This is coming to you from a heavily incensed internet cafe in the capital city of Ladakh, Leh. We arrived blinking on Thursday morning (31st July) on the back of one taxi journey, one nerve-racking bus ride and three flights with spectacular views, not to mention a sleepless night in Delhi airport. After the muggy oppressive heat of Delhi Ladakh’s crisp, dry mountain air was a blessed relief and fortunately we are still revelling in it. We met further contrast in the face of organised, clear public transport, helpful people and a generally tourist-friendly atmosphere. Our lovely guesthouse in the centre of Leh has provided a sound base from which to explore the city. Three days in and we are acclimatising well to the altitude (3,400m) despite a few wobbles and bad nights’ sleep early on. We are finding further success on the health front as our paranoia about food-poisoning has kept us safe so far (no salad, no meat, no ice cream- basically anything not boiled to within an inch of its life). Despite this we have still enjoyed the superb cuisine Leh has to offer in the former of hundreds of reasonable restaurants of which we have taken full advantage. Our early explorations of Himalayan culture have taken the form of masala tea, momos, phukpa and kothay. Momo (dumplings) are swiftly becoming a favourite.
Other reconoitres into the city have revealed a vast wealth of culture and many dimensions to the city- more about these later on. The main bazaar and fort roads bustle with energy especially evident in the large scale construction projects dotted about the city. Moreover we have been delighted to find shops with everything including the kitchen sink. We’ve stocked up on the things we need, as well as many things we don’t!
Further fortune found us on the second day when, like a guardian angel, Tanzin Norbu our friend and guide found us. His warm welcome to Ladakh and clarification of travel plans allayed our niggling worries. Kalsang, our future guide and translator, seems well suited to the job and we think we will all get on very well. With Tanzin and Kalsang we visited a local cultural centre renovated in the eighteenth century house of a former advisor to the king of Leh situated just beneath Leh palace. The beautiful building and views impressed us all, as did the charming library on the top floor dedicated to all aspects of Ladakh which our inner academics relished. No doubt we will spend a number of informative hours overlooking the city from there.
In the afternoon we took a different direction, attending a viewing of Helena Norberg-Hodge’s film Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. The amount we have learnt about ecological awareness in Ladakh could fill a blog – and so it shall.
And so our adventures so far are up to date with many more to come as we match up accounts of events with very intermittent internet access. Stay tuned for more updates on our blog and twitter feed when the government-run internet allows!