My trip to Leh-Ladakh, August-September 2015
I went to Leh-Ladakh to participate with my Russian friends in pilgramage of Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje, the head of Karma Kagyu linage of Tibetan Buddhism.
I bought a ticket for Volvo bus online being in Delhi. And it was an option to chose the point of picking up. I choose Vidhan Sabha metro station. That day one of my Indian friends wanted to meet me and I suggested to meet him at that metro st. before my departure. When I arrived at the place I saw that most probably Volvo buses don’t start from there so I got a bit nervous. My friend came, called to red-bus service and found out that actually buses start from Majnu ka Tila (I didn’t get why on the website they turned this option on – confusing people). We went to Majnu ka tila, chatted a bit and I went off to Manali. I met a Russian girl on the bus and we had very nice talks on the way. The bus was semi-slipper, so we could sleep pretty well. I woke up at about 7 am, bus stopped for a breakfast. By 11 we arrived to Manali. I called to Raju – a guy which contact I was given earlier and for 100 rupees we took auto riksha and arrived to a hotel Valley View (actual price is about 50r). Later I found out that there are two Valley View hotels in Manali. The room was very nice (400 rupees) and after shower me and that Russian girl went for walking around. Came down to the river and I swam a bit in cold mountain water.
Then we went to old Manali, ate couple of apples – there are so many apple gardens in Manali, were sitting on a huge tree – all this walk was awesome.
Then came back. I booked a place on minibus going to Leh – the start time was at 1:30am. And went for shopping. The Russian girl was going to leave for mountains in the morning (actually it seemed me a bit crazy – to go alone to the mountains without any plan or even map. After a month I wrote her a letter but she hasn’t answer me till now, just hope that she is ok). Then slept 2 hours and at 1am was already waiting on the road. The bus picked me up and at 2am we started from Manali. The journey took 16 hours and was pretty hard. Drivers were changing all the time and drove very well. The road partly is without pavement and is being built and repaired all the time. But anyway I thought it would be worse. There are several police check points – foreigners give their passports to a driver and he takes them to a police officer for writing down names and visa details. One should drink a lot of water on the way to avoid the lack of oxygen. Its quite a problem because after you want to pee very often, and a bus doesn’t stop the same often as you want to pee )) though you may ask a driver. Despite my following that advice and taking special pill – Diamox – at the height of 4500 m my head was aching very much, especially forehead. The highest point was about 5300m, and after going down to the Leh valley (3200m) I felt much better. At Pang three Israili guys from my bus were smoking weed and suggested me also. I took few puffs but didn’t feel any better.
At last we arrived to Leh.
My hotel was in Choglamsar – 15-20 mins drive back from Leh. Potala hotel. I found it quickly because it’s situated right by the main road. I liked that place – pretty good WiFi, hot water, very nice family of staff. Electricity was off quite often, so was off WiFi, but for a traveller it’s normal)). The food they cook is really nice and we were all happy to have such a restaurant at our place of living. The only thing I didn’t like about that hotel – super huge amount of dust – the reason is dusty road too near.
Following my jogging plan I managed during next week to do three runs and found another road for it – 1km away to the mountains – very quiet and clean, especially in mornings, and that jogging in mountains will always stay in my memory as one of the lightest things I had. I saw many other runners from locals – guys and girls, also I saw an add about Leh marathon on 13 th of September and was glad that people of Leh are so sportive. Other runners and just people were smiling to me and it was a perfect beginning of the day.
I was spending time with my Russian friends in different monasteries following Karmapa and monks. By the end of that week I thought that the amount of pujas, rituals are too much for my Russian logical mind. But as soon as I left Leh I’ve got a vision, that it was a super right decision to go for this trip.. I managed to visit Leh itself only the first day with my very true friend Vadim. We went to amazing Shanti stupa and Palace – old monastery on the rock which is a museum now (100 rupees for foreigners). It’s really old and beautiful but the maintainance is not very well. I hope in future it will be repaired fully. We walked also along the streets, I noticed that souvenirs and other stuff is much more interesting than in Delhi and Bodhgaya where I’ve been before. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to buy anything. From Leh to Choglamsar shared taxi costs 20 rupees.
One day I went to the nearest mountain and meditated at the top. That was my very private and intimate moment. No matter how much I complain on my loneliness – never believe me – I am the one who loves this silence and loneliness on the top of the mountain.
On my way back from that mountain I saw such a picture:
Almost all days were the same – in the morning we went to the monastery which was 5 mins drive from our hotel, I had free Tibetan breakfast – first time I tried zampa – liked it much. Then some puja, then lunch at the monastery – mix of Tibetan and Indian food – usually very tasty. In the evening we were back to the hotel.
One day we went to Hemis monastery – about 50 kms from Leh – extremely beautiful place. We were climbing up to old cave about 50 mins – that was so much inspiring. And all this crowd of monks and Europeans felt like a brotherhood, like free unconditional communication. You feel free to talk to anybody, you feel free to sing. Even such a small journey joined people. We spent several hours there. Wonderful.
My last two days – Pangong lake. To get there a foreigner must get a special permission, as it is situated close to the border China-India. We paid 500 rupees each. Several people from Hong Kong had not got that permission because of their chinese passports. Our organizer Galina was always hiring two cars for our company, so our car was: Galina, her good friend Lena, amazing Japanese girl YoYoi, Vadim and me. The way to Pangong lake lays through 5300m high point. And to avoid sickness of altitude three of us – Galina, Vadim and me were singing songs like in full strength of our voices ) – it was an amazing experience. I realised that it was much easier to bear headache with friends shouting as mad rather than alone in silence. I just hope that the driver was not disturbed much ))).
Pangong lake is extremely beautiful. Cunning. Out breathing.
Galina booked rooms for us in one very nice hotel, but when we arrived instead of 5 booked rooms they got only three. So about two hours we were deciding that problem, finally all rooms were given to us. This place is so difficult to run hotel business, and the hotel crew was doing a great job over there. As for me I found that hotel nice – the food was OK, rooms were clean, in the evening there was electricity till 11pm. The price was with a discount for us – 2000 rupees for a room for two including breakfast.
Early in the morning we started our way back to Leh. I was a bit upset to leave such a beautiful place without proper exploring. But next time, next time… Before coming to Leh we had visited two more monasteries:
Every day we got up at least at six, couple of mornings at 4:30. Many in our group were suffering from altitude sickness, with digestive system, but I felt too healthy. My return happened so fast. We came back to Leh from Pangong lake, and I was supposed to go to Manali by minibus at 1:30 am. I hoped to spend that last evening with friends, but the time of departure was changed suddenly to 9:30pm, so I had my dinner quickly and left. So sad. The way back was longer – about 18 hours and the driver was only one – very hard job he was doing, but perfect on those roads. I saw a beautiful pass 50 kms from Manali (Rohtang pass) – its like a fairy tale – many waterfalls, huge rocks, much greenery and flowers, big eagles. I must come back there on a solo trip, with my own vehicle to have opportunity to stop wherever I want, and not be in a rush.
I spent one night at the same hotel – Valley View. The evening I arrived I was so tired, that didn’t even eat anything, just bought a bottle of wine and after one glass fell asleep as dead. Next day I had several hours to explore Manali, so I just bought souvenirs for my family and was walking in a beautiful Manali forest. Here all my sorrows caused parting with my friends went away.
The ticket Manali-Delhi was booked in advance, we started at 5 p.m., and were in Delhi by 7 a.m. already. On a bus I felt a big pain in my throat, and when we stopped for a dinner, a man from that restaurant kindly brought a glass of hot water with salt for me when I asked for. I slept for a very short time enjoying a night ride as my seat was in the first row and I was just watching the dark road in front, listening to music…
That journey was quite sudden for me. And I want to thank all my friends who helped me to go to Ladakh.