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Read and rate Travel Journal Entries for Jammu And Kashmir, India

Jun 4, 2009 - How Ladakhis have fun

I feel like I’ve found a little gem of a guesthouse, tucked away down a backstreet in Changspa, an old Leh town house; with its whitewashed walls, wooden beams and old style kitchen, it feels like one of the homestays in the Markha Valley. We all help prepare the evening meal, chopping the veggies under the watchful eye of the woman of the house, whilst the octogenarian father and aunt of the husband sit in the corner murmuring ‘Oh Mani Padme Hum’ whilst they drink their tea. As we’re chilling out on the terrace one afternoon, we can hear...

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Travels of a Kinnie

Jun 1, 2009 - Back to reality

The walk to the Shingsumo and thus the end of the trek is uneventful save for spotting a family of two deer and their two tiny fawns, almost invisible until they move against the hillside. The land at Chukdo and Shingsumo is noticeably greener then what we'd seen previously, and the area has a more prosperous feel to it with it's well maintained verdant terraces and greenhouses. At Shingsumo, we hit the road and see our first vehicles for a week, and then commenced the dullest part of the trek, walking on a tarmaced road, hoping for a lift...

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May 31, 2009 - The longest day

We set off from Hankar at just past 6am, a party consisting of me, Charlie, a donkey with a perfect barrel belly carrying our rucksacks, it’s foal carrying some grain, the driver/guide and a heavily molting black dog. The canyon soon open up into a wide inhospitable valley, silent save for the caws of crows, the warning whistles of marmots and the commands, grunts and occasional kick of the driver to his donkeys. The 6,400 metre peak of Kang Yaze looms on our right reflected in the pools of snow melt as we gradually ascend up this vast...

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May 30, 2009 - Feeding the dog

After sucking down a cup of tea, pop to the toilet before washing my hands in the freezing cold rivulet that runs outside the house. The toilet here is the same as all the others encountered so far on this trek, a dirt floor hut (raised), with a rectangular hole, and a pile of dirt with a spade used to cover the evidence. Set out at 9.45, and get off to a bad start when I step back to jump a stream and put my right foot right into a 12 inch deep water hole. After having a short break in the shadow of Teche Gompa carry on, and whilst...

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May 29, 2009 - Markha

Carry on down the valley, past yet more chortens and long mani walls. Just outside Sara where three valleys meet there are the almost totally deserted remains of a settlement, with a lookout point in the crag above. This used to be the heartland of a kingdom that ruled as far as west Tibet, and the whole valley is filled with deserted reminders of the this past. The landscape is bleak and the life here must be harsh, eking out a living from a soil usable for only a few months per year. By 1pm, we’re at our next homestay just short of...

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May 28, 2009 - Valley of the Chortens

Set out at 8.45, the valley narrowing into a gorge, spreading out into a rocky valley filled with ancient white chortens, reaching Skyu where we check out the gompa and rest up for an hour. As we enter the Markha valley proper, chortens stand in silent sentinel in the hills above us, no wildlife save for the occasional choker (partridge), the landscape barren, sandy coloured cliffs rising a km up on either side, pockmarked with holes; some of these are used as meditation caves by yogins. We get to our homestay at Sara and enjoy tea and...

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May 27, 2009 - The first pass

At Charlie’s invitation, I take a look out of the window and when I do I can't suppress a gasp. It’s snowing, and judging by the depth of snow that’s fallen on the cows beneath our window (about 3 inches), it’s been snowing for quite some time. Nothing brings forth the child in you more than looking out at a landscape unexpectedly transformed into an etching of black and white like this, the slender boughs of the trees bobbing under their newfound weight, the stone walls wearing a thick white cap of ever increasing thickness, the chortens...

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May 26, 2009 - First day of Markha Valley trek

Get a minivan from Leh to Jiangchan, following the Indus river across a bare plain of dust and cairns before winding south through the hills and back down to the valley beyond. We have an easy trek to Rumbak through the gorge and spend the night at the homestay there, watching a Hindi movie with the family in their lounge/kitchen, rows and rows of brass and copper pots and kettles framing one side

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May 21, 2009 - Mountain biking at 18,000 feet

At just after 1pm, all four of us jump into the jeep, and with the pickup behind us carrying the bikes, make our way up to the Khardung La pass, which at 18,380 feet (5602 metres), is the highest motorable pass in the world. As we climb higher and higher, the snow on the mountainside gets deeper and deeper, and Leh gets smaller and smaller, until even the Shanti Stupa, which seemed so imposing when looking up at it, now looks like what it is, a tiny bump on the valley floor. After about an hour and a half, we get to the pass, and the...

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May 19, 2009 - Leh Palace and Shanti Stupa

After spending over a week gazing at Leh Palace from my mimic grace, I decided it was time to actually have a look around the place and get some exercise. It didn’t take long, walking up through Old Leh, until the palace rose sheer above me. After paying the entrance fee, I pretty much had the place to myself, and a very dark and strange place it was too. The palace is in the process of being restored, so it has the feel of a work in progress, with workmen sawing and hammering, going quiet and staring as you walk by. Most of the rooms are...

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May 16, 2009 - Leh watching

Having spent the days since the 13th in self-enforced idleness, doing as little as possible bar reading and sleeping (not as easy as one might think), I start to feel more human today and take a walk into town with a bit more jauntiness than previously. As I wait for some momos (a Tibetan dish very similar to Chinese dumplings) in a third floor restaurant on the main bazaar, I look out down below and people watch. There is a wide spectrum, from blonde haired tourists swaddled in North Face jackets to dark skinned men in rags selling...

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May 15, 2009 - Leh

Met my friend yesterday and bought some trekking socks, and was beginning to think that the two or so weeks I'd spent in Mcleodganj and spared me the worst of the altitude sickness (AMS), so armed with a formidable 'To Do' list, I walked back into town, and it was shut. Again. Not to great a surprise in hindsight as it is election day here in Jammu & Kashmir,so took the opportunity to take some pictures and watch a little street cricket. By the time I get back, my head is throbbing and I climb into bed as more symptoms of AMS hit me; the...

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Travels of a Kinnie

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