Your traveling reporter hard at work to keep you up-to-date.
You do not know when you will get to Leh, and after a while you do not even know whether Leh itself exists; the existence of a fertile valley and a town in all this wilderness of rock is so improbable that Leh seems as mythical as the Golconda of Marco Polo, an imaginary city you will spend the rest of your life travelling towards (...)
Getting up at was tough, especially after having slept so badly.
The Mountain Edge Hotel.
At we left for the airport where more bad news would await us. Another overbooked flight! Regardless of all the negotiating by Kristen, Judith and two other companions were not given boarding passes and had to stay in Delhi for one more day. The rest had a good flight with a decent warm breakfast and could marvel at the beautiful peaks of the Himalayas below.
In Leh we were picked up by Tashi (as nine out of ten people from Tibetan descent seem to be named) and taken to the Mountain Edge Hotel in mini vans. Here we were welcomed with black tea and cookies before our room keys were handed out. Making a quick stop at the toilet I had a rather misfortunate event when, bending forward to fill a bucket with water, my sunglasses slipped out of my pocket and shot straight down the drain of the squat toilet that lay next to the regular ‘western’ one.
Leh Main Bazar
Unable to retrieve it (yes, I tried elbow-deep, fortunately this toilet seemed to be rarely used) I set myself to buying a new one later today or tomorrow.
The altitude of 3200 meters started to have its effect: shortness of breath, a slight headache and dizziness. Everybody was advised to take some rest and not do any walking today. Time to acclimatize and take it easy today... After working on the journal and a couple of hours of sleep I got up feeling lousy as hell. We had a nice vegetarian Indian lunch, served by the always smiling Rabi, the hotel manager.
The hotel, Mountain Edge, was located a few kilometres out of Leh's city limits, just below the rock with the Shanti Stupa.
This picture says it all about what's for sale in Leh's Main Bazar.
Walking down to Leh wasn't a good idea on this first day (or any other day really). Fortunately the hotel and local agent, Nomad Travels, arranged for mini vans to drive to and fro Leh, so we could be dropped off at the start of the town’s main street (the Main Bazar).
Leh is little more than a small town with a new and old part, the latter including the Palace that looks out of the town and resembles a mini version of Lhasa's Potala. Leh is located at 3500 meters and has roughly 25.000 inhabitants. The Main Bazar is the busiest but probably also the least interesting part of town. As in any tourist centre it houses countless souvenir shops, restaurants and travel agents. At the very southern end you'll find Ladakhi women selling their vegetables and apricots (a Ladakhi specialty) on the pavement.
On this first day of getting used to the height it was better not to run up to the palace right away.
Ladakhi women selling vegetables in Leh Main Bazar.
I did run up to the nearest toilet though; drinking 4 litres a day to cope with mountain sickness was starting to increase the number of nature's calls. After getting this necessary relief I sat down in an Internet cafe to upload the first days of the blog and check my e-mails. Then it was back to wandering through the Main Bazar.
Hidden away in the main street is a tiny little gompa (temple) called Chowkang. It houses a temple hall, big prayer wheel, a kora with smaller prayer wheels and (yes!) public toilets which look like blue funnels stuck in the ground. After another call of nature I walked the kora, spinning the prayer wheels and had a look inside the temple hall, which wasn't all that remarkable.
I ran into Kirsten at the gompa and asked her what a decent pair of sunglasses would cost. She advised me to have Tashi, her contact at Nomad Travels, to help me out since there were a lot of fakes without UV filters being sold. Until then I had to do with the sunglasses Tineke was kind enough to lend me.
At 18:00 hours we all gathered at the Menthokling Garden Restaurant, next to Tashi’s office, where I had some delicious fried chicken momo's (which some of my travel companion that never had momo's immediately loved as well) and a chicken sizzler.
Good food, but the pizza's that some of the others ordered seemingly left a lot to be desired. The good mood was only spoiled by my persistent headaches, so I was glad when we squeezed into the mini vans again to head back to the hotel, shortly after eight. Tired and exhausted I hit the (rock hard) sack and dozed off immediately around nine o' clock, wondering how Judith would be doing in Delhi.