Our flight from Delhi to Leh, gateway to Ladakh and The Himalaya, was initially cancelled due to bad weather. Sadly, this meant one more day in my not-most-favourite city in the world, Delhi, which was in fact fab because the shopping was good and I had a luxury bubble bath by mistake, but also, because it meant a dawn flight to Leh the next day.
And this meant we got to see the sun rise over The Himalaya as we flew in, which also meant I have never seen anything more magnificent in my entire life.
Nothing quite prepares you for The Himalaya, which I have learned to say and pronounce correctly. There is no S at the end. It’s one huge mountain range, about 2400 kms long, and oh my god, phew, jeez and magnificent don’t quite cut it.
Majestic, exquisite and mind-blowingly unbelievable kind of work.
The beauty in Leh is everywhere. Snow capped mountain peaks. Smiling and rosy cheeked Ladakhis. Prayer flags where ever you look. Yaks roaming the narrow streets. Dogs that looked pretty healthy. Monasteries carved into mountain tops where you just think HOW DID THEY DO THIS, giant Buddhas, Buddhist stupas, big Monks and baby Monks, enormous stairways and narrow pathways, colourful doorways, painted ceilings and flowers, flowers, everywhere.
There was also, surprisingly, a lot of dust. You think you’ve got away from Delhi and the dust, but no. It’s in Leh too. Leh is high and dry, the roads are hectic, there is a lot of traffic and there are a lot of army trucks, more army trucks than I’ve ever seen in my life, and therefore, a lot of dust. And diesel. And gas. And distress, because WTF the army, and this is something I am going to write about further, but I need to do full on research first.
While I was prepared for altitude sickness – drink a ton of water, rest up for the first 24 to 48 hours, eat garlic soup which is beyond delicious, do yogic breathing and meditations and take tablets if necessary – I was not prepared for allergies. Leh, beautiful as it is, is polluted. Which is pretty sad. Once you get out of Leh, I cannot tell a lie, it’s still polluted. You really need to get way into the Himalaya before the dust disappears. And even then…
Our little group stayed in Leh for two nights before heading out on our real Himalayan adventure. Our hotel, the Golden Dragon or maybe it was the Great Dragon, or maybe it was the Red Dragon, the altitude got to me a little, was perfect. A twenty minute walk to the village and market, and while you are not supposed to walk because ALTITUDE, I did, albeit very slowly. I loved the village, the hippies, the market sellers, the fruit and veg sellers who are all women, the vegan coffee shops and it’s kind of trendy and fun and dusty and there are great book shops and very handsome Israeli tourists and Spanish bikers and Venezuelan trekkers and I do get why people stay here a while.
And then, because as a group we had limited time and you cannot stay in Leh forever, also I didn’t have any Allergex, we were off on the second highest mountain pass in the world. Leh to Pangong Lake. A journey that would take six hours, be thrilling and scary and extraordinary and DUSTY and OMG dangerous, and there was snow and we went to almost 18 thousand feet high and there were still handsome bikers and and that will all be in the second instalment of this travel diary!
Which in Ladakhi means hello, goodbye and thank you. See you in a few days!