Locomotoring

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Archive for the ‘Kashmir’ Category

Kashmir – On not bus-ing across Leh

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Thiksey Monastery

Thiksey Monastery

We abandoned our plans to hoof it around Leh, but we were still sample-the-local-culture type of tourists. So no rented SUVs for us, it was going to be local buses instead. We asked our inn-keeper for the night whether it would be possible to catch a bus the next morning to our next village stop. He assured us that there was a bus to be caught at 10:00 am the next morning. Excellent.

We had time to do the morning tea ritual and eat a leisurely, if spartan, breakfast. It felt like a vacation after all. We hefted our backpacks, walked half a mile to the nearest bus stop and patiently sat down to wait. The waiting was pleasant – deep blue sky, fresh mountain air, high desert landscape around us, the golden Buddha statue glinting in the courtyard of the monastery we had visited the evening before. Very picture postcard perfect. Put in some luxury tents and charge a bunch of rich tourists $1000-a-day perfect.

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Written by Sachin

July 7, 2009 at 12:17 am

Kashmir – On walking across Leh

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Lamayuru Monastery from the Highway

Lamayuru Monastery from the Highway

A combination of lack of detailed maps, the locals’ flexible notion of distance and time, and the thin mountain air, made us drop our grand plans to wander across Leh on foot. But every day or two we did have to walk the distance from the nightly bivouac to the nearest bus stop, which usually turned out to be just beyond the next mountain (us) / hill (locals). After a couple of days of lugging my stupidly heavy backpack it dawned on me that there were usually two tracks leading across every mountain/hill – one around it and the other over it. The latter seemed as if someone had created straight-as-arrow paths on a flat piece of paper, and draped that paper on mountains and valleys.

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Written by Sachin

June 16, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Kashmir – On not walking across Leh

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Hitchiking - the driver hadnt slept three nights ....

Hitchiking - the driver hadn't slept three nights ....

We traveled to Leh, in northern Kashmir, a few years ago. Good sample-the-local-culture tourists that we are, we traveled on crowded buses, hitchhiked on trucks, and once, memorably, on a fully loaded gasoline tanker truck driven by a dozing driver. One thing we did not try to do much was hike. It was not the lack of detailed maps that held us back. India is crowded enough that finding someone to ask the way to a nearby village is usually not a problem. The problem was estimating how long it would take us urbanites to walk across the hills and mountains of Leh to our destination. Actually, the problem was the set of short conversations we had with the locals one fine day, which I reproduce below.

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Written by Sachin

June 12, 2009 at 2:09 am

Srinagar – riots and roses

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Woman in Srinagar

Woman in Srinagar

If there’s anything that makes me feel cheated while traveling in India, it’s air travel. When you care the least about getting a window seat, like when it’s cloudy, there is always one available. When you really want a window seat, like when you are going to fly over the Himalayas, you will be seated between Mr. Corpulence and Mr. Mal-odor. If you are luckier, there will be a toddler kicking your seat throughout the journey, as it happened with me on a recent visit to Srinagar.

I was on a journalistic assignment, the tourists were returning to Kashmir with a revenge. We had been booked into the Centaur Hotel, beautifully situated, right at the DAL lake. There’s a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about that hotel, maybe it is the peeling walls, the stale smell in the rooms, bad service, random people ringing your bell in the middle of the night… The next day we shifted to Green Acre. A smaller, cosier place, with big airy rooms and warm hospitable service. It is an old bungalow transformed into a hotel. They have an old section with wooden ceilings and beams and a new concrete block. It has a beautiful garden, which was in full bloom. Although there is no telephone in the rooms and the service a little slow, you can be sure your food is coming from a safe and clean kitchen. There’s no menu, there’s standard fare for each meal- Lentils, Meat, Vegetables, Curd, Rice and Chapatti (bread), and it is always excellent. Not all rooms have wi-fi but the connection in the hotel lawn is good. It is run by the family, they live in one section of the hotel. Friendly, polite and helpful, that’s the place I’m staying next time as well.

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Garlicky Nuns, Cream of Spanish and other adventures

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Lunch hour at Likir monastery

Lunch hour at Thiksey monastery

Leh is the capital of Ladakh, a high desert region in Kashmir Himalayas. Eight months in a year this region is covered deep in snow. During the summer months, it is a popular destination for Israeli kids who come here for cheap drugs after their customary stint with the army. So, what was I doing there? I am a Bengali and come holidays, we pack our bags and go somewhere, be it low-budget trip to tea-estates of Darjeeling or far away places like Leh.

I was in Leh with my husband (he is a Bengali in spirit). We flew in from Delhi and that wasn’t a smart move, human bodies aren’t designed for a zero to 17000 ft transition in 2 hours. More of this particular misadventure at some other time. But let me tell you about the nuns and the Spanish.

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Written by Som

August 12, 2008 at 6:10 pm

View from a room

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View of Himalayas in Lamayuru

View of Himalayas in Lamayuru

What was so special about this room? Firstly, it was at 11000 feet, with a picturesque view of Himalayan range. Secondly, the room was a lavatory with a porcelain toilet, in a part of the world where porcelain toilets are rare.

Two of us had arrived at Lamayuru, site of an eleventh century Buddhist monastry in Ladakh. We had been hitchhiking with truckers, or busing, along the Leh-Kargil highway, making our way from one village to next. I remember it was mid morning when we arrived and it was blindingly bright. The last forty minutes of the truck ride had been exhilarating and terrifying at the same time – narrow winding road, high mountain on one side and deep cliff on other.

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Written by locomotoring

June 13, 2008 at 1:02 am

Truckking Ladakh

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Truck ride in Ladakh

Truck ride in Ladakh

Truckking really, did you think I meant trekking?

Ladakh is the high mountain, I mean Himalayan, desert region on the eastern side of Kashmir. We lived in California then. We hiked 2000 foot mountains, several of them, for what seems like months now, hoping to trek the Himalayas. At 18000 ft in Leh, capital city of Ladkah region, we realized that there was no way we were going to breathe and walk at the same time. So, trekking was clearly out.

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Written by locomotoring

May 30, 2008 at 1:52 am