Standard reply that to all my question of “Bhai aur kitna door hai?” which I would asking in the utmost huffing, puffing, panting, dying manner with half my weight on the walking stick and another hand on my back!!! That is Rigzin for you! On most of the treks Rigzin would be sweeping the group, as in be the back end to ensure no one gets left and that no one gets lost. Invariably whilst returning home about last 1-2 hours it would be just the two of us.
I would stop frequently, “Yaar apne kilometer to khatam ho gaye” and he would tell me, “Saabji aaj to aap bahot acha chala!” Eventually my ego would intervene and I would walk, then I would sometimes stop to take pictures, actually to catch my breath but I would pretend to be taking some exotic photograph where as it was only to catch up some breath.
This fellow Rigzin was our guide for the trip in Leh, he not only booked homestays for us in Rumbak but arranged for sleeping bags, packed lunches, helped cook food in a more spicy manner knowing the people from plains do not eat as simple food as the Ladakhi’s do. The guy would wake us up in the morning and get busy in serving us breakfast and hot water and stuff constantly running around. Then he would join us on the treks and walk with us from about 8 in the morning to 4 in the evening, sometimes he would lead the trek on a tricky slope and actually wipe off all the snow that might prove to be slippery for us to walk on. Once back from the trek he would immediately rush to make some hot butter tea for us, whilst the tea would be boiling he would rush and get wood for the bukhari to keep us warm. After the butter tea it would be time for him to serve us some popcorn and papad and then he would get busy in preparing dinner! Soup would be served followed by dinner that always was so much that we would everyday tell him to please ensure that lesser quantity is made.
Whilst on the trek he would spot the tiniest of movements on the highest of cliffs and show us a Bharal which we invariably would fail to spot, then he would take a picture of the cliff, zoom it and show us and lo we would then discover suddenly the quietly grazing animal. Whenever he would stop and watch some cliff our hopes would go high, did he spot it!? “Kya dikha??, Shaan hai kya?” Shaan is the Ladakhi name for the snow leopard. Eventually we did not spot it in 5 days of tough trekking. Infact other groups camping in the area had also not spotted anything for the past week or so and so without any clue about his where abouts it was really difficult to know which direction to walk in.
“Uppar chal ke baith te hai!” would be his suggestion, meaning lets climb a cliff that gives us a good view of the valleys around. Mostly he managed to take us to cliff’s which gave us a 360 degree view. When I would be the last to reach up there, he would hand me my favourite on the trip Mango treat in my hands and ask me, “Tha(k)g to ni gya?” and I would have no energy to even reply for another 10 minutes.
He would make hot maggi or hot tea whilst we would sit on some cliff catch our breath and give our binoculars some exercise. Hard working man I tell you! Never without a smile, always ready to run about and go that extra yard to make us feel comfortable. The epic moment with him came when I asked him about Stok Kangri,
“aapne kiya hai Stok Kangri?” That is one mountain in that range that everyone wants to climb, is at around 22000 feet and pretty tough so I wondered if this guy would have attempted it. My question was pretty nonchalant.
His reply was even more nonchalant, “Tees Paitees baar kiya hai!” trust me that was said without an iota of attitude and he was busy adding wood to the bukhari saying this. Now you know the difference na? How many times have I told you we would walk from 8 to 4, that we walked for 5 days in that high altitude and what not! Trust me had I done Stok Kangri I would have probably ensured Obama would know about it when he came to India recently!
The guy can be found on FB and also runs a camping site in Nubra, if you ever want to visit Ladakh and need a local guide to arrange for some adventures be it climbing some peak or trekking in Hemis or doing jeep safari’s in Hunder sand dunes or expeditions to Pagong take my word this guy is quite reliable. He used to work for the army earlier and has served in Siachen (he has some wonderful stories to tell from his experiences there) and has also worked as an employee of Dream Land which is one of the most popular travel service provider in Ladakh region.
Here are some photo’s of him in action! He was an integral part of our trip there and before we move out of Hemis and head to his home in Nubra I thought he deserves a post! Nope, we did not spot the elusive snow leopard and we left Hemis after 5 exhausting trekking we were all queuing up for a jeep safari!! We all had just about had enough of walking I guess.