So I did my first solo trip this year, to celebrate my 26th birthday. I flew to Leh and stayed with a family whom I had just met last year during our family trip. The whole family made a trip to ladakh last July. We stayed in Gyalson Guesthouse. The family that runs this place became such good friends with us. The aunty of the house Dolma, invited me to visit them in winter and I couldn’t say no!
Dolma Aunty with Nagpo (doggie)
I came back and the first thing I did was to book my tickets. According to initial plans a couple of my friends were supposed to join me in the trip. But as time passed, people came in and out of the group. My own trip became doubtful. GoAir cancelled the flight, and then re-scheduled it, changed my dates, My nana got hospitalized... But in the end it was 30th December and by then all was well and my flight was inevitable.
My luggage consisted of 5kgs of my clothes including my rucksack. 5kgs of cauliflower, 3kgs of tomatoes, 500gms of green chilli, 2kgs of capsicum, 1kg of bottle gourd, 2kgs roasted groundnuts. 1 room heater and 1 blender set. :-) All of this requested by my mom’s new friend Dolma Aunty!
After the suspiciously heavy fog that had enveloped the airport since the previous day cleared, the ‘important flights’ were first to take off. Not that beginning my vacation on time is of any importance to anyone. Anyhow, after 3hrs of waiting our flight finally took off. It was an amazing flight. The pilot was also kind enough to point out the view of the Kashmir valley from 30,000 ft! The sight of the frozen Zanskar or Indus (not sure), snow clad mountains and hearing Julley Julley as the Ladakhis boarded the flight at Jammu.. was like instant therapy for my over worked brain.
Kashmir Valley (looking like a huge crater)
Frozen River (Zanskar or Indus)
I don’t know why, I am a South Indian, living in Delhi, but every time I see the Bakula Rinpoche airport approaching, some sort of a soothing, senti feeling over comes me. The ‘I am home” wala feeling. Well I can’t explain that feeling...
Finally I landed in Leh at 3.30 pm. I went from +12 to -7 in under 2.5 hours! Aunty’s family had moved to another house. Their guesthouse is a new building and fearing that it might get too cold in there, they had shifted to a more lived-in house in Chubi, Leh. The plus point of this house was that it had, perhaps, the only functioning WC in entire Leh. I had gone prepared to use the Ladakhi style toilets but it was not required. Though there was no water in the taps, a usable toilet was more than i could ask for.
By evening my acclimatization process had started with the usual nagging headache and loss of appetite. Aunty was so excited that she offered me Salted chai then sweet chai then snacks which consisted of afghani roti type snacks and twisted fan and an assortment of stuff which even she didn’t know what they were! I couldn't refuse her. I had a bit of everything. All of this followed by dinner. In aunty’s house, dinner always tastes the same. With liberal quantities of salt, chilli powder and oil it hardly mades any difference whether it is dal, chicken or sabji you are eating.
Every evening we watched TV, DD Leh, 6pm to 7pm, everyone laughed and then explained the jokes to me, in hindi it didn’t seem that funny. But they assured me it was very funny in Ladakhi.. It was so re-assuring to see such simple innocent TV programs and people of all ages sitting together and laughing heartily. Maybe there is still some hope and scope left for us. After DD Leh we watched Karan Arjun type movies till the power went out.
By 2am my acclimatization was complete. I woke up with a jolt. Throbbing, dizzying pain at my temples. Then Nausea! There was no power and it was pitch black and I was in a room I was unfamiliar with. I just had enough time to shout “Aunty light!”. Aunty immediately woke up and switched on an emergency lamp and handed it to me. I ran to the toilet and puked. Everything starting from lunch was out. I came back- no headache, no nausea, no stomach gud-gud, drank a glass of water and slept. I was ready for Ladakh :-)
Noon Sun shining brightly at -7