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Ladakh #2

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  • vance_stevens
    Communique two from Leh ... The novelty of Leh was starting to wear off, too many people inviting us to visit my shop and excitement over food, even at $10
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 6 7:32 AM
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      Communique two from Leh ...

      The novelty of Leh was starting to wear off, too many people inviting
      us to visit 'my shop' and excitement over food, even at $10 for a
      meal for 4, with beer and delicious apple juice bottled in nearby
      Kashmir, was starting to wane. And we had trudged all over Leh,
      climbed to the gompa above the city, followed the ridge line to the
      fort, acclimatized to the 3500 meter altitude, organized our trek
      starting tomorrow, and we had a couple of days free. What to do?

      We went to the tourist office, friendly Tibetan lady there, smiled
      sweetly, saying please to everything we said. Very helpful, gave us
      a brochure showing when all the festivals would be. We found one,
      but how to get there? By taxi she said. How much? She had a price
      list. About $80 round trip, very pricy for Leh. Plus we would have
      to arrange a permit because we would be going near the chinese
      border. A travel agent costed it all out, with a ride to the
      monestary where the festival was, to over $100.

      To make a long story short, we decided to follow the dictum that 'the
      point of the journey is not to arrive.' That's ambiguous, which is
      why I like that statement. In any event it means that if you have to
      hire a taxi and a driver to stay with you overnight and pre-plan each
      stop, forget it. So in the end we decided to see where we could get
      with local buses. Besides not having to pre-plan too much, the cost
      would be a few dollars as opposed to cost for car hire.

      The only small problem with bus transport in Ladakh is that buses
      tend to go in the morning to a destination and return next day, so
      you never know if you arrive at a spot if you're there on the day the
      bus leaves. Buses out to the lake near where the festival was we
      found out go every Monday. So we decided to visit monestaries out
      the road to Kargil / Srinigar on the assumption that if there were no
      buses we could hitch. The only small problem here was that we had to
      be back next day for our pre-booked trek, so we were taking a bit of
      a risk. In any event we went to the bus station at 6:30 a.m. on a
      Monday and caught the bus out to Lamayuru about 140 km away, taking 6
      hours to reach by bus.

      The bus ride was pleasant, bus not too crowded, people friendly, lots
      of stops for tea and momos and thunkpa, a tibetan soup, not always
      higeinically prepared, but well, we ate the parts we thought had been
      boiled. The terrain looked a lot like Oman, wild as we snaked up the
      Indus River, fast flowing and muddy. I'd taken other trips up the
      Indus where it flows into the Korakoram, interesting riding up the
      gorge of the same river in a different country. We took the journey
      up the snaking, single lane strand of tarmac where the monestary of
      Lamayuru was in a small village at the foot of a pass lined with
      chortems and mandi stones left by Silk Road cavavans obviously
      grateful in past times to have reached this far in the journey, where
      the barren hills, 3000 plus meters, would lead them down to the
      river, a day's journey away in those days

      Or maybe they would have diverted to Wanlah, a nearby monestary we
      could have walked to in 4 hours. But bus transport from there was
      iffy, probably was a bus to Khalsti according to the monks at
      Lamayuru who pointed out the trail over the pass, 3700 meters. But
      we had to get back next day, so we went back to the road and caught a
      lift with a sikh, ancient, 70's, pulling the steering wheel for all
      he was worth, twinkle in his eye, no english, driving a tanker truck,
      not sure full or empty, but anyway we got him to take us 60 km
      halfway back to Leh and drop us at a bridge over the Indus where a
      road led 2 km to a town called Alchi.

      Alchi was a monestary town in an area of monestaries. There were two
      there in the town, 3 including a small Gompa. Others in the area
      included Likur and Rendong, the latter a nunnery. I sussed out while
      there that if I could get up to Likur, 5 km off the main road, I
      could walk to Rindong at altitude in a few hours. One day I must do
      that.

      Meantime, we arrived in this lovely town on the Indus, clay buildings
      many stories tall, roofs lined with winter fodder for the livestock,
      friendly simple people, and several hotels and guest houses, built to
      accommodate tourists attracted by the ancient paintings in the
      gompas. We checked 4 of the guest houses. Rooms were $2 and in one
      case had a bath (shower pipe and squat toilet). For $4 we got rooms
      with sit down toilets. Where else can you upgrade so substantially
      for $2? AND this hotel had beer and a veg restaurant. It was a
      veggy town. There was no one else at the hotel, or at any of the
      hotels, so we drank the beer and ate the food. Electricity was only
      on there from 8 to 10 p.m. , so at that point we went to bed in utter
      silence, save the honking of a donkey occasionally in the night.

      Next day we visited a gompa that could have been in Italy, finely
      wrought paintings on several temples. The best thing about the place
      was clear skies and fresh mountain air. We wandered around the 3
      gompas, chatting with the monks and peasants, till time to hike back
      to the road, and caught another sikh driven tank truck traveling up
      the single lane road at 3 min per km until we finally abandoned it
      after the driver pulled off to pour water in the radiator, and we
      caught another truck full of fencing where we rode in the back, al
      fresco all the way back to Leh. Showered, got online, wrote this
      sent it. More later.

      Vance
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