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.