Ho sempre amato comporre i puzzle. Mi piaceva scorgere pezzo dopo pezzo l’immagine finale. Ma cosa c'entrano i puzzle con questa foto? Mentre la scattavo, un vecchietto si è avvicinato per raccontarmi - a suo modo - il legame del borgo di Caggiano che si scorge in lontananza con la storia dei Templari e le leggende che sopravvivono in questi luoghi. Sono tornato indietro nel tempo e, come un puzzle dai mille pezzi, ho ricomposto una storia che neanche immaginavo si potesse assemblare. La foresta, l'antico borgo, le tortuose strade, l'eco della storia: consiglio a tutti di "giocare" con questo puzzle e di scoprire questi bellissimi luoghi intrisi di storia.
A few kilometers after the beautiful Suru Valley ends, the rugged and challenging part of Zanskar starts. This is one of the many water crossings on the way.
An extremely late start obviously meant that we were bound to run across water crossings at their strongest flow in the day. Being first time noobies, we had no idea how dangerously unforgiving and desolate the terrain was. I had more than my fair share of falls in more than half a dozen water crossings we encountered till Rangdum.
By the time we got to Rangdum, it was well into the night. We were lucky to find a room in a hotel that was still open at 9 pm. We went to sleep with our battered bodies, and the plan to go to Padum next day was abandoned without a second thought. We spent the next day exploring Rangdum with a promise to come back and finish the ride the next time, hopefully wiser for the experience.
We’ve made it to China! After a pre-sunrise start in order to cross the national park between Naryn and the Chinese border at Torugart in time for our rendezvous with our guide we started climbing into the high-altitude plains that make up Kyrgyzstan’s border zone between the two countries. The plains are stunning and home to a stretch of road purposely built so wide and straight that it can be used as an emergency runway in case of Chinese invasion. It was freezing! At -11°C ambient temperature but with good, clear roads we were travelling at around 65mph/100kph which we, fortunately post-trip, found out was equivalent to a whopping -27°C. No wonder we were cold! We found the only way of vaguely warming up was to stop, jump up and down and hold our gloves over the exhaust pipe of the bikes - leaving us with somewhat oily but at least temporarily toasty hands! Upon arriving at the border the wonderful Kyrgyz guards took pity and ushered us into their mess-room where they served us the most delightful tea and chicken and pasta broth. Thank you chaps! Fully defrosted we headed for Chinese side which we made by the skin of our teeth - about 2 minutes before they closed the entry post for a three hour break meaning we would have been stuck in no-man’s land at the top of the 3,750m pass. Fortunately that wasn’t the case and after several hours of formalities, vehicle x-rays, human x-rays - you name it, they checked it - we descended from the mountains and into Kashgar in the back of our guide’s vehicle, leaving the bikes in the immigration yard where we would hopefully pick them up tomorrow. One bonus of being required to pay an extortionate amount of money to a guide in order to cross China is that they arrange all the accommodation and, having arrived in the most magnificent hotel complete with huge beds, a bath(!), central heating and a swimming pool and sauna complex, we caught a glimpse of where some of the money had gone. After such a long but rewarding day we weren’t complaining and, having ordered room service collapsed into bed. We’ll be in Kashgar for a few days sorting out paperwork so will have plenty of time to explore this latest stop on the Silk Road.
Those dark mountains buried in snow all black now and the crescent moon hasn't quite crawled out from behind the ridge but it's coming. Winding our way home at sundown, the chickens, of course, always the reason to get home by dark. Still, not lamenting our lack of an automatic door closer or any such thing...it's different. Running back home towards more than the evening chores, more than responsibility...towards my heart. My heart. So different now than when I was 25. 20 years. Like it was yesterday in another life. And stillness inside of me that I think comes with age... and that stillness is reflected back at me from the horizon. And that tree pressed against those mountains is my heart pressed against another beautiful day. Branches stretching out to claim every shred of light.
During our 2500k road trip this summer we went from the Golden Gate bridge up to Crater Lake. I realised no matter how amazing an architectural structure may be I'll always be more amazed by the beauty of nature.