CraSh Williams' Blog

Leh’ing low in Ladakh

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on August 8, 2011

The flight from Delhi to Leh is over in no time, in fact its little over an hour and before you know it, you’re gazing out at a barren landscape with mountain peaks piercing the clouds – yep, we’re flying in the Himalayas! It’s such a sight, all the passengers clamber over to one side of the plane to take in the view, all of whom are very excited and are whacking off numerous photos of the mountains.

The landing is an interesting experience, as the plane banks you can see snow capped mountains and mountain passes, all within touching distance of the plane. The pilot meanders through and you’re hoping he’s got his wits about him. Looking out for the runway  (which never materialises) you’re suddenly down – it’s certainly the most memorable landing I’ve experienced. Whilst taxing to a halt you’re told that the airport is a military area and photography is strictly forbidden, so you hide the camera under your arm, finger at the ready! On exiting the aircraft you’re blasted by cool air – after the heat of Delhi it comes as a shock, a very welcome shock, though you’re still reaching for the warm clothes you have in your bag. The terminal, if you can call it a terminal is just a small building off the runway, thronged with military personnel and cabs drivers offering lifts into Leh.

High Street Leh

Apart from the ‘airport’ the whole of plain is given over to the military with military trucks moving here there and everywhere. Towering above and surrounding you are mountains, none of which show any signs of life, nor any trees or green, just grey brown mountains – you really are in the middle of nowhere and because its so barren you feel like you’re on the moon. A short time later we were dropped off at our hotel in the centre of Leh, a warren of tiny streets climbing up the hill – even though it was 7am the streets were already busy with people and traffic going about there business. We decided to get our heads down for a few hours as we’d already been awake for a good thirty hours and due to the altitude we decided to take it easy. Leh is quite compact with the main tourist areas being centred around Fort Road (which is where our hotel is based) with numerous craft shops, Tibetan markets, several restaurants, internet cafes and tour companies  – Leh has a really nice feel and once rested we set about exploring the town.

Leh Street

Ladakh is predominantly Buddhist though theres still a sizeable Muslim population and Leh has two or three mosques. The Muslim call to prayer can be heard across the town several times a day and during the early morning at about 2am and then 4am (to be precise) when two mullahs seem to have a rapping competition, each calling out, as one starts the other quickly follows, wailing away for a good twenty or so minutes – at first we wasn’t too amused by this but after a while, whilst lying in our beds listening, it’s kinda melodic and you quickly drift back to sleep.

Shortly afterwards the dogs start barking, starting very near our hotel with the rest of the dogs joining in as it reaches their part of town – its incessant!

Dominating the whole town is Leh Palace which we’re still yet to visit, it looks ruined though to be fair, as do most other buildings we’ve seen built on the mountains. So far we’ve not done too much, our first few days have really been about acclimatising and making plans to travel around the local area and whereas we toyed with organised tours (though quickly dismissed them as there not really our thing) we set about hiring a Royal Enfield motorbike and we’re aiming to do our own sight-seeing/adventures.

In the next few days we’re  planning to ride to one of the highest lakes in the World, called Pangong Tso – a five hour ride with a 5350m mountain pass to negotiate along the way. Apparently theres a campsite at the lake so fingers crossed we make it in one piece as camping out so high next to the lake will be magical.We’ve also been told that ride along the Nubra Valley is a must, visually it’s very beautiful and also takes in the highest mountain pass (road) in the World, the Khardung La where you’re met at the top by the Indian Military – in fact both rides involve riding into ‘restricted’ areas so we’ve had to arrange permits to allow access which we’ve now sorted so it’s now a case of getting on the bike and riding out!

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