So, what is pashmina anyway? You hear a lot of explanations. We heard a lot of stories about which part of some mythical goat was the softest. Some said it was the chin, others the belly hair. Some even said the fibers came from bird eyelashes. Hmmm.
So, we decided to investigate for ourselves. Off to Leh we went, traveling for two, long days, over tortuous dirt mountain passes, at elevations as high as 15,000 feet. I was petrified and decided to pretend to be asleep for the scariest parts.
Those tiny flecks in the middle left of the photo are vehicles traveling to Leh. The road passes right between these two peaks on the right.
Travel to Leh requires a passport review and authorization. It's remote country - it's amazing anything finds a way to scratch out a living here...
...including the people.
Getting close to Leh. Figured we'd go on a ways before we stop for the night.
Once we got close, we started asking around. We found someone who offered to take us to a remote field where he said we could find the shepherd and his goats there everyday in the late afternoon grazing his herd.
And, there they were! They start off a bit skittish around strangers, but they thought we had something yummy in my backpack. All their shyness evaporated.
They call Kashmir "Heaven on Earth" and this is a pretty nice corner of that neighborhood.The goats like to eat these berries surrounded by prickly thorns.
Finally, I get to see for myself which part of the goat is actually the softest. Turns out the whole thing is pretty much one of the softest things I ever felt. And that thing about the bird eyelashes? Not much substance to that story. After choking on dust and rocks for almost three days, it was a bit of a shock to find such a pristine and idyllic oasis in the Himalayas. We didn't feel like leaving such a beautiful Eden.
On our way out, we stopped in at a monastery to get a better view of where these goats live. From here, it looks like they live in their own small slice of heaven.
By the way, the Taftas we have are made exclusively from the fur of these goats. Get one for your very own.