Pat and Richard in Northern India 2015 travel blog

Prayer wheels at Hemis Monastery

Monks at Hemis Monastery

Hemis Monastery

Thiksay Monastery

Thiksay Monastery

Shay Palace

Shay Palace

On Monday we spent the day exploring Leh. It's quite high here (3520m) and you notice the effects of altitude, but the town is beautiful, framed with snow capped mountains and dotted with many white stupas. The people seem more Tibetan than Indian and the food is delicious Tibetan cuisine (as well as Indian). We've seen more European tourists here than anywhere else on this trip.

We first visited the Hemis Monastery, built around the 1500's. The Buddhist monks were performing some sort of dance/ritual when we arrived, not sure exactly what it was but it was interesting to watch. We walked around the temples and the museum and then drove off to find lunch before our next monastery visit.

Next on the list was Thiksey monastery, very similar to Hemis but with a huge golden female Buddha. Very beautiful.

Then on to Shey Palace, a huge climb up to the palace and at this altitude we felt every step. Again, beautiful buildings and this time a huge male golden Buddha.

After all these monasteries it was time to go shopping for souvenirs, also a warm fleece for me as it is so cold here.

We left the hotel at 8am on Tuesday to travel to the Nubra Valley via the highest motorable road in the world and through the highest motorable pass (Khardung Pass 5359m) in the world (that's what the signs said anyway). The light rain as we left soon turned to snow, then the traffic came to a halt. Our drivers walked up to the front of the queue and reported back that the pass was blocked with snow and the army was busy trying to clear it. We should know around midday whether it was possible to get through to the Nubra Valley. So we huddled in our warm cars, occasionally venturing out for a pee between the cars as there were no trees, bushes or anything else to use. We worked out a good system for the girls - we all lined the space between the cars, taking turns to crouch in the middle. Worked well until one Indian guy decided to stop for a chat and we couldn't get rid of him. Eventually we had to tell him to get out of the ladies bathroom and he looked a bit embarrassed and went on his way!

Around 1pm we got the message that the pass was open but only for traffic driving into Leh, and it was estimated it would take 5 hours to clear this. As we had a 5 hour drive towards our stop for the night it was not practical for us to continue today and we turned round and headed back to our hotel in Leh. We heard later that there had been an avalanche on the road and two tourists plus their driver had been killed, so probably a good decision to turn back.

As we are now 2 days behind schedule, our tour leaders are spending this afternoon working out a new plan and we will hear tonight what we are doing tomorrow. Latest news is that we leave tomorrow at 7.30am as the pass is now open and the road is safe. Fingers crossed!

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