Newsflash: According to local sources Backpacking Badger has been huffing and puffing her way up and down several mountain passes on foot... At various stages in the last 10 days there have also been reports of extremely cold feet and noses...
So here comes list #3 - Ladakh has been immense - so here's my respects to the 'Jewel in the Crown of India':
Reasons I love Ladakh:
- 'Joolay' - It's the Ladakhi word of greeting, but is also a makeshift 'thank you', 'goodbye', 'that's too expensive', 'This Yak tea tastes disgusting' etc... It rings out everywhere, always accompanied with bright cheeks and a warming smile.
- The rivers - they're either gin-clear and icily refreshing or a stunning but deceptively inviting turquoise blue.
- The monks - with their shaved heads and fresh or weather-beaten faces - they look regal and serene in their rich burgundy robes.
- This is one for all the geeks out there: The rocks - I've never seen such a random concoction of colours and textures - from sleek slate grey to crumbly brown to a rich purply colour - Ladakh seems to have it all.
- Old Leh - the ancient capital of Ladakh is a crumbling Medieval labyrinthine mess of a place with prayer flags fluttering from every rooftop.
So in the last 10 days I've played badminton with a Buddhist monk, traipsed through sand dunes on a two-humped camel (they're way comfier than the one humped variety), travelled on the highest motorable road in the world, earned countless karma points by visiting more monasteries and stupas than I can even remember and was preached to about the enlightenment I would receive as a disciple of Maharji...
Trekking in the Markha valley just outside of Leh was superb, if a little exhausting. But atleast I made it up the mountain passes on foot, unlike Fargun and Nas, my Indian co-trekkers who were eventually carted up on ponies... I was, ofcourse, green with envy. We walked from village to village in the midst of imposing angular mountains and the crystal clear Markha river. The villagers are tough, especially the women, who happily carry their babies on their backs while harvesting wheat or shepherding wayward donkeys...
It's not all roses though - it's bloody bloody cold at night, and as I'm writing there seems to be a kind of Armaggedon occurring in this Internet café as the power cuts out, the lights flash on and off and strange beeping noises come out of my computer… It's like something out of 'Lost'…
Anyways… am leaving Ladakh to start the next leg of my journey… Updates and pictures soon… I promise.