Visiting a Nomadic Tribe

Little boy at nomad campsite

Miro Dorje with his goats

Inside Dorje’s family hut & Jigmet eating Tsampa

Boy with his play wheel

Milking time with the pashmina goats

Yak wool hut

Not too early a rising this morning – 5:50am – though the sun wakes me up a lot earlier. We were heading off to see a nomadic tribe who settle just 10 mins from the lake during the 3-month Summer period. At other times, they wander around this area & stay at a location for no more than 15 days at a time. Temperatures here in Winter can drop to minus 40 degrees! And they live in tents made of spun yak wool with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out from the fire!! I was befriended by a young 16 y.o. boy (Miro Dorje was his name, I think) who took me into his family tent. Nice & warm & cosy inside, & if it weren’t for the smoke-filled air, I could even imagine myself sleeping here a night or two.

I was told Miro Dorje’s mum is 59 y.o. & has 5 sons, the eldest being 16, the youngest 5. That means she had her first child at the age of 43 & had her last child at the age of 54!! Seriously?!? They raise pashmina goats who rarely manage to stay inside their pen, & occasionally pop their heads inside the tent. All the kids (human kids, not goat kids) get to go to school, even if they are a bit shy to practice their English with me. I gave Dorje’s Mum some $$ for his education, & emphasised to him, through Jigmet, just how important education is for his future. Hope it wasn’t in one ear out the other.

I was told I may be offered some salt tea (everyone else had been). Me, I get offered some unfiltered, unheated, untreated, cold fresh goat milk, with a touch of salt. Crap! My stomache is doing backflips just holding the cup, thinking how I may need to offset the bacteria that would soon be infesting my digestive system, & how I could somehow not finish the drink (or not even drink more than a few sips) without causing any offense. I was happy when they brought out some biscuits & I showed my apprecation by eating a couple. But then his Mum starting bringing out curd, this bread dough thing from a sack, then some other nibbly bit & I had to pretend I’d already eaten as my mind went into overload with all the offerings (& subsequent knockbacks). Think the money offering helped my cause (read: escape) enormously.

As I left, I couldn’t help but contrast my lifestyle with theirs – opposite ends of the spectrum really – no one better, just different. I see the aged state of my hands with my 3-week Ladakhi exposure, wonder what my skin would be like after 40 years, & can’t wait to get back & rub in some extra moisturiser.


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