At an altitude of 3505 meters, arriving in Leh by plane from the flatlands of Delhi is quite a challenge. The best way to acclimatise yourself is by doing the road trip over a few days but this wasn’t possible for us; that exciting escapade was reserved for the way out of Leh.
Touching down at the tiny airport, I could feel the thin-ness of air immediately. A short taxi ride took us to Kidar Guest House, a tranquil little plot on the edge of the main town. It was beautiful. Surrounded by abundant vegetable plots, sweet smelling herbs and vivacious flowers; it was the picture of self suffiency.
Our room was on the first floor and climbing the small flight of stairs proved to be a struggle with the smothering effects of altitude sickness which would rule out anything interesting for the first couple of days. Most travellers, including my partner, opt to take the drug Diamox to ease altitude sickness. I decided to experiment with a herbal remedy but unfortunately (and it pains me to say this), it didn’t work out and intense headaches and breathing problems, particularly in the night, were an unpleasant experience to deal with. I’ll pack the Diamox next time!
After a few days of rest, recuperation, bucket loads of ginger tea and some bloody good Tibetan food, we left the warm embrace of Kidar and ventured into the small, bustling town of Leh.
Leh is busy with locals and tourists alike, but in no way does it feel hurried, which is just as well because there’s so much to take in. Brightly coloured flowers buzzing with pollen-thirsty bees, lazy dogs basking in the sun, buddhist monks, ageing hippies and roaming cows and donkeys can be seen on every street. The Tibetan markets dotted around the town provide even more colour and probably the best shopping opportunities to be had, bartering with the friendliest of faces.
A fabulous range of eateries is on offer and by far the best food that we had was of the Tibetan variety, and in particular, the steamed momos and accompanying soup. It provided a light alternative to the sometimes heavy north Indian cuisine. Speaking of heavy, why not try the deep pan heart attack, commonly known as the yak cheese pizza, which you’ll find on offer in some establishments. Your arteries will never forgive you but it’s great comfort food.
Staying on the subject of food, what could be more important than the daily bread? A wander round the back of the large mosque (behind the bazaar) reveals an alley way of bread makers who supply shops, hotels and families all over town. As with the rest of the world, traditional methods are still used to achieve the finest tasting loaves. Apricot jam is a bit of an institution out here and perfect to spread on this leavened loveliness.