on the road to leh

words & images or giladi

I had been dreaming about the Himalayas – of walking down a highland valley, raising my eyes towards the sky and seeing their majestic snow-peaked masses rising towards the clouds, their silence only being broken by the sound of prayer flags flapping in the wind. But first, of course, I had to get there…................................................................................................................................

The 480-kilometer bus trip from Manali to Leh, the capital of Ladakh, is supposed to take two days – travelling twelve hours a day and staying overnight at a halfway tent camp in Sarchu.

In my exhaustion I resign myself to spending the rest of my life inside this travelling purgatory. But then we arrive at our destination. It is midnight, and we have been on the road for eighteen hours. I look above me: I have never seen so many stars in my whole life.

........................................................................................................................We then finally arrive.

The next morning I wake up and look outside my bedroom window. In the distance I can see the dilapidated Leh Palace, a miniature version of Lhasa’s Potala.  Without having any breakfast first I rush to the office of Jet Airlines. From there I go straight to the office of Indian Airlines. These are the only two airlines that fly out of Leh, and both are fully booked for the next month. There are no business class or first class tickets available either and the waiting list is full. I have never learnt the subtle art of bribery; I will have to repeat the same trip on my way back.

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