An Unexpected Ending in Ladakh…
About a week after we arrived in India, an unexpected news make us return urgently to France. This is the early termination of a trip and of this little saga throughout the world. Here are nonetheless a small idea of what we saw and lived on the road to Ladakh.
Delhi airport; the atmosphere is heavy despite the night has already set for quite a long time. We queue in order to get the sacred stamp that will let us enter into India. The customs officials, paunchy moustached men in martial uniforms, keepers of the million divinities’ country, are serious in their mission. You would need to skin them alive to obtain a ‘hi’ or a ‘thank you’, to torture their wives and children to get a — forced — smile from them. Exiting from the airport is even worse. The marriage of convenience between heat and humidity is sweltering. Thanks to the draft between the windows of the taxi, a wreck-on-wheels, we can breath a bit. I do not really wish to remember anything about this city: the heat, the crowd, the filth and the poverty that caracterizes it affected me too much. The two days spent there have a taste of quarantine. Luckily we met some very nice persons that made staying there happier.
We head towards Srinagar, summer capital of Kashmir, as fast as we can. It’s a one night and one day trip, split into two parts. The first one in a ‘tourist bus’ with such a powerful air-conditioner that we need to cover up, the next in an old Jeep that will mark our bottom and lumbars forever. Fortunately Srinagar is a good surprise. The atmosphere is lighter, the culture richer, the tourists scarce and the inhabitants lovely. As a result we stay there more than we originally planned to. Moreover, we quickly make a golden-hearted friend, Ahmed, which guides us in the mosques, temples and the old quarters of the town before presenting us to his family. If I had to keep only one memory of this place apart from this one, it would surely be the nights spent on a boat, cradled by the river and awoken by the morning muslim prayer.
On the road again. Two days spent on tracks sometimes as large as the bus we’re in and on which the slightest mistake would be unforgiving. Needless to say, a couple of stressful moments came to spice up this trip, like for example when the bus happened to back out to let the truck in front of us pass. However, we survived and arrived safe and sound to the next step, Kargil, a town which population diversity astounded me. It’s a bit like if I was visiting India, Tibet, Afghanistan and Lybia all in the same time. Without any account of the toursists.
The day after, scenery changes. The rocks switch from cold grey to warm beige, Gompas appear and we enter a bit more profoundly into Ladakh. From left to right, the scenery is so captivating that it’s hard to look away. However, we would feel like joining the kingdom of Morpheus a couple of times. But as soon as the eyes open up again, we get an eyeful of dunes standing alongside scorched mountains, torn by erosion — we already stand 3000m high! One flaw though: the countless military camps pigmenting and sullying these titans of rock and sand.
Leh is a human-sized and enjoyable town. Surrounded by little farms and poplars, it managed to keep its Tibetan mood — Ladakh is considered by some as more Tibetan than Tibet — despite the influx of tourists during high season. It can be crumpling to see so much westerners in the streets — which also means so much shops for them — but I keep a good memory of this place anyway. Unfortunately, our plans are just taking shape when we learn that we must go home as soon as possible. One stressful day waiting and we rush towards the airport. So ended this adventure in the making…