Sunday, 9 December 2012


Arrived in Manali on Monday morning 26th July, not having slept a wink. And luckily neither had the bus driver. Manali is made up from three little villages strung out along the Beas river. It was here Jen and I linked up with some of the other people on the Learning from Ladakh programme. I slept all day and night ! and they arranged a jeep to take us all from Manali to Leh.

It rained heavily all the time we were in Manali, there were concerns about lanslides on the road. We left early the next morning. Our driver Nihal was clever, competent and I felt safe in the jeep. His jeep was a 4x4 and the number plate was 1972, which he told me was the year of his birth and he had bought the plate specially.

We were breaking our journey in the village of Kelong. The journey there took 12 hours, then the onwards journey to Leh took 16 hours! The road is very rough. It's a beautiful but jarringly bumpy journey. It is mainly single track, tarmaced in sporadic stretches. The mountains are lush and green with much vegetation and lots of trees. Rivers pour over the road overwhelming it, and leaving stone filled craters. A couple of times we got out the jeep, where the river had completely washed the road away. Our intrepid driver took a considered run at the torrent with the empty jeep and powered through - as did the bare boned public service bus! Our hearts were in our mouths as we watched it drive through. Us passengers waded and jumped through the powerful white water, Nihal parked the jeep and came back to help us. The journey was so hard in parts that I feel I missed out on actually experiencing all the power and grandeur of the mountain ranges as we had to concentrate so much on just surviving the journey.

We went over the 2nd highest pass in the world. It's name is Taglang La (5359m/17,684ft) We also traversed Lachlung La (5060m/16,698ft) and Barachlacha La (4950m/16,335ft)

La means pass in Ladakhi. Achieving Taglang La is an emotional experience. The mountains stretch forever all around you, above the infinity of sky. There are temples and holy shrines all along these routes. People give thanks to the gods of the mountains for letting them pass, also they ask for their protection. The temples and stupas have red, yellow, green and white prayer flags fluttering and wrapped around them. Some temples are used by both Buddhist and Hindu. Anyone can go into them, or turn the prayer wheels.

The thin air feels fantastic. The air is so dry everything can be seen with great clarity. The jagged mountain peaks are starkly contrasted against the white of the clouds and the clean, sharp blue of the sky.

After the high passes the entry into Ladakh is down the mountains into the Indus valley. Leh is found at an altitude of around 3,600m.

I love Ladakh, it reminds me of Colonsay and Islay- except 3.6Km up in the sky. You really are closer to the stars up here.

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