A pleasant morning awaited us as we brushed our teeth and continued the rest of our journey from Paang to Leh. I was impressed by the hospitality of the locals inspite of the hard conditions and I left a generous tip.
A slight climb from Paang brought us to a high altitude plateau. At more than 4000m in altitude, it is perhaps the most beautiful place I have seen.
We are surrounded by still taller mountains on all sides, and it is a breathtaking scene. The mountain hues change with every ray of the sun, every moment in time and with every blink of the eye. The air is thin and the distant landscapes are all the more clearer to the eye. What is perhaps missing is a perception of distance. The bottom of the hill, that is surely distant could be 10kms or 20 or even 50 kms away. I have absolutely no idea and think i will leave it to the cartographers to do their job.
We reach TaglangLa around 8 in the morning. Shortly before the pass we stop for a breakfast of duck egg omlettes and tea. The eggs were were deliciously cooked and the tea well made. We are joined by a Czech group of adventure tourists. Some of them seem pretty sick. The leader of the pack calls herself Shweta, and it turns out that they were all on the same bus with us from Delhi to Manali. Shweta has armed herself with a degree in Hindi from the Agra University, so she does not go around carrying the Lonely Planet’s Indie du Nord for directions on what to do. She approaches me and asks if we can help their cause by accommodating a couple of passengers. We oblige. Shweta insists on speaking more complex Hindi than I do, and her companion knows no English/Hindi at all. Conversation is difficult.
We stop at the very sight of the Indus. It is my first visit on the banks of the Indus and I am emotional about it, specially being almost at the origins of the river that has played an important role in the human civilization. The water is cold but sweet, and we have a good time refreshing ourselves.
Onwards to Leh, we follow the Indus in its course going through gorges and canyons till we reach the small town of Upshi. After two days the cellphones are now active once again. We have chai at a restaurant with a colorful menu (shown on the right). The chai is delicious and and we approach Leh with uncontrolled ecstasy.
Leh is a remarkably green region in the middle of the vast expanse of the Ladakh desert. Oxygen is rare and that explains the immense greenery. Army is omnipresent, and seems to be very friendly as well. We check into a guest house and are immediately overpowered by the acute mountain sickness. We spend the day recovering with medication, water and chai.
For dinner, we head to the Leh View Cafe, the highest terrace restaurant in Leh and eat to our heart’s content. We cannot help noticing that we are the only Indians around. The town of Leh seems to be flooded with foreign tourists, much like Vashishth and Manali. Only that Leh is bigger and with people from all over the world. The city center is full of restaurants, hotels, guest houses and travel agents. There is a mosque, Jama Masjid, and a monastery, Chokang Vihara. The rest is for us to explore. The Old Leh palace is seen on the hill.