Day 25: Flight Delhi - Amsterdam & Epilogue

New Delhi Travel Blog

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“It is hard to leave a place where you can believe that anything is possible. But that is why one must leave. To see if you were right, to see if your insights can be lived in a different air, at a lower level.”


A Journey in Ladakh - Andrew Harvey


Besides being delayed the flight back to Schiphol was rather uneventful, or so it seemed … We arrived at the airport and probably because of the early hour (6:00 AM) our luggage arrived at the arrival hall remarkably quick. This is one of those awkward moments when people have to say goodbye after spending a lot of time. A lot of hugs and kisses followed and the 15 travellers slowly split up into those who were picked up and those that were taking the train home. In the latter category quite a few of us needed to catch a train to Utrecht so our mutual journey continued a bit further. ‘Big Jan’ and I were the last two say goodbye at the station in Den Bosch. In Oss I was picked up by mom and dad and dropped of at my home where my cat was anxiously waiting for me. One of the first things I did after putting the laundry in the washing machine was slip the Sing is Kinng album in the CD player to relive those last moments in India


All went well for about 1,5 days. I had been delighted to return home from a country far, far away without having had any major problems this time. After being taken off the plane during taxiing and hospitalized in Kathmandhu, having been treated in Hanoi for a flesh-eating bacterial infection and stomach problems after Egypt this was quite a relief. I had been watching the things I ate and drank quite closely and despite the horror stories you often hear about India this had obviously paid off. Well … not quite.

Monday afternoon I started getting cold shivers and driving home from work I actually had to turn the car’s heating all the way up. I immediately went to bed with a fever already risen to 38,5 degrees. I spent the next day in bed with terrible stomach cramps and a fever that went up as high as 39,5 degrees Celsius. By this time a terrible stream of diarrhoea had also started. When things hadn’t improved much the next day I went to see the doctor. Been puzzled how I could have gotten ill one day after my return (too late to be effected by something I ate in India and too soon to be effected by a local illness) he informed me that it was very well possible that I had gotten contaminated by some kind of bacteria on the plane! Seemingly this happens quite often since there are so many people in such a little space. Checking with my travel companions, two of them, the ones sitting next to me and behind me, had comparable complaints although they had started on Sunday evening already.


By the time I write this I’ve been at home for a week. Fever and the painful cramps have subsided but the terrible diarrhoea continues … I’m waiting for the results of a lab test telling me what kind of infection I contacted and what can be done about it. Goes to show that far, wonderful travelling isn’t without its dangers.




Talking of fat wonderful travelling, regardless of the lack of a real happy ending, this journey has been my sixth journey to a country outside Europe and has been the best so far. To be perfectly honest, India in general is not my dream destination. It’s too hot, dirty, inefficient and busy for my taste. Ladakh however and to a (much) lesser extend Himachal Pradesh are very different from India’s lowlands. Ladakh has been everything I expected it to be, and much more. I did indeed find the Tibetan culture that is so much suppressed in its own country, although Ladakh does seem to be in danger of losing its own culture with the modernisation and exposure of its youth to western tourists. Ladakh’s landscape is incredibly more varied than Tibet’s and although you will not find sights like Everest Basecamp of the snow covered Himalaya peaks at Tong-La as easily, I found nature even more breathtaking here than in Tibet.


People often tell you how kind and friendly Asian people are, but as I’ve said in other travel journals this is often a façade. It’s often a cultural thing, where a smile is simply a default and should not always be interpreted in the same way as you would do at home. Also, I have found that the smile often quickly fades into a grin of apathy when somebody finds out there’s no money to be made. What’s more, I have often found some kind of scam or con to be behind friendliness that has even made me slightly distrustful of too much friendliness in Asia. Tibetan people are being known to be genuinely friendly but I didn’t notice much of this in 2006; people were simply too scared about the Chinese to make real contact with the average tourist, especially when they come in groups of more than 10 at a time. Ladakh was really different. The farmers of Yangtang and the nuns of Hemis Shukpachan and Themisgam are just some examples of how hospital and kind these people are, without really asking anything in return. This is especially visible in the elder generations, although the young crew we had during the trekking also provided service that went well beyond the call of duty at times.


Buddhism is very, very comparable to that which you’ll find in Tibet. The main differences can be found in the religious freedom (no restrictions to pictures of the Dalai Lama here) and the fact that everything is authentic here whereas in Tibet a lot of destroyed monasteries have been rebuild when the Chinese discovered the value of tourism in Tibetan Buddhism. In Ladakh, buddhism doesn’t feel like a fairground attraction either. No extortionate entry fees, simply small contributions to the maintenance of a site; people are genuinely proud to be able so show you their culture without turning it into a money-making machine.


Although I hadn’t expected it, the trekking turned out to be the highlight of this trip. I wasn’t really looking forward to six days of walking but this proved to be the best way to experience Ladakh, its landscape and its people. It was also a perfect way of bonding between the travellers, which remained a rather close-knit group until the end of the journey. By that time it had split into two or three smaller groups with probably slightly different interest. Still, the companionship had turned out to be a very enjoyable one with several characters adding to the colourfulness of the group.

Other highlights of this journey were the Golden Temple at Amritsar and crossing the roughness of the Himalaya in three days in a bus (balancing between extremely tiring and amazingly impressive).


Although Delhi has its nice spots, as a city its more of a necessary evil than a highlight of the trip. The exhausting and packed program (read: need for or lack of a couple of days of rest) and bad weather probably kept us from making the best of places like Manali and Dharamsala. I’m convinced that these places have more to offer than we took out of them. I personally found the Tak Tok festival a bit of a disappointment. It had been one of the reasons to pick this specific trip but I found it to be too slow of pace to really capture my attention for very long. The Cham dances simply were too slow and repetitive for my taste. With the rest of the festival just being a bunch of souvenir stands there was not much else to do.


The final conclusion still is that all of the highlights of this journey make it my best one so far. I’m definitely going back to Ladakh some day …

Biedjee says:
oh, and what I forgot to say - that genuine friendliness and hospitality is something you'll also find in Mongolia. But I do agree with you, they seem to be a dying breed; genuinely friendly people...
Posted on: Sep 07, 2008
Biedjee says:
Hey Ed, finally had the chance to read the full blog. Looks like a fantastic trip! A pity about the rain and the inevitable health issues (just how do you do that every time?!)
Your blog convinced me to include Ladakh in my next big trip - will be picking your brain for tips next time we meet.

One thing struck me though - many of the experiences you had trekking the Himalayas are quite similar to mine in the Andes. You should really, really, really consider that area sometime. True, there's no Budhism over there, but there's enough other spirituality in that place to make up for it! :-)
Posted on: Sep 07, 2008
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