Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pangong Lake

Pangong lake a day trip from Leh takes you over the third highest motor-able pass at elevation 17586 feet/5360 meters, I was definitely feeling light headed even after a week of being in Leh and the higher altitudes. The drive there and back is just as much of the trip as seeing the lake itself. Actually you spend more time going there and back (4 1/2 hours one way) then at the lake. As you drive out of Leh the road takes you through villages that are interspersed with many monastery's clinging to hill tops, There are quite a few I still need to go and explore.

As the road started to slowly ascend the scenery was spectacular, unfortunately I couldn't keep telling the driver to stop for me. These next 3 shots are taking from the front seat.

In order to travel to the lake you need to have a permit which the trekking company arranges for you a day in advance. Because as always in this area there is a large military presence, not only because of Pakistan but the lake itself borders China.

The cutest thing I saw on the way up to the lake was a rodent they call a marmet I called marmite. It waits along side the road for the Indian tourists to pass and stop and feed him cookies. I gave him some almonds I think he preferred the cookies looking at his belly.

We finally get to the lake along with all the other Indian tourists the way they are taking pictures you would think they have never seen water before. The views are precious and the water is clear but COLD.

And of course you cant forget that China is on the other side of the lake so of course there is a military presence there as well.

On the drive back I had my first Yak siting, I did make the driver stop for this and I ran out there then I stopped and realized that these were wild yaks, so maybe staying back a bit and just using the telephoto was a better idea, since I have no idea if yaks are aggressive, although they did appear pretty passive.And of course we had to stop at the top of the pass for those stereotypical tourist photos. All and all it was a good day out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

16 Hour Ride Up

16 hours Srinagar to Leh in a shared taxi with 7 others bouncing up and down, multiple police checkpoints, and multiple tea stops when I finally arrived in Leh I wanted nothing else than to be horizontal on a bed. I really thought I was gonna die the last three hours of the drive. I had gotten really bad gas that later I found out was due to an upset stomach so needless to say I wasn't a happy camper. When we arrived in Leh it was 12:30 at night, fortunately I had shared the taxi with an American girl who had been to Leh before and had a guest house already lined up.

The day started at 6:30am at the taxi stand in Srinagar, a lot of shouting was going on as there was a German guy who was insisting that he get the front seat in a newer taxi, I think the drivers were shouting about who was going to take him. The rest of us didn't really care we just wanted to get going. There were 7 in total not including the driver. I got the pleasure of sitting in the back seat with a Indian boy and another very tall German guy. It was a tight squeeze the Indian boy was sitting next to me and as the road was bumpy the first 5 hours we both tried real hard not to touch each other. After the first 5 and the road getting even worse we both decided that if our knees touched it wouldn't really be a big deal. So on it went, tossing around the back of this jeep like three beach balls.

Then we get stopped by the military and are told that we have to wait for a convoy of trucks that are coming down the mountain. We sat there for 2 1/2 hours waiting on 20 trucks to go pass. But in the mean time we sat around talking with everybody else who had gotten stopped and the soldiers who job was to stop us.

The military presence on the ride up is evident every few Kilometers with war memorials and check points. This is where India keeps its nukes being that its so close to the Pakistani and Chinese border, we had to show our passports a total of 6 times. A large military camp outside of a town called Drass where we had to stop and show our passports and register in.
Looked like something out of a James Bond movie, They didn't allow us to take photos so I snuck behind a building and took these snaps.

We stopped in the Drass for lunch, the place was no five star restaurant, and I wonder if it wasn't the food there or the food I ate with Rafi in Srinagar that got me so sick? It did however have some interesting characters to watch.

As the day progressed we kept driving higher and higher into the mountains the views were stunning and at times the road well what road? Nora the American girl asked the driver for a pee stop he stopped in a village with a toilet that I wouldn't even let my cats enter. There is a statistic in India that 60% of the population do not have access to a functioning toilet, this was part of that 60% percent. We found a truck to pee behind and took turns guarding it.

Although it was the longest drive I have done in a long time and it knackered the hell out of me waking up the following day and looking out of my guesthouse window to see the Himalayas in the distance PRICELESS!!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ladakhi Sunday

The weather has warmed up finally and the sun is shining bright, so bright that I'm sunburnt, lol my fault though, who comes to India without sunscreen ok I know I can buy some but I haven't gotten around to it yet. So the first beautiful Sunday here in Leh and just like the rest of the world Sunday's are for brunch and picnic's. I start my Sunday off at Bon Appetit, meeting my crazy friend Swaati, we are trying to figure out were to get bleach to dye her dreadlocked tips. We give up on that and instead order Bloody Mary's and salads.

My local watering hole, Bon Appetit is located behind the mainstreets of Leh, secluded from the hustle and bustle cars,cows, dogs and tourists. Not that easy to find but well worth it. With an organic farm in the back, views of the mountains, incredible food, cold beer, wifi that works sometimes and good company what else can a girl ask for? And for once I have photos of me!!!

After brunch we venture out for a picnic along the river Indus. When we get there a few of us girls decide to go skinny dipping in the river, its bloody cold, after all its snow melt but it feels great and its the first bath I have had in India. Sorry no pics of the bath!!

Just like when I was hanging out in the forest preserves in Chicago as a kid, picnics in Ladakh consist of beer, dope, music and friends. But the difference is that I'm surrounded by the Himalayas not highways.