Chapter 3: Journey to Leh

May 27-29

Thursday we plan on waking up early to catch a bus to Kargill, the halfway point between Srinagar and Leh, but Balill informs us as he serves us tea the bus left at 7:00 AM. We have to hire a jeep to take us, which winds up being nice in comparison to the prospective hellish bus ride. The road is extremely curvy, but mostly in good shape. The Toyota SUV flies past lories (very large trucks) as it climbs the mountains. Ravi takes nonstop photos of the mountains and asks why I am not. It’s cloudy and dark; the photos taken from a moving vehicle’s window would neither do the mountains or my photography justice.

We go through incredible passes with remarkable views of valleys and peaks. A monument covered by Tibetan prayer flags lightly covered with fresh snow slaps in the wind – I wish I could have photographed this, but there was no opportunity to stop. We are hoping to reach Kargill by 9 PM, but we are stopped by the police at a checkpoint, the road is under construction for the next three hours, so we wait till six when we can move again, only to get stopped by a landslide for another hour. We reach Kargill around 12:30am. After getting turned away from a few guesthouses, Ravi gets us a deal for a room and we crash on the floor and the bed. The bus supposedly leaves at 5 AM. We get to the stand by 4:45 to find it sold-out. A group of Indian travelers and two Frenchmen also desperate for a way to Leh hire a private van with us and we arrive in Leh in the early afternoon.

Don’t stop here, more story and images inside —>>

Typical valley village in Ladakh

SNOW!!!!!!!!!!! This excites me.

Very curvaceous

A lady from NYC I met along the way recommended Zapati guesthouse for us and without any other known options we set off through Leh, looking for it, knowing only roughly the area to look in. I ask a man in the market for the direction to Karzu, where the Zapati is located, and he informs us he owns a guesthouse. We follow, but I am skeptical. He leads us up a long alley, and after several turns we reach his building. The rooms are beautiful, large windows wrap around two sides of the room providing beautiful views of the mountains and a stupa – a temple of sorts perched on the peak of a hill. The windows are framed by a nice brunette wood, topped by intricately carved designs that lead to the ceiling supported by thick blonder organic log posts retaining their natural blemishes and shapes. We are only paying $4.00 per night per person in the nicest room I’ve stayed in India!

My climbing friend from Mumbai owns a cafe and bouldering gym in Leh and organizes guided treks around Ladakh. When looking for a place for dinner, I see the sign for the cafe, GraviT. It’s a nice little shop with a bar for mixing drinks and a few tables; two walls feature artificial climbing holds on brightly painted plywood. Vaibhav says some locals are coming regularly, but he’s just now getting advertisements put up in guesthouses and cafes to attract foreign tourists. Another friend, Viraj, from Mumbai is here for a few weeks climbing. I am hoping to stay with Vaibhav when my friends leave Wednesday.

Don’t stop here, read the next chapter, “Leh, Ladakh”.

One thought on “Chapter 3: Journey to Leh”

  1. Man, those mini climbing walls are awesome. I really admire all of your photos. Have you ever been to Upper Michigan? That's where I grew up. Lots of trees. haha.

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