Monday, July 16, 2007
Days 1 and 2: Leh bound.
We arrived at Leh, all excited and raring to go. Me, my better half(P), his best friend (G), best friend's gal (G1) and my dear friend R. Even the runway is different at Leh, short, leading into the mountains and heavily fortified on all directions by the military. The first glimpse is raw, shocking, breathtaking. Bare-as-your-backside brown mountains, some wearing white snow hats, brown ground, harsh, stretching into the horizon with nary a river and suddenly a green patch, houses, a runway and boom! you are at Leh.
We were met by our extremely helpful guide Stanzin and the impish, young-but-really safe driver, Punzo. Our luggage arrived and we headed towards our hotel Namgyal Palace, craning our necks outside the Qualis for our first fill of the city. Prayer wheels (called Manes, pronounced muh-nay) in any direction we turned, also low arrangement of stones shaped like a low wall (creatively called mane walls!).The 'manays' have religious significance. So, much like the Hindu 'pradakshinam' concept, the correct way to go around the manay is clockwise. 'Manays' dot even the centre of the roads (quite like temples in the middle of the road in South India), the driver always drove past on the left side! The Ladakhi people seemed friendly, with tiny crinkly wide-set eyes, a smiling mouth, petite build and cheerful and hardy countenance, going about their daily business - school, shops, office et al.
We reached our hotel - new, painted a pista green, on Fort Road, checked in, sat at the window taking in the clean air, the brilliant mountain view and telling each other that altitude sickness is a silly concept, written in books for paranoid people. A couple of hours of jumping around and wow! altitude sickness (alternately called mountain sickness) hit us, and badly. Headaches, nausea and breathlessness. As it is, none of us would fit into size 32 jeans, even remotely, so you can imagine the amount of oxygen our bodies would need... so cursing the heights, we all hit the sack.
And stayed there for the next 48 hours.
Ventured out on day 2 evening to the bazaar. Couldn't walk uphill (a bare 15 metres) without stopping thrice. When we made it finally, we felt as though Mt.Everest would be an easy conquest ( a feeling that visited us regularly over the next few days) Walked 'down' one street, decided we were not acclimatized enough.
Came back to the warm confines of our hotel rooms and slept again.
Breathing cool CLEAN air (after mad Mumbai), air that smelt of the snow, the freshness and curiously of Glad Mountain room freshener!
Dreaming of our next day's trip to Nubra Valley.
Travel opens ur mind to worlds that are different - you learn about the place, about yourselves and about your companions.