe­di­tion. Thank­fully – within this band of green ex­plor­ers – were some of the most sea­soned guides in north­ern In­dia.

A train ride from Delhi to Chandigarh and a Land Rover jour­ney later, the team spent their first night at Nala­garh Fort, mak­ing for Manali at day­break. The lat­ter is a peace­ful town in the alpine Kullu Val­ley, known for its white wa­ter raft­ing, river fish­ing and high al­ti­tude trekking.

The fol­low­ing leg of the ride up­hill to Key­long was a treach­er­ous one, nav­i­gat­ing the some­times im­pass­able roads and the en­croach­ing fog that re­duced the tail lights of other ve­hi­cles to dim red smudges in the grey. As they broke through the clouds, the land­scape was re­vealed with sud­den clar­ity: breath­tak­ing crags that stretched into a ceil­ing of blue, drop­ping off sharply into har­row­ing gorges, painted with frozen streams of white. The mus­cu­lar ve­hi­cles hugged the Khardung Pass.

The next des­ti­na­tion would prove a chal­lenge to some of the team, who had thus far been un­fazed by al­ti­tudes as high as 5,100 me­tres along the Lachu­lung Pass; they would push up to a breath­less al­ti­tude of 5,604 me­tres. Lake Tsokar sits high on the Rup­shu Plateau, where trees give way to scrub grass, bogs and rocks. Yaks for­age here, watched over by shep­herds in an in­ter­de­pen­dent re­la­tion­ship that has re­mained un­changed since the time of Genghis Khan.

On the fi­nal morn­ing of the ex­pe­di­tion, the team vis­ited the Thikse and Hemis monas­ter­ies, filled with re­minders of their prox­im­ity to Ti­bet: Por­traits of the Dalai Lama grace the walls, along with ef­fi­gies of Bud­dha; the rev­er­ent at­mos­phere is com­pleted by the scent of tea and can­dles.

The team’s fi­nal as­cent to Tanglang Pass – one of the high­est roads in the world – formed a high­light in the host of mem­o­ries that the team had gath­ered dur­ing their jour­ney into the un­touched Hi­malayas. ag

Thank­fully – within this band of green ex­plor­ers – were some of the most sea­soned guides in north­ern In­dia

The ASIAN Geo­graphic Hot Soup Chal­lenge re­turns for an­other year to put Sin­ga­pore’s kids in the quiz hot seat and chal­lenge their gen­eral knowl­edge about Asia. The school chal­lenge runs in two parts: The first round ran in April 2017 un­der the theme of Cli­mate Change at the Asia Dive Expo (ADEX), and the sec­ond and third rounds will take place on July 8, 2017. Stu­dents will have the op­por­tu­nity to study up on rel­e­vant is­sues through pre­vi­ous edi­tions of the mag­a­zine. The con­test is bro­ken down into three dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories: • Ju­nior (age 7–12) • Stu­dents (age 12–18) • Open Cat­e­gory (age 18 and above)

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