Friday, July 02, 2010

Leh - Ladakh - Jammu Kashmir - India

Welcome to Leh! On the left are my intrepid and wonderful travelling companions. From the left: Harvinder, Bob, Naved and Amrit. We spent 2 weeks together travelling from Delhi to Leh, though nothing went according to plan. The Rhotang pass had unseasonal snow as well as (we think) an avalanche that took away part of the road, leaving us stranded in Manali. Amrit had a tumble from his bike and broke his collar bone. Despite the Himalayas appearing to say a resounding "NO!" we made it to Leh. Havinder, Bob and Naved through Srinagar, Kashmir and the Kargil pass (2.5 days). Amrit and I went back to Delhi (a 14 hour drive) and flew to Leh (a one hour flight!). And boy, was it worth it!

This is one of several blogs that will be dedicated to this trip and they will include
  • Leh
  • Pangong Lake, reached by travelling through the Chang La pass at 5,360 metres
  • a beautiful festival in a Buddhist monastery in Hemis, a town near Leh
  • Dharamsala, the seat of the Dalai Lama
  • a fantastic Sikh temple built on a white river with underground thermal waters
  • Manali, a backpackers paradise

In this set of photos I have tried to show you the big picture and some of the detail. I hope you enjoy the shots.

I have to start with the majestic Himalayas

Because of the unseasonal weather the mountains
were still draped in snow. Leh is 3,300 metres
above sea level. We had bright sunshine and brilliant
blue skies. A photographer's delight. It snows in
winter, but rarely rains in summer. I was told
temperatures in Leh can be as low as -35 C

Above the town of Leh, above the old Palace
on the Namgyal hill, there is a Victory Tower.
It was built to commemorate the victory of
Ladakh over the Balti Kashmir armies in the
early 16th century. There is also a monastery
called Namgyal Tsemo Gompa

The ruins of the palace. Fascinating to explore.
Attempts are being made to restore parts of it
It was modelled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa,
Tibet. The palace was built by King
Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century, but was
later abandoned when Dogra forces took control
of Ladakh in the mid-19th century

Up at the palace

It says it all here

No green grass to play on, but this doesn't
deter youngsters from playing football against
an amazing backdrop. The World Cup was also
in Leh with many bars and restaurants showing
the matches

Mother and child make their way through
the streets of Leh

Tibetan prayer flags adorn the streets.

The striking green and white
Leh Mosque, an exquisite work
of Turko-Iranian architecture,
stands in the Main Bazaar of Leh.
This historical mosque was built in
1666-67 A.D. consequent to an
agreement between the Mughal
Emperor Aurangzeb and the ruler
of Ladakh, Deldan Namgyal

These next three pictures show you Leh and
the dramatic scenery surrounding it. It is
a stunning location.

At this altitude the tree that seems to thrive
the most is the poplar tree

This was taken from the Palace

A grand entrance. This is the "Welcome Leh
City Gate" as you enter into Leh City from
the Silk Route on the Tibet side

The gate from the other side

Looking down on the Mosque

I love the patterning on the building

One of the several Mani Prayer
Wheels in Leh. Passers by turn
the wheel to rotate the prayer.
The prayer wheel is fundamental
to Tibetan Buddhism

An old traditional Ladakhi house, turned into a
(rather expensive) shop selling traditional
ladakhi cultural items

One of the many fascinating
side streeets. The people are so
charming and friendly. They shout
"Julley" which is hello, goodbye
and if you're stuck, just smile
and say "Julley!". It is a great
ice-breaker with the locals in Leh

Having a chat in the street.

We witnessed a demonstration of school children
who are clearly not happy about the government's
commitment to their education

The children participated with great gusto!

Amrit, listening to a the pure sound of a Tibetan
singing bowl at a market. With him is Lobsang
(which means kind-hearted) a lovely girl from
Tibet. It was a pleasure to buy from her and
her sister......

.....Babli (angel). Their kindness and friendliness
was a welcome contrast to many of the other
non ladakhi shopkeepers who think that bullying
is the best strategy to get you to buy

This little chap ran up and begged me to have his
photo taken. We had to oblige. Thanks to Naved for
taking the picture

A monk in Leh

Donkeys off to do a day's work

I wonder if Pizza Hut minds.........

A common scene in the streets. Ladies selling
their vegetables. Organic and cheap. With water
the soil is very fertile.

Come back in two weeks and I'll show you a
Buddhist festival with masked monk dancers
at a monastery in the hills above Leh