Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Back from Ladakh: Part I

Goodbye Delhi heat, traffic, dust, smog, mosquitos and flat-ness. The plane circled ever upward on the way out of the city. Everything below was becoming miniature. Cows,
                                                 rivers. . .and we were in the clouds heading North to the Great Himalayan range.
Within 20 minutes we were over the foothills, green valleys plunging deeper and deeper drawing the boundaries between green giants. . .Shimla. . .Manali. . . Snow appears mixed with the clouds, at first it is hard to distinguish one from the other. . .then the mountains start to change entirely. They are no longer green giants but have passed onto the next realm, that of stone, still, lifeless. Barren and majestic. The valleys run ever deeper; veins of the terrain. Snakes, rather than ladders, that will take us back to the level from which we came.
Zik Zik Guesthouse Garden
There is a break in the peaks and Leh valley comes into sight.  Aside from the snow-capped mountains surrounding, the terrain has become desert-like, a sharp contrast to the cloudless azure sky.  By the time our taxi has dropped us off in the main town, we can already feel the effects of our sudden 3500m jump in altitude.  Each breath provides far less oxygen (although the air is markedly clearer than that of Delhi!) so a short walk down the street requires effort, climbing a flight of stairs requires a recovery period, with bags? that would come with a health advisory.  We leave our bags at one guest house to seek out something a bit more suitable.  We find Zik Zik Guesthouse on Karzoo lane with a nice garden, 24-hour hot water (which proved to be not entirely true, though still fine), reasonable price, nice view and nice family (not to mention cute kitten and calf!).
Fort Road
After confirming our stay at the guesthouse, we proceeded to take a long nap since we were feeling headach-y from the oxygen level.  We woke up close to dinner time and found a restaurant on fort road that had a great rooftop view.  After dinner though, we just went back to the room and slept since we were still not fully acclimatized and didn't feel like doing much else.
Old Palace
The next day we booked a trip to Pangong Lake and then wandered around Leh for a while.  We wandered down some back alleys selling goods for locals and had some chai from a Ladakhi lady toting a thermos full.  At the end of the alley we found a Tibetan handy-craft market where they were selling fresh momos and butter tea as well.  After that we went to see the old palace. . .our first climb since arriving in Leh.  Since we were still not fully acclimatized, it was a really challenging climb. Inside the palace was very dark which was dangerous since there were sometimes holes in the floor!  But the views of the city and mountains were worth it.
After dinner we returned to our room (which has no power, an on-going issue in Ladakh) and went to bed since our tour to Pangong Lake was leaving the next morning at 5:45!
Back from Ladakh Part II

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