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  Field Notes From
Himalayan Sanctuary

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Himalayan Sanctuary On AssignmentArrows

View Field Notes
From Photographer

Mattias Klum

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Lars-Magnus Ejdeholm


Himalayan Sanctuary

Field Notes From Photographer
Mattias Klum

Best Worst Quirkiest
    The government keeps tight control on access to Hanle Valley, a desolate corner of India's Ladakh,
because they view it as a politically sensitive region. So to get in you have to be either a military officer or a Ladakhi with friends and connections. We were neither but decided to try anyway. For two years we wrote letters and made phone calls to the Dalai Lama and the Indian government. Then one day we finally got the green light. Apparently we were the first journalists to ever get in. What an absolutely fantastic experience that was.

    When I was at the monastery, we had a big pot of stew mixed with minced sheep that still had the fur on it. I had a hard time fancying this because I found myself picking off the fur with my hands and spitting out the extra bits while I was chewing. I'm used to eating a lot of crazy foods because my work takes me all over the world, but this was one of the absolutely worst meals I've ever had. (Klum describes this meal and other high points of his field work in a video interview).

    When we first arrived at the monastery, the nuns ran back into the convent and shut the door. Our interpreter gently knocked on their door, explaining who we were and why we came.
    But the nuns weren't the only ones who were shocked. The monks couldn't believe our blonde hair, blue eyes, and camera equipment. They had never seen anything like it, and they wanted to touch us. But after they realized that these things didn't make us bad, they all adapted to us pretty quickly. We got to know each other, and they were very humble and generous with everything they had.


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