Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Delhi to Leh

My evening in Delhi consisted of stuffing my face with all the food I'd missed, picking up bits and bobs that i'd need for my trip, and then attempting to catch some rest.

3 showers later, I was still hot and sweaty, and even with the A/C and fan going full blast, I couldn't get any sleep. I blame the jetlag at least partially.

A screwup with the taxi (essentially, I got swindled for about 50 rupees), meant that I had to pay retail for a taxi at 3AM - I woke up the taxi driver dozing in the rear seat, and paid him 220 rupees to take me to the domestic terminal.

I've briefly befriended an Australian hippy, who very kindly offered to take my gigantic pot of Marmite, a can of lebanese hummus (to be used in a trade with a desperate israeli), and a few other heavy items with her on her flight. Air Deccan, the low cost carrrier I was taking are very very strict in terms of weight - as they can charge you for every kg you go over. This of course gave me a large incentive to keep my eye on her, lest she run off with my Marmite once she got to Leh.

The flight: I can honestly say that it was the most fantastic flight I've ever taken. It didn't last much more than an hour, but the trip over so many snow-capped mountains made for a fantastic view - and in many cases, it seemed like we were just a few hundred meters over the mountains.

The decent into Leh, was...crazy. There is one short runway, with mountains on either end, and so the airplane had to make a series of decending circles, each time getting a bit and bit lower. It gave us a good chance to see the mountains - and also, the mega-ton of army vehicles, troops and airplanes in the area. Gun turrets and sandbag-protected soldiers lined the runway, and kept the eye on our plane the whole time as we landed.

It's ironic I suppose, in that both this place, and the Andaman Islands I went to last year - some of the most beautiful places I've been to in the world, and both are chock-a-block full of Indian Army/Navy. And in both those situations, the troops consider it to be a really horrible posting. No one likes getting sent to Leh - but thats probably because it's far below freezing 8 months of the year.

Once we landed, we both checked into two different rooms at a guest house about 15 mins outside of leh - and the majority of the rest of the day was spent snoozing. I was already feeling feint - either because of the altitude, or the lack of sleep, and so I really wanted to take it easy.

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