back to reality, i mean India


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last we spoke i was lying naked on a table in Jalalabad, Kyrgyzstan getting scolding hot mud poured all over me by a man wearing a rubber apron and boots, but what i failed to mention was that i was also suffering from the flu. for three whole days i clung to my bed sheets in an unassuming guest house while an old strict buxom Kyrgyz woman took very good care of me. when on the fourth day i awoke to notice my fever subsiding, i had a slight travel epiphany. it’s time to go back to India! not just any India, however. but the far northern region of Ladakh near Tibet, Kashmir and Pakistan amidst the high desert mountains.

after spending 36 days in Kyrgyzstan i still felt that i had only begun to scratch its surface but i have also been traveling long enough to know that when i feel that familiar travelers itch, i would do best to respond to it. sometimes it’s just simply time to move on.

my journey was of course a long, painful and beautiful one. it started with a 12 hour mini-bus ride back to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, followed by a half-hour plane ride to Almaty, Kazakhstan where i spent the night in a cramped, insanely overpriced terminal. here my flu symptoms decided to resurface rendering me practically helpless against the harsh air-conditioned halogen-lit room. another 12 hours later my flight was finally announced and i boarded a plane to Delhi. on that plane with an entire row to myself and a hot meal in front of me i realized something kind of amazing about the situation i was in. i was actually flying from one end of the Himalaya to the other with Tibetan China beneath my feet almost the entire way.

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once i arrived in Delhi i crammed myself into the first metro train car i could. standing there sleep deprived and flu-ish, pushed up against a deluge of Delhi’s finest was a perfect reintroduction to the subcontinent. whenever the train doors opened it was all out chaos while the people filed in and out but once the doors closed again it was a gentile and peaceful calm as all the heads swayed side to side in unison. oh India, it’s been too long.

once i arrived at the main bus station i booked a 15 hour bus ride to Manali in Himachal Pradesh and waited an additional 7 hours before boarding it. Manali is a small attractive stretch of village along the Bees river in the lush green mountains of Northern India. many Israeli tourists flock here during the summer months and seem to get stuck here for weeks at a time. perhaps because they become hypnotized by the subdued hippie pace one gets reduced to upon arrival. this was as good a place as any to take some much needed rest and work every last bit of flu out of my system.

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4 days later i finally felt whole again and was ready to embark on the final leg of my journey. yup, you guessed it, back on the bus i went, this time for a 21 hour drive that spanned 2 days and took me far up into the high desert mountains over several passes higher than 5000 meters. when i finally arrived in the remote city of Leh at 3500 meters in the heart of Ladakh in the heart of the Himalaya i was beside myself with joy.

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Leh is a predominantly Buddhist outpost that formed sometime prior to the 10th century when traders carting goods between Tibet and Kashmir needed to make a pit-stop. its a peaceful city chalked full of winding dusty streets, cheerful Ladakhi people and apricots. from the rooftop of the ruined Leh Palace atop a hill in the center of town, one can behold the magnitude of the giant valley in which it sits.

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there is a kind of solitude here that allows the passage of time to accelerate undetected. this is ideal if you plan to spend your time meditating in any number of the breathtaking monasteries built into the hillsides, but if it’s adventure you seek then it’s the rapidly dropping temperature that motivates you to seize the day.

it’s become a sort of mission of mine to attack the world’s most epic mountain range from just about every angle i can. first Nepal, then Kyrgyzstan and now India. due to the colder climate, high altitude and rough terrain, the road to Ladakh is only open for just a few months a year. so unless you want to spring for a very expensive flight, your window for adventure pretty much lies in the July-August time frame.

i settled in easily and quickly and then wasted no time getting started on the planning and plotting of my very first adventure in Ladakh.

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  1. #1 by Christy on October 9, 2014 - 10:39 am

    Happy to see an update!! I have been thinking about you recently!

  2. #2 by Seraph on October 9, 2014 - 6:40 pm

    Dude, I am still hanging on the malness of that bus trip. I wish I was there with you though… I love you.

  3. #3 by Catherine on October 12, 2014 - 2:11 am

    I have a similar photo of the view of Leh but mine has a lot more snow as I was there in the winter. As the roads were closed, I had to take the flight option which was quick and a lot more comfortable !! It is a great place to visit. xx

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