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Published: August 12th 2011
The view of the Himalayas poking through the clouds from the plane. Somewhere in that direction lies Mt. Everest.
We arrived in Leh after a comfortable one hour flight from Delhi. Leh is in the Kashmir region in the far north of India and we had heard that it was a place you can't miss this time of year. Well, it certainly didn't disappoint. The city lies at an elevation of 3700m in the Ladakh Range of the Himalaya Mountains and the high elevation desert scenery is absolutely beautiful. It's a popular spot in July and August as the weather can be tricky the rest of the year.
Many people come to Leh for trekking but as we are not really set up for this type of travel this time, we decided that we would mostly take it easy while we were here. It's a good thing we didn't have any big plans because we were both hit pretty hard with Acute Mountain Sickness due to the altitude and the fact that we didn't acclimatize properly by flying into this elevation. It affected me first with a headache and light-headedness developing within a few hours of arriving. We found a guesthouse and went down for a nap to try and relax a bit. I woke up a few hours
An example of Ladakhi crafstmanship. The carved wooden door and window frames are pretty spectacular.
later with a pounding head and feeling like I was in a daze. Jay seemed alright the first day but her time was coming ...
The next morning, I was feeling much better (although the headache persisted for the majority of our time here) and we went out for breakfast. After we ate, Jay starting feeling a bit off and we returned to the guesthouse. She spent the next day and a half running back and forth from the bed to the bathroom. While awaiting her health to return, I also developed a cold that certainly didn't help the lack of oxygen situation. Luckily, this happened to us while we were staying in a pretty comfortable place with no immediate travel plans so with the help of some meds and good old moaning and whining, we finally recovered on our fourth day in Leh having spent most of our time in our room.
Once we got out to finally enjoy this place, we were impressed. The people are really nice and it is remarkably more laid back than even the quietest corner of Delhi. The majority of people here are Buddhists and you could hear the chanting from
The view of the palace ridge from the road outside our guesthouse
the main temple all over town as well as the constant bell-ringing of the spinning prayer wheels spread throughout the city. There are a number of Tibetan refugee markets here where you can pick up clothing, jewelry and trinkets that are hand made in Tibet.
We found it remarkable to watch how people survive in such a harsh climate. The water is scarce with deliveries made everyday to businesses and houses that need it and the power is usually only up and running in the evening to conserve electricity. There are channels carved throughout the city to utilize the melt water from the mountains and the nearby Indus River irrigates fields of barley, carrots, peas, rutebagas and other produce. The place pretty much closes to tourists outside of the summer season as the only road in is closed and flights are routinely cancelled due to weather.
On our final day in Leh we climbed up the Palace Ridge which loomed behind our guesthouse to reach the Leh Palace. This 7 storey palace was built into the hill side in the 16th century and was at one point the highest elevation structure in the entire world. The palace was
The water delivery truck making one of it's several daily deliveries from the town reservoir.
interesting but is mostly ruined and in a state of restoration. The climb was tough as the altitude was still affecting us (give us a break, we live at sea level) so we waited to catch our breath to brave the rest of the much steeper climb up to the Tsemo Fort at the very top of the hill. Poor Jay was still pretty weak from being ill but she did eventually make it to the top despite her heart, head, lungs and stomach telling her not to. The view from the top was stunning as you could see the whole town below as well as the farmer's fields in the valley off in the distance. We could see numerous snow-capped peaks all around us. There are a number of guided treks you can do here that reach over 5000 and 6000m but that's obviously for another time and another level of fitness.
Somewhat reluctantly we decided to move on as there is much more of India to see and we are looking ahead to tackling the infamous Leh-Manali road which is only open from July 15 - September 15 as you traverse some serious passes and steep roads.
The view of the courtyard from our room window.
We are booked on a 20 hour ride in an 11 passenger mini-bus that leaves at 12:30am. This should be interesting.
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