A Leh-zy day…
We arrived in Leh after our 1 hr flight from Delhi and were pleasantly greeted with sunny skies and the cool, crisp mountain air. As we stood on the tarmac waiting for the airport buses to take us on a 20 meter ride to the terminal building, we took in the surroundings; blue skies, wisps of white clouds and snow capped mountains that surrounded the city. Actually, Leh is more like a small town. We soon discovered that getting lost in Leh was nearly impossible. All roads ultimately lead to the market.
Shortly after picking out our bags, we hopped in our taxis that were waiting outside the airport terminal and were promptly shown to our very modest hotel and even more modest rooms. Apparently there are no “luxury” hotels and judging from our rooms, “average” hotels are also hard to come by. Nonetheless, we got ourselves settled in and had a nap before they were ready to serve us lunch at 2pm. We moseyed on down to the common dining room and I must admit, the views were amazing. Every window you look out of, you’re bound to see some snow capped peaks in the distance.
After we had our fill of dal and rice, we decided to take a brisk walk into the market to suss out what the town had to offer. One thing is for sure, you’ll never be short of finding Swiss and German bakeries there. It reminded me a bit of Darjeeling, with its small coffee shops and pastries displayed in the windows. Another common theme amongst all places in India are the pashmina stores (I later learnt that pashminas are a very high quality type of cashmere wool and that the best ones come from sheep bred in Mongolia because they have to withstand the coldest winters and so their wool is best adapted to keep them warm). These stores looked to be mainly run by Kashmiris. The people of this region also look very distinct from that of the rest of India. Some of them looked Tibetan or Nepalese (and I’m pretty sure they are from there anyway) and others looked like they were from Central Asia and then of course you have the Kashmiris.
By the time we had made a full circle of the market and snuck our heads into the different stores and tried out our bargaining skills (which I’m embarrassed to say that even after a year in India, it’s pretty much crap), it was approaching late afternoon and the air was getting cooler. We decided to head back to our hotel on the outskirts of town, a mere 2 km away. En route, my friend and I decided to test our fitness levels and climb the 500 steps to the top of Shanti Stupa. Unsurprisingly, combined with the altitude and the steep gradient, we were panting after probably the first 30 steps. We finally reached the top after numerous stops and I’m glad to say it was worth every step. The 360′ view of the town surrounded on all sides by the snow capped mountains was a fitting reward. Oh, and so was the stupa.
Going down was a breeze and with that our first day in Ladakh was off to a good start. We had our fill of rice and dal again (one of many meals to come of dal and rice) and it was off to bed – lights out at 10pm since electricity here only comes on for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening – same goes for the hot water which I will now call a luxury.
Life may be simple but it sure is hard in these parts.
(We also found out that Juley means “Hello” in Ladakhi… we were wondering why they kept on calling us Julie only to find out what it meant later on).