A tardy summary of happenings and musings from the last 7 days:
1. Ledakh – one of the most remote places I’ve ever visited. The roads that give access to this place from Kargil in the West and Manali in the South are seasonal, and were only just opening up when we arrived. Newly defrosted/scarred/under-construction roads, men at work breaking rocks, several bumpy, cosy, shoulder-to-shoulder boob bouncing jeep rides, patience/physical endurance/tolerance, a new appreciation for smooth tarmac like you wouldn’t believe.
The roads in Ledakh are like a metronome for its development: the community need/want progress, and there’s a race to get the roads safe/give access in and out to those who’ve been cut off for months as well as getting the tourists in the quickest. At the same time, they risk/worry about losing that delicate Ledakh heritage/identity that will begin to melt away as the Tourism soars. I hope they succeed in protecting this special place.
2. Getting my first taste of Tibetan culture and getting excited for September! A new language, prayer wheels, stupas, prayer flags hung literally everywhere and flapping in the wind, Tibetan refugee markets full of beautifully tempting souvenirs, a new set of symbols and meanings, a kind of innocence, a thinner atmosphere/less oxygen (10k ft above sea level), brisk, colder temperatures, space, SNOW! breathless acclimatisation, peace and quiet (no beeping, no TukTuks), a much bigger, fluffier and teddy-bear-like breed of Steve, weathered and almost purple wind-burnt friendly smiling faces, clean, fresh mountain air – it’s enough to make you forget you’re in India, but with the pace of life set at 3 knots and a very relaxed/non existent approach to health and safety (thank god), you’re soon comforted by that familiar “Indian way” of doing things.
The town balances looking like a construction site, a war-zone and an historic religious memorial all at the same time with a graceful simplicity, one of the many idiosyncratic talents of India.
3. Driving 1 1/2 days to reach the Pakistan border, weaving and climbing through the vast Nubra Valley – another long, but stunning journey that took us up and over Khardungla, “the highest motorable road in the world” (18,380ft), and eventually spitting me out at Turtuk – the last village to be occupied by India and the closest I can get to Pakistan.
Stood by the border check-point (a familiar sight for a Dumballer), it was a sobering moment for this kid from the Midlands – took the opportunity to pause and reflect on my fortunate predicament: free to travel anywhere in the world, and at the same time acknowledging the slightly bonkers/surreal location that I found myself at on day 140. I can see Pakistan!?
4. 1st world problems:
a) as my visa expiration date approach’eth, Jessington brain-fog sets in as to “where/what next” in the world? For now, a no-brainer hop skip and a jump over to Nepal and a brief Denso reunion beckons – why the fuck not?! I’m excited by the possibilities/opportunities that are to come, whenever the conclusion materialises.
b) lengthy and quite regular Leh-wide wifi black-outs brings a welcomed off-grid quiet, save for the attempts to alleviate some acute pangs of missing family & friends through Skype and the like, which were rendered completely impossible or frustratingly sketchy #loading, #connecting, #nointernet, #1stworldproblems
5. Finding inspiration in all sorts of places. Most notably, from 3 talented podcasters whom I highly recommend you all take the time to listen and subscribe to:
Your own podcast recommendations are most welcomed – get in touch or stick a link in the comments bit below.
6. Saying cheerio to the #GoodEggs Naomi and Clay, as they set off from Leh destined for Manali. #travelwankers, #clangers and my #globalfamily for the last 90+ days, I love the way they look at the world, the larfs we’ve shared, and the things we’ve seen together.
Some have come, some have tried, and some have left defeated, but it’s that top-shelf calibre that glued all of us “Clangers” together. You know who you are. “Hello forever” 😉 ©CarolineDensley.
7. Sampling Yak cheese for the first time, I can report it has the hardness/crunch of Parmesan/Manchego, yet the sweetness of Gouda/Emmental, and seemingly goes with absolutely everything on a Leh menu. Yakety Yak! Don’t talk back. Recommended.