The main thing to do in Leh -- other than eat, see the Palace, and take in the beautiful scenery -- is to use it as a starting point for treks and jeep safaris. Anita and I signed up for a 1-night, 2-day jeep safari to the Nubra Valley. There was one other passenger, a guy named Kevin, from Connecticut. He sat in the front with the driver, Bubu (pronounced “boo boo,” as in Yogi &) and we had the back seat to ourselves. Our Manali to Leh bus ride was still recent enough (three days earlier) that thinking about it still gave me the shivers, so comparatively speaking, this was bliss. The only road to the Nubra Valley goes through the highest motorable pass in the world. We’d gone through the second highest on the Manali-Leh trip, so the novelty had already worn off.
Bubu's pride and joy
Still, the view was incredible. Bubu drove us to our guest house in Diskit
to drop off our stuff and have lunch. To get to it we had to walk through what looked like a cow pen or something -- with cows, poop, and the accompanying smells -- but when we came through the other side (sounds like a near-death experience!) we were pleasantly surprised by a fairly nice place. After lunch we drove a short distance and went on camel rides! These were special, two-humped camels. (I’m sure you’re duly impressed.) It turned out to be one of the highlights of my whole time in India. Anita had a rogue camel who kept trying to get ahead of Kevin’s and mine. Afterwards we went to a monastery that was quite a workout to climb up to, but the views were amazing.
How's that for a view?!
Kevin is a very interesting guy. He’s a carpenter by profession, but a traveler in his soul. He works so he can earn money to travel, always planning the next trip. He sets up his life to take months-long trips, and goes on his own. He’s interested in seeing the world, meeting new people, and talking about live and how he wants to live it. Kevin, if you’re reading this, I genuinely enjoyed meeting you.
The electricity in the guest house was out from about 7pm until the next morning, which meant no hot showers. (Most guest houses in India have individual water tanks. Flip on the power and wait 20-30 minutes for the water to heat up. Then take a fairly quick shower so you don’t run out of hot water with shampoo in your hair!) Oh well.
That’s life in India sometimes. On Day 2, Bubu drove us to another monastery. I hate to admit it, but for the most part they’re all starting to look alike. It’s like when I traveled in Europe after college -- other than a couple of exceptions (like Notre Dame and St. Mark’s Cathedral), I couldn’t tell you the names of the churches I saw. We had a little trouble on the road, with the military stopping us to say either that the road we wanted to take was closed (which meant quite the amount of backtracking) or that we had to wait for a bunch of military trucks to pass. I’m not sure if Bubu had planned to take us anywhere else, but the detours ate up quite a bit of time. We saw one monastery that morning and that was it -- the rest of the time (until 4pm!) was spent driving back to Leh. Fun trip.