Lake Pangong is 110km long and stretches from Northern India, in the Ladakh province to Tibet on the Eastern side. Access is obviously a little limited, but although we had a glance at the beautiful crystal clear aquamarine lake, we headed toward the North West, about as far as you could go - with special permission from the Indian authorities.
My friend, Linda Cortright had the vision, endless energy and gumption to build a centre in this remote and extreme part of the world, for local women to meet and work together, hone their skills, learn new ones and earn a supplementary income.
Cashmere is the fibre of choice here, the area is famous for its very special crop which is farmed by nomadic herdsmen in the region. At more than 14,500 feet, the altitude is high, the weather cold and a desert like climate does not make for an easy existence for people or their animals.
The Pangong Spinning and Weaving Centre opened two years ago, with the help of private donors and local support and plenty of grit and determination from Linda. The time has been spent teaching and supporting the small community of women, who have actually grown to more than 100 regular participants, to handspin and knit cashmere into featherlight neck-warmers, delicate beanies and a special line of scarves. By now the women have reached quality standards needed and are designing and perfecting their own unique patterns for these products which will be sold in the U.S.A.
Cashmere comes in different colours and the dreamy chocolate brown, creamy white and taupe tea colour are just gorgeous. And the softness is like nothing you have felt before. Hand-spinning creates a lightness in the already airy yarn which locks in warmth in the cosiest way.
I visited the Centre with Linda, it was a sunny, blue sky day that belied the cold temperature - it was spring. The building has been cleverly designed with a porch that traps the sun and radiates the heat inside. It's hard to use your fingers when they're practically frozen so a warm working environment is critical. And warm it is.
Warm in spirit too, women had come from the local district and listened to the feedback from Linda and Konchok Stobgais (a Ladakhi man who has been crucial in helping get the Centre operational). Much time was spent discussing patterns, sizes, quality and delivery commitments. The energy was palpable, the enthusiasm for what these women were doing individually and as a group was gratifying and seemed to create an excitement and fizziness that was plain to see. I watched the spring in people's steps as they left the Centre later that afternoon. The power was there.
There's something completely mad about what Linda is doing, how do you operate a project that is so remote and so far from everything (not just physically) - but in so many ways? Well, you just do, and you have a team of amazing people around you and the project goes, slowly but surely with the power of these people behind it.
More strength to all of you! Looking forward to another visit!