Anandway: Blog

Roadmaps to joy!

What it is to be in Ladakh

Deepa Suryanarayan has some advice for us, back from a trip to Ladakh:

I will always remember Ladakh for its colours. The mountains, rivers, lakes, gompas (Buddhist monasteries) and even the quaint little houses have distinctive hues.

There’s an oft-quoted Ladakhi saying, or should I say, warning: Anyone whose head is in the sun and feet are in the shade in Ladakh will endure both heatstroke and frostbite at the same time. You’d do well to heed it.

The first advice I would give anyone going there is to carry all their woollens, and then some more.

The second advice is to carry is two bottles of sunscreen — you’ll need them both. Ladakh means ‘the land of high passes’ and these passes — Khardung La, Chang La, Tanglang La, Baralacha La, Lachulung La — are at an amazingly high altitude.

Khardung La, at 18,380 ft, to give you an idea, is the world’s highest motorable road. There is a distinct possibility that you may be battling a blizzard in one of the passes and half-an-hour later you may encounter a sandstorm in the desert valley. And the temperature, which in the winter dips to minus 50 degree centigrade, may rise to zero in summer. Make sure you dress appropriately or say hello to chillblains, frostbite and hypothermia.

If the extreme temperatures don’t rattle you, there’s always the altitude. Ladakh, most of which is upwards of 3,500m above sea-level, is a high altitude cold desert which means apart from no food, water and vegetation you also deal with lack of oxygen.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), which you will definitely suffer from, causes among other things, vomiting, nausea, headache and hallucinations. You take five steps and you halt for five minutes. If you take 10, it warrants a 10-minute halt. You get the picture. “The beauty of Ladakh leaves you breathless,” gasped a friend, while doing the step-halt-routine. She was obviously hallucinating under the influence of AMS.

Army men from across the country, wearing special gear and boots that weigh 4 kg each, huddle together quite forgetting their religious, linguistic and regional differences, offering each other protection from the forces of nature. But each time an Indian tourist shows up, their eyes sparkle.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Tag Cloud