For the past 10 years one of my most wanted places to see was Ladakh, as time passed and more and more people I knew went on visiting Ladakh I would get restless and impatient, wondering if I would ever be able to visit this place. As movies were shot in Ladakh, more and more people started going there. Infact one of my best friends, Jay, who goes there every year now since the beginning of this century started lamenting about the sudden over influx of tourists and how they were littering in paradise and also creating traffic jams and chaos almost made me feel like I am probably never ever going to see it before paradise was dirtied. Thankfully though, I managed to reach there in winter, a relatively low tourist flowing time for Leh.
As I landed on Leh airport at around 12 noon in a blazing sun I noticed that I was breathing out smoke without actually smoking, thats how cold it was, however, the early excitement and the sun did not make me feel so cold and I was wondering why my friend Jay had been insisting that the cold is a huge challenge apart from the low oxygen content in the air. The streets of Leh were relatively empty and very few shops were open some brave tourists and locals got around but nothing much of a crowd anywhere. As time passed and we made our way to our hotel, slowly but surely the chills were becoming more consistent and the shiver was a constant part of me. As we got off our taxi to reach out hotel I saw this little dog curled in fully to keep itself warm. I think he seriously needed a blanket but then, probably these animals make better use of their bodies than we do!
Leh had a lot of Poplar tree’s but at this time of the year I don’t think I spotted one green leaf, explains the low oxygen content there. The high altitude, extreme cold, low oxygen and super dry conditions were a challenge. We spent the first day fully resting and sipping in lots of butter tea, black tea, soup and watching a bit of cricket. According to my friend Jay who is a regular here it was most important to give yourself maximum chance of combating the conditions and he did not let us take it easy. By 6pm in the evening I was in 5 layers of clothing and under two blankets still shivering and pulling muscles whenever I tried to twist things in my body!!!!
It was seriously, seriously cold, at night the temperature went below -20 degree celcius and we had been instructed my Jay to not take any heater in our room!!! It was a seriously tempting thought to take a heater in the room but well I decided to brave it out. The night went by with scanty sleep, however, slowly but surely without even really realising that then, I was acclimatizing to the conditions in Leh.