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Photographer's Note

The distant sound of helicopter blades brought us from our tents and into the cold air of morning. From up the valley two black dots grew quickly - flying close to their operating envelopes the machines were stripped of all unnecessary weight. We had expected to them fly overhead but, to great excitement all round, the first ‘copter began hovering and looking for a place to land. Someone from the other camp of trekkers had taken ill and the rescue services had been called in to help out. The pilots touched down for barely a minute before they were off again - an amazing piece of skill. Within five minutes they had disappeared to where they had come from leaving the inhabitants of Kargyak village standing in their silent fields.

While walking from Padam to Darcha I noticed that most of the large commercial groups were walking the other way. There are two distinct disadvantages to doing this: first it puts the Shingo La at the start of the trek - an invitation to altitude sickness. Secondly those who do take ill will find little respite in Zanskar where there is no opportunity to make the immediate and significant descent required.

Four days after I crossed the Shingo La an American trekker died there as a result of being rushed up too high, too quickly. Apparently many non-Indian travel agencies prefer to have their clients fly out of Leh at the end of their holidays (rather than into it at the start). This was explained to me as being due to the possibility of experiencing severe delays on the roads out of Keylong and Manali. You pay your money and you take your chance.

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Additional Photos by Rich Axelby (rich) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 125 W: 2 N: 224] (1199)
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