Ladakh Day 7 – Hanupatta to Ripchar Valley

The day our dinner looked us in the eye…

Day Starts: Camp near Hanupatta
Day Ends: Ripchar Valley Trek

Another camp had been made by a fellow group slightly higher up the valley. They seemed to have gotten an earlier start and we were surprised when we saw a group headed toward us. They were on a similar trip as us, though had seven high passes (not four) in eleven days. Not an easy task. And they were turning around. Well, at least the woman (whom we learned was a girlfriend) was heading down. The altitude, the dust, the walking; it just became too much for her. Most surprisingly, her boyfriend was planning to see her somewhat to safety and then was going to turn back around and continue on. I’d be surprised if that couple is still together.

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You might be a little spoiled if this was described as “lackluster”

Judith labeled this day a “transition day” from one valley to the next. Even though the scenery remained beautiful, it was starting to get somewhat repetitive and we were a bit lackluster. Until we approached camp. It was at the mouth of two valleys that were otherworldly. Green grasses with towering rock formations. We just knew we were in for the good stuff. Plus, our luck started to change. A flock of sheep soon approached our tents. A very large herd. And by “approached” I really mean “meandered within.” Sanjeev immediately dispatched two trusted party members, Sarbu and Galpo, to find the shepherds. Sarbu returned with good news. The shepherds were having tea two kilometers up the valley but were coming soon, and they were willing to part with a sheep.

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Judith and Lindsay at camp

After another cup of tea with our kitchen staff (this is starting to sound like a Craig Mortensen book, well, except for all this really happened), a deal in principle was struck with the shepherds and the “hunt” began. They had a specific sheep they were willing to sell, which also doubled, we believe, as their oldest sheep (also known as the sheep with the lowest net present value).

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View of camp from above

Catching one specific sheep in a large herd is harder than you might think. The entire process of chasing, cornering, and capturing took about thirty minutes. Part of what makes the process take time is that sheep don’t really want to get caught. Something tells me that a sheep knows what’s going to happen when it gets caught. I’m not giving the effort it’s entire due in words here; however, the guys were more tired from the chasing and cornering than from the full day’s trek. Of course, as customers we lazily sat in our camp chairs and watched the entire scene unfold. There’s a morbid curiosity that goes along with this type of thing along the same line as the gawker’s delays we’ve all sat in with accidents on the highway.

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Begrudgingly leashed to a rope, the sheep was marched past us on the way to the kitchen tent. This was, admittedly, awkward. Judith really wanted no part of seeing the actual animal we would later consume. She did a great job of hiding her eyes. For the most part. Unfortunately, she turned at absolutely the wrong instant and caught the sheep’s eye directly. Yep, Judith’s dinner looked her in the eyes.

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There were final negotiations on a price, and the shepherds departed our camp and took the rest of the herd down the valley. How much does a sheep cost? We never found out the price of our sheep; however, Sanjeev had previously mentioned that a sheep would go in the 3500 – 4000 rupee range (approximately $77 – $88). This seemed expensive to me before I started doing the math. There were 11 people that were able to eat 3 very big dinners, so well under $3 per serving. We were well fed for the next day’s pass.

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Final negotiations behind Sanjeev’s tent

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