Stories From The Camp: Summer’s Lease

Every season in Ladakh is beautiful and unique and our resident blogger Rupert Winchester agrees. Read on to know what he has to say…

Ladakh in mid-may

Ladakh in mid-may

Ladakh in mid-august; can you see the difference?

Ladakh in mid-august; look completely different, doesn’t it?

William Shakespeare, in his famous Sonnet 18, said in passing that “summer’s lease hath all too short a date”, and the older and wiser I get, the more I feel he was entirely right. When you’re a child, summer seems to last forever, but the older you get, the more quickly it seems to pass. And that has been especially true this summer, up here in Ladakh.

When I arrived here, in early May, Chamba Camp, Thiksey was a very different place. The weather was warm, but not too warm, and it was a blessed relief after the stifling 45-degree heat of Delhi. There was plenty of snow on the surrounding mountaintops. The fields were green, and busy with people planting crops. There was plenty of snow on the mountain tops; the alfalfa was ankle-high, and there was a freshness in the air.

And now, in the blink of an eye, the summer is already drawing to a close. Sunflowers, zinnias and marigolds have sprung up, and are now starting to lose – ever so slightly – their luster. Melt water-fed streams are drying up, as the snow pack on the mountaintops becomes increasingly threadbare, melting away in the strong glare of the harsh summer sunlight. Farmers are now back in the fields, but are now harvesting, piling up alfalfa and barley, storing it on the roofs of their houses as fodder for their cattle during the seemingly endless winter.

The willows and poplar trees are starting to turn, and scatter yellow leaves across the paths. Cows are being brought to root around the newly harvested fields, cleaning them up.

It is still beyond beautiful. I’ve been watching the retreating snow caps, wondering whether it would all go by the end of the season, now it seems like it won’t. There is a definite chill in the air in the mornings, and I’ve been considering wearing a jacket on my walk to work in the mornings. In the evenings, it is getting darker earlier.

I rather like the early signs of the change of season. From a camping point of view, it makes the idea of snuggling into your tent even more attractive, and makes it seem more like the camping I remember as a child. It’s cosy and snug and luxurious and utterly wonderful.

Autumn is now drawing in. But the stars are just as bright at night; the desert mountainsides just as fascinatingly textured, the skies the same brilliant cornflower blue. The seasons change, eternally, as the great globe turns and spins in its vast orbit, and we are beyond lucky to be able to see it from somewhere as beautiful as Ladakh.

As Shakespeare had it, “thy eternal summer shall not fade.” And that’s very true of Chamba Camp, Thiksey.

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