Ladakh Vacation - Day 2 - Leh
We found it hard to sleep on our first night in Leh. We woke up at least twice and both the times our breathing was heavy like Darth Vader’s. When we finally woke up, it was bright outside and we were feeling remarkably fresh for the amount of sleep we had had. The first thing I did; even before we had breakfast, was to go to our guest house’s terrace and take in the view of the Stok range again. It feels wierd to state this, but so overwhelmed was I with emotions at seeing the mountains, that it felt like I was being reunited with a close friend that I hadn’t seen in years.
We spent most of our second day lazing around in Leh or rather we were taking it easy because our guide never failed to remind us of perils of altitude sickness - though he said we were free to roam about in the market a little. We left around 10:30 in the morning and walked up the Fort Road towards the Leh Palace. As soon as we reached an important junction we saw a restive crowd standing in a neat file on either side of a road - as if awaiting the arrival of someone important. And someone important it was - H. H. the Dalai Lama’s visit to Ladakh was coinciding with ours (though I am sure it was the other way round) and a lot of people had devoutly lined up to watch his cavalcade pass by. We too stood there surprised at the timing of our visit to Ladakh and the market this morning, and within seconds the Dalai Lama’s jeep sped past us.
It took us almost 45 minutes to reach a densely populated (by Ladakh standards) settlement of mud-brick and concerete houses at the base of the Leh Palace. It wasn’t noon yet but the sun was already admonishing us for being over-dressed. The adage about it being possible to get frostbitten and sunburnt at the same time was holding true; only that it inclined heavily towards the sunburnt part. Mutts sat half-asleep and camouflaged in the shade. We took a few pictures of the palace but bookmarked the long, up-hill walk to the palace for another day. We wanted to stay on friendly terms with our lungs.
We traced our steps back to the main market and saw a shop selling a collection of intricately embroidered Tintin t-shirts. A lot of shops in Leh sell embroidered t-shirts - a few throw in an occasional Tintin t-shirt - but this place had the most elaborate collection of detailed Tintin designs.
By this time our grumbling tummies had joined the chorus of complaining body parts (led by the lungs of course). We finally settled at the World Garden Café just opposite the Leh Police Station. The place serves fresh, charcoal-oven-baked pizzas, home-made pasta and hummus-falafel-pita bread among other assortment of dishes from all over the world. A visit is highly recommended.
We went back to our guesthouse for a short siesta and this time I noticed a neat cabbage-patch in the midst of all those flower-beds. The garden at the guest house would continue to fascinate me right till the last day of our trip.
The sun had lost its bite when we left in the evening. The lane that led us from the guesthouse to the main road was lined with trees on one side. The sun was now behind them and their shadows cloned their world in silhouettes on the wall opposite.
The palace and a monastery near it were illuminated by the orange light of the setting sun. It all looked very surreal - electricity polls and wires criss-crossing across the street in front and the palace and the hills behind.
On our way back to the guesthouse we saw a bizarre sign at a telephone booth. The door was open inwards making the sign difficult to click. The shopkeeper saw my predicament, went inside and held the door for me to photograph! One hears about how the various cities are becoming photographer unfriendly - no sign of that here!