Acclimatisation in Leh

img_0152Another morning of early rising… damn… i will slowly get used to it… at 2:45am 🙂 My low-cost airline Air Deccan time of departure from Leh was at 5:20, so… before I get from Karol Bagh to the domestic airport, check-in… well, it is time consuming… :))))

Anyway, as international terminal looks like a proper airport, this domestic terminal looks like a bus station (no offence to readers from India). Check-in is a joke… OK, 15kg limit (got it just right) and they WROTE destination on my backpack with a chalk… When I started to be completely appaled, they fortunately also stick a sticker… whew… close call… Anyway, oddities didn’t end here…

Around an hour before check-in all passangers to Leh were called… to identify their luggage… interesting touch… so, you identify your backpack before being loaded on the airplane… they say its some kind of security issue… and then wait again… missed the first call (and i’m sure there was none), so last call for boarding surprised me on the toilet 😉

As recommended, of course I got a set on a left side of the airplane, to have a great view over Himalaya mountains… Weather in Delhi turned out to be sunny, but after 10 minutes into the flight we flew into the monsoon clouds… and the view onto the Himalaya was severly impaired… And as the clouds remained almost to Leh, i began to worry… so, what if i will land in a high-altitude desert and be constantly showered with a rain…

Anyway… landing in Leh is… one of a kind experience… the approach is low over the mountains (from 6000 to 7000m high – for example we flew past Kangyaze, one of the higher peaks in the Zanskar range) and the landing is.. well… there are mountains all around and approach is REALLY low, so you constantly question whether the plan is going to touch into the side of some mountain or a buddhist temple… Actually, there is a buddhist monastery on the mountain at the end of the runway… damn… And when you land, you feel like landing in a military zone… yep, its a military airport, bunkers all around, … yep, its a very sensitive area for India…

Getting from the airport is straightforward. Plenty of taxis. They have special rules. Taxi union in Leh is very strong, so no taxi or hired vehicle from outside of Leh is allowed to make business in Ladakh area… The reason is a short tourist season of Ladakh when the local taxis earn for rest of the year. Ok, they don’t know the taximeter, bu taxi rates are fixed and authorised by the local administration. Season here is short – only from June to late September, when there is summer and the temperatures are acceptable. During the summer roads toward Srinagar (Kashmir) and Manali (Himachal Pradesh) are open, as the snow melts on high passes. Else, the only available mode of transportation to here is a plane… and that doesn’t fly every day in the seasons except the summer… yep, summers are short and people have to make a living for the rest of the year in those short months…

Unfortunately the bad weather came with the plane to Ladakh. When we were landing, there was a clear sight of mountain ranges on both sides of the valley. Only an hour later, the rain came… a downpour… this is hard to believe as we landed in a mountain desert. Actually, there are no trees in Ladakh, except where the land is irrigated… Apparently the effects of global warming are visible also here and you get rain where there was usually none… But there is one huge difference in comparison with Delhi. And thats not altitude, thats a temperature. It was only 19C and that felt GOOD!

Today was the day of the acclimatisation and adjustment to the high altitude. However, 3500m didn’t make me any problems, but my acclimatisation process was strong – mainly resting and sleeping. Thats why I didn’t visit any temple (and majority of monasteries, palaces or temples are at least 100 height meters over Leh), just a walk around the town and a visit to a well stocked local bookstore… But you can really see, that Leh is full of tourists. That this is main point for trekkings and ascents to nearby 6000m peaks… (actually, there are also two 7000m peaks in the area, Kun and Nun). You can also shop around Leh… if you need a new backpack, sleeping bag or just a soft shell jacket… Only quality stuff (North Pole, Mammut, …) for a bargain of the price in Europe, however, suspiciously its all chinese origin… well, its better to buy only souvenirs 😉

One good thing is also in Leh… they are quite against plastic. Ok, you can buy water in plastic bottles in shops, but there are some places, where you bring your own bottle and they fill it with a water… for just a fraction of the price (i believe it was 10Rs for 1,5 L – and in the same shop they have excellent lassis)

To sum it up… My mobile is not working (i heard some security reasons). Internet is available and painfully slow 🙂 Food is excellent. People are friendly, so what you need more… ok, except better weather 🙂 Oh, I also tried my first pill of Diamox (against high-altitude disease). Apparently it works, as i have no problems. Problem is, that you have to drink A LOT and go to toilet almost on hourly basis… don’t know how long i will be able to endure this :))))