Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Diskit Nubra Valley Part 3

I arrived in Diskit and since the driver didn't seem to be an official driver, I asked if he knew of a guesthouse we stopped at a few until I found a room. After taking a much needed shower I ventured out. Wow, talk about a one horse town! I walked around a bit and found the way to the monastery and the huge newly built 100 foot Buddha that the Dalai Lama was coming to inaugurate, the weather was changing and I didn't want to be caught up a mountain side in the rain so I found the only place in town that had food, as did every other foreigner.

That evening I also found the only bar in town, it was an open garden, Sangam hotel bar and restaurant, connected to the Sangam restaurant in town that was the only one to have food earlier, and not good food by any means. The bar was filled with local men that almost fell over when I sat down and pulled out my computer. However all they had to drink was Godfather beer, yuck too strong and sweet, or rum with water. So I had the beer, the next night I would come prepared and bring my own coke for the rum. Indian rum isn't bad and when you can't find red wine its a good alternative.

The following day I wanted to see the Monastery and Buddha and the sand dunes and take a look at the camels. I hired a driver to take me around, and we went to the monastery first and the giant Buddha.

After we headed to Hunder where the sand dunes are, however the road was under-construction so we got stopped for an hour, after awhile we decided I would go on walking ahead and he would pick me later. I came across family in a truck the man said they were all his children, if its true he sure was busy the truck was packed full of them.

The driver finally picked me up and we headed for the bacterian camels, now I had told many people I would never ride a camel in my life again, they smell, have fleas and spit, I have spent too much time in North Africa too like camels. But these camels were different they are two humped instead of one and they looked clean weren't spitting at anybody and didn't smell to bad. I wanted to do a 15 minute ride which would have cost 150rs but the guy didn't have change so I opted for the half hour ride for 300rs, across the dunes. As soon as that camel stood up I regretted the half hour ride, OUCH! All I had between me and the camel was a blanket. I looked back at the Indian tourists also mounting their camels when one very aggressive male knocked the guy right off him. Shit, I'm holding on now! The boy who walked me and White Beauty (my camels name) told me these camels come from Mongolia and were used in the silk route, well I doubt White Beauty was but maybe her ancestors were.

The following morning I took another shared taxi back to Leh, this time the music was to loud to dose off. We were driving for a few hours when we came across a truck on its roof and another truck parked in front of it, the men were eating their breakfast between the two trucks, notably shaken but alive and with no injuries, wow miracles do happen. But I must of dosed off afterwards for I woke up to find we had a punctured tire, well no biggie right? The driver has a spare? NO!!! So now what do we do? I was told not to worry that the driver knows many people and soon one will pass and lend us a spare. I fell back asleep in the jeep and woke up and hour and half later to everybody getting in, luckily I guess the driver had found a friend.

The rest of the pass was a hairy ride as I mentioned before and with all the traffic coming over the pass to see the Dalai Lama it made for a breath holding ride. I don't want to scare my blog followers and especially not my momo and dad, but I don't get scared often or easily, however this pass was not for the faint of heart. Once I got over the Karhdungla pass and was on the side of Leh once more, I breathed a sigh of relief, I knew I was gong back to civilization , well sort of when the internet is working and the phone lines are on, LOL. But at least you can get a semi-cold Kingfisher beer or a bloody Mary.



Sumar Nubra valley Part 2

After seeing his Holiness the Dalai Lama arrive I headed to Mystic Meadows the guesthouse/camp of Babu's. I had no idea where it was just a general direction. 20 minutes later I found it, and it was tucked behind a mountain with a lush garden and some really nice looking tents. I found Babu and he asked if I had eaten lunch, since I hadn't even had breakfast I said no. He apologized that all they had was staff food but he would have it brought out to me. The camp site was tranquil and just what I needed to get a break from Leh. But the coolest thing was the attached toilet with the river rocks for a floor. That evening I had dinner there and as I sat there in the dining room I realized it was my first dinner in India with only foreigners around me except for staff, how weird.

I had a few Kingfishers (India's biggest brand of beer) and called it a night but not after I spent some time editing photos and enjoying the silence of the Nubra Valley.

The following morning I got up and had breakfast, not as early as the others who had already left for the monastery where the D.L. was going to be teaching. I needed to catch up on my sleep, and this place was so quite that even the birds didn't wake me. I would have stayed on another night but Babu was overbooked as was the whole of Sumar. I asked for the bill and was pleasantly surprised to see my room came to only 300rs (6.50 USD) I guess it doesn't hurt to know people.

I walked up to the monastery and found it packed with people, I went through a metal detector and a bag check but I found the security to be a bit lacks. Considering how much military is customary in the area. I needed a special permit to even be in Nubra Valley. I walked around until I found the foreigner section where his teachings were being translated into English. What amazed me was looking around the place the Westerners seemed more devotional than the locals. The monks were talking amongst each other yet the foreigners were catching onto to every single word. Which wasn't easy since he was speaking Tibetan and you could also hear the Local dialect of Ladakhi.

After the teaching ended I needed to get my bag from the guesthouse and make a move onto Diskit another town which I was hoping wasn't going to be so packed. Plus it was the place where I could see a bacterian camel (double humped) and sand dunes in the Himalayas.

I got to the taxi/bus stand to find out that nothing was going until 4:00 it was only 1:00, instead of waiting around I decided to hitch a ride. So I started walking out of town. The first truck that passed was military and I had been told to stay away from them so I didn't bother. Then a big stinky truck passed me by, yuck I will pass! A car drove by but he didn't stop at this point I was about a kilometer out of town and no traffic. I was starting to think that this wasnt a very good idea when a mini bus with two Locals in the front and two monks in the back stopped for me. I asked if they were going to Diskit they said they were.

Shortly after the monks got out and the music got pumped up and the speed increased and I was happily bumping up and down a very bad road to Diskit.

Nubra Valley Part 1 Waiting The Dalai Lama

I was told that a shared taxi would come to my guest house in Leh around 6:00-6:30 in the morning, to take me to Nubra Valley to where his Holiness the Dalai Lama would be arriving. This being India I thought it would be more like 6:30-6:45. To my surprise a knock came at my door at 5:58. I hurried up my last minute packing for the trip and left the majority of the stuff behind for the room wallah to remove from the room later and store for me. When I got outside I realized the taxi was already full and I was to share the back seat with two guys, well at least I would get a window seat where my head could rest when it wasn't banging against it on the bumpy roads.

Having only 3 hours of sleep I was in no mood for conversation, but in India its hard to avoid. So within minutes of leaving my guesthouse the first question came at me, "which country?". I really dislike that question because one its doesn't imply what the one asking really wants to know. And secondly I find it hard to answer. Having been born in the Czech Republic grown up in Chicago and then the last ten years I have been living in Europe, and now I don't have a home, How do you explain that to somebody who hasn't been much farther than Delhi?

The guy asking the question was a Kashmiri Muslim with two mobile phones that kept ringing even while my own phone lost network as we started to climb up the pass. The other passenger in the back with us was a young Buddhist who would pray as we passed any gompas (Buddhist temples). And even at one point we saw two helicopters flying overhead and for some reason he believed it was the Dalai Lama and started praying and chanting to them. Due to the lack of sleep I did manage to dose off only to be awoken by the Muslim guy to tell me we had reached the top of the pass. I told him I had been to Karhdungla before, but he found it strange as I had also told him before that I hadn't been to Nubra Valley, the pass is the only way to get there. Remember I cycled down the pass a few weeks ago.

I went back to sleep, I figured I could look at the scenery on the way back. And now that I'm back and have seen the other side of the pass and how treacherous the roads were I'm glad I had to experience it awake only once. Seeing just shells of cars and trucks that have fallen of the road and left to rot, makes one very worried, that yours will be the next victim of the pass.

Since I had no idea of his Holiness's schedule I just went with the flow, when they said he was going to be in Sumar I figured the Buddhist knew better than I.

We arrived in Sumar at 11:00 to streets lined with followers, locals dressed in their most impressive traditional costume. Headdresses, hats and jewelry were all brought out of the closet for the occasion. While I waited I met quite a few people I knew from Leh and I got some great pics of the waiting crowds. But as I started talking to other tourists I quickly found out that the accommodations were scarce. I had a letter of introduction from a friend in Leh (I was to find a guy named Babu) who would hopefully hook me up with a room for the night. While I was waiting I saw guy I have met in Leh and he appeared to be a local there so I went up to him and asked him about rooms he came back with the name of the same guesthouse my friend had given me, I pulled out my letter and asked him, "are you Babu?" Lol of course he was. He told me not to worry he would save me a tent. later others told me that those tents were going for 2500rs (54.00 USD) a night, I never asked him how much.

It was around 2:00 when his Holiness and his motorcade passed by, he did stop at the spot I was standing at but the glare through the windshield was so bad that all I saw was an outline. I have done my best to edit the photo and if you look real hard you can see him.