Thursday, July 23, 2009

Leh(Ladakh) - Day 1


29th May 2009

Major Abhishek Dimri whom we met last May in Badri (on our way to Vasudhara falls, to be precise), was posted in Leh (Ladakh) during March-April this year. He would call me every day and describe vividly, the beauty of the place, the Sindhu river, Padum valley, glaciers, snow and what not… he said it was the right time for me to plan a trip to Ladakh and he would take care of accommodation…

That’s how it all started. I booked my tickets. A week before I was to fly, I got a message. Abhishek had been recently transferred to Rishikesh! I would be all by myself in Leh!

I decided to fly anyway. On the 29th of May 09, I flew to Delhi. My flight to Leh would leave at 6 in the morning. I enquired with all sorts of staff in the airport if there was some place I could lie down for the night. None. Such a hopeless airport! So much glamour and glitter… for what joy? Like Shakespeare said, all sound and fury, no significance!
I found a raised platform at a corner, made a bed for myself out of my shawl, a pillow out of my towel, jacket, jeans and a sweatshirt and tossed and turned over it all night.

30th May

The kingfisher seats were all non-reclining and uncomfortable. I had an aisle seat. To my surprise, the plane was full.

As we approached Leh, someone with a window seat excitedly pointed to a snow mountain that suddenly loomed out of the mist and fog that had otherwise obscured the picture below, with the result that half the people in the vicinity of the uninteresting windows shifted to the interesting side of the plane. There were exclamations, excited cries from children and women, a lot of movement as people took turns to view the spectacle… I was hoping this would not affect the balance of the aircraft! I missed the snow mountains but managed to take a few snaps as we came closer to landing.



From the airport, I took a taxi to Gomang guest house, in this area called Changspa. Thanks to Ranjana for recommending this place.

It was a short walk from the road to the guest house. A muddy path in the midst of short walls made of stone and mud and there were white Chortens or Buddhist Stupas, 4 to 5 feet tall all around.

I was shown to my room by Nyamgel, the man of a Buddhist, Ladakhi family. 150 rupees a day was quite cheap and I was relieved.

My solitude and directionless-ness combined with the stillness of the place caused some heaviness in my heart. I decided to just rest for sometime and venture out in the evening.

The afternoon was quite hot, though the cold winds made me keep the sweater on.

This is a picture I took from the balcony. You can see a white chorten below. This is just one of the several views.


The old man in the housemade some polite enquiries through a small window that overlooked my room on first floor balcony and I took the opportunity to have myself invited to the house, curious as I was about Ladakhi life and homes.

This was the hall combined with kitchen







The old man had been in the army and fought either the China war or the Pakistan war!
What you see right at the centre is a stove used for heating! This is the most ornamental heater I have ever seen.


We climbed to the second story and we were on the terrace that had a Pooja room


This is a picture of the family


It was time to step out…and explore


This was the picture that welcomed me as I stepped out on to the connecting road. This was the view at about 4 in the evening


I had taken the same picture at 9 in the morning as soon as I landed… the beauty of the place, as you will see from my pictures is, every time you look, the scenary is different.


These are poplar trees, a characteristic feature of the place. Their greenery, their freshness is as true, as striking as the aridity of the region.


Beautiful, isn’t it? I am as charmed with these as with the Devdars and the Pines that I saw in the Himalayas last year.


As I walked on the main road towards the market, it was not my fatigue that took away the spring in my step, but these sights, marvelling at which, I stood still for moments of eternity.


The unaesthetic electric wires were all over the place. Imperfect blend.
I climbed to the terrace of a hotel and found a smile of satisfaction on my lips.




This is the Shanti Stupa


And that’s me :)


That’s the Leh Palace.




And the smaller edifice you see topmost of the hill to the right is Nyamgel Tsemo.






All along the market road there are interesting shops, restaurants, curio shops, travel agencies and many internet browsing centers. There were lots of people; Indian tourists, foreigners, Ladakhis and many more… and there was the annoying violence of huge, noisy vehicles. Imperfect blend.

I was looking for a travel guide. I found a bookshop down the market square. I found two books, spent five minutes in a dilemma and finally bought one for seven hundred bucks. It proved to be a good purchase. Once again, I am pleased with my good judgement. Or was it good luck?

I entered many shops and enquired the agents about the places nearby, taxi fares, road maps, discounts and came out completely confused. And that was good. Because clarity always follows confusion.

It was beginning to get dark. But there was enough light at 7 in the evening for me to take these last pictures. That’s another thing about this place. Late sunset. At least during this time of the year.




On my way back, I bought a jade green fleece coat that had a hood. I also bought a pair of gloves.
I entered this restaurant called wonderland, recommended by the family with which I was stationed. Earlier in the evening, when I had passed this shop, I had peeped inside to ask if they had Banoffee pie. This was something I had had in McLeod Ganj last year and would have loved to have again. The owner had said he would make the delicacy for me. But when I returned for dinner with anticipation, he said it had all been sold.

I ordered Mix Veg Tofu. It was delicious. And then I had French fries. They were the best I have had so far. For dessert, I had something that had the word Queen in it’s name. It was bad.



It was really dark outside. But it was not long before my eyes saw that my path was washed with light from a waxing moon. As I walked alone in the stillness of the night, my solitude had the company of the silhouette of the poplars, a clear sky embellished with many many stars and the white stupas that were all the more white in moon light. There was direction to my journey now and my heart was light.

4 comments:

Ketan said...

Wow Sowmya, that was a very engaging description!

I truly admire your attitude, I mean, I loathe it to even walk half a kilometer alone, and you made an entire trip all by yourself! But which is not to mean I'm a very 'people's person'. Just that I don't enjoy walking alone. I wish I could develop a taste for it.

I really liked the flow of your narration. It had a very personal touch, and your excellent writing skill did show up itself at places--"it was not my fatigue that took away the spring in my step..."

I found 'Leh place' strangely interesting. It has a strange color and shape to it--reminiscent of some kind of stagnacy.

BTW, if you're not subscribed to comments on your posts, please be, as I'm very impressed with your blog, and am going to leave my comments. :) Needless to say, you've been blogrolled. Do see, if something on my blog interests you. But going by what you post on, you'll find the topics I touch on very different from yours. Maybe, my poetry and short fiction might interest you. :)

TC.

deepocean said...

mmmmm

Satish said...

Do they have a civilian airport in LEH.... That will do a world of good for tourism in that region.....

LEH Palace does make a grand picture and makes my resolve to visit to LEH even more stronger and the evny turns to dark green now :)

Sowmya said...

Ketan,

Thanks for your patience. when I write such long posts, I fear that people will not read them. I shall certainly visit your blog and check you out :)

And yes. I love company. So do leave me many comments... :)

You should visit Ladhak. It's magical...

Thanks for all the nice words...

Hey Pushpa,

what mmmmmm... write more na... :)

Satish,

Keep checking this space... I will eventually succeed in making you green...even if you try hard not to...