Hello from Manali! (Via Leh)

Long time no post.
This is mostly as we spent ten days in Leh being super relaxed and without a consistent internet connection!

Leh really is like nowhere else. It’s a desert mountain climate in the summer, yet the mountains always visible from every direction ringing in the horizon are still topped with snow. These mountains are barren rock faced, as is the majority of the land until a bright green pocket suddenly appears where glacier water has enabled the growth of a village.
Leh itself is built under a ridge with a place and fort complex on top of it. Outside of the main roads, the streets are tiny, stone wall lined, and have bubbling streams running along them with frequent stepping stones – part of an elaborate irrigation system to ensure Leh does not dry up.

The mix of people in Leh is quite bizarre. The locals range from looking Tibetan to Indian and many walked around in the heat in heavy wool shawls and over coats one might associate with Sherpas in Nepal! Then the tourists – vast numbers of Israelis! To the extent that most restaurants offered Israeli food billed first or second after Indian or Tibetan. Then there were a lot of walking holiday types in pro boots and north face kit, many fairly elderly but very tough looking from across Europe. A large number of Tibetan monks thronged the streets too, and we discovered we had accidentally times our arrival with that of the Dalai Lama! Thus Leh was packed to capacity and after our two nights pre booked in a hotel were up we were hard pressed to find somewhere to stay.

Oddly, despite tourism in these summer months being crucial to Leh, many people owning guesthouses or tour shops were oddly useless when it came to business. On our first day we wandered round looking to find a cheap nice home stay/ guesthouse for two days time (when we would have checked out the hotel). Yet the concept of not tomorrow/ Wednesday/ two days time, was greeted with bewildered silence. Additionally, often we would wander off a little cobbled street, past a few cows and donkeys, into an adorable looking guesthouse only to find it devoid of anyone at all who could tell us if they had a room spare.
At last we found space at a place which, as often happens, was right at the beginning of the route we started along yet which we had missed. This was ideal as we moved our stuff across in three lazy 100 m journeys, and meant we could easily go back to the hotel to use their excellent travel desk, quiet roof restaurant, and sofas and chess board.

Our new home – Jamspal guest house – was also home to the fattest most amusing Labrador ever called moti! 20140721-093555-34555264.jpg

After a few days our friend Cam joined us with three of his friends too and stayed at our guesthouse. Cue lots of lazing around, eating momos (Tibetan dumplings) and messing about with baby donkeys at the local sanctuary.

We also visited Pangong Lake, which was otherworldly and probs deserves a post of its own. Half the group braved white water rafting which was epic but that was the one day THE ONE DAY it was not blazingly sunny which was a shame as my wetsuit was a bit big and I managed to single handedly attract most of the waves…

On Friday morning we departed at 4am for the infamous Leh-Manali journey. This is a two day (or one 24 hellish single run through for the demented) journey through the mountains and over some of the worlds highest motorable passes.

To be honest.. The lifeless mountains blended into one and I found the scenery more impressive on the second leg on the descent down into Manali with looming steep green mountain slopes, waterfalls, and wild ponies out of the windows, as opposed to barren barren barren… Snow! Barren barren.. Motorbike!

So now we are in Manali which is perched surrounded by lush greenery and full of yet more Israelis! We haven’t had enough time here to do more than have a brief wander. Tonight we get the sleeper bus to Delhi but first, and finally after nearly two months accumulated travel time in India, we are doing a cooking class!

Got to go xxx Fabia

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