National Geographic : 1963 May
general merchandise to Yarkand and Kashgar in China," Mr. Het Ram told me. "We brought back silk, tea, and carpets. Sometimes we had a hundred animals but usually about 30. We used horses, camels, yaks, and even sheep." I asked, "Did bandits bother you?" "Never." Sensing my surprise, he went on: "Say that one year we would have 90 loads and only 30 animals. We would make three trips to the pass in the fall and leave the goods up there. In spring, when the passes opened, we would make three trips down into Sinkiang. Sometimes we left our merchandise at the pass for a whole year. Nobody bothered it. "Then last year the Chinese soldiers turned back one of our caravans. The trade was slow anyway, but now we won't be going there at all." Leh had long been a meeting place for caravans. Now the town was drab and quiet, but another shopkeeper told me of summers past when Leh was colorful and crowded. "We used to have Tibetans, Chinese, Afghans, and even a few Russians here. Business was better then." 673 Gritty face of an Indian jeep driver attests the Sahara-like dust storms that plague troops on the Ladakh front.