20Jun2008, Sunday - Flight from Delhi to Leh :
The irritating alarm started ringing at 0245 hrs reminding me about my flight to Leh. I stopped the alarm and reluctantly got up from the cozy bed. After freshening up I took a quick shower and finalized my backpack packing and camera - all is well packed and batteries are fully charged. Ideally it should take around 30 minutes drive to reach Airport and would give me enough time board the Airdeccan flight departing at 5AM.
I got a phone call from Rahul-da who is anxiously waiting in the airport for me to join in. I assured him that I would reach well in time. My friend Partha, who works at Delhi drops me at Airport ... it took us 25 mins to reach the Delhi Airport from Partha's house. It is still dark outside and about to dawn. I found Rahul-da impatiently waiting at the entrance gate and together we went inside to collect the boarding pass. After getting the boarding pass, I went to meet the other new friends from Pune - Raja, his cousin Sunny, Leena, her sister Nirmal and Lekha. Raja was having a troubled time after he broke his glass but soon he could get his spare glass out of the checked in luggage during luggage identification.
Our flight departed at the right time and luckily I got the window seat. We could find very few Indians as co-passengers, except few newly married couples. We realized that the temperature difference between outside and inside the aircraft is causing the fog coming outside of the air conditioner.
The flight duration from Delhi to Leh is just 1Hr30min. I could see many co-passengers continuing their sleep inside the aircraft, while few others like me are excited about flying over the Himalayas and peeping out of the porthole to capture the snow capped Himalayan mountain peaks. I could get great views of the Himalayas which is difficult to explain. I tried to capture them with my camera.
Soon, the landscape changed from black and white snow filled mountains to barren rocky mountains with very fewer green vegetation in pockets of valleys. The water stream running through the vast mountain desert tell us all about the rough weather condition in that vast terrain. The light and shade compositions attributed by the sunlight and clouds are just fascinating which keeps changing as the clouds keep floating around. So, the same frame would look very different from time to time with the play of lights and shades.
The flight gradually descended taking sharp turns and twists on to the plains of Leh. We all passengers were thrilled as the wings of the aircraft went unusually close to a monastery (Spituk Monastery) just before touching the small airstrip of Leh. The passengers applauded and cheered after the skillful landing of the aircraft.
Leh Airport is restricted army area and all passengers are escorted by jawans with smile on their face. The moment we descended from the Aircraft, we all were left spellbound for few moments by the sights outside. The magnificent view of lofty mountains and colouration due play of sunlight and white fluffy clouds filled all our heart. This is what we were longing to see in our naked eyes. It is something natural and unbelievable. We could see mountainous desert all around us and some snow filled white peaks. We couldn't stopped taking out our camera but soon stopped by security guards because of army restrictions.
Soon after collecting all our luggage we stepped out of the Airport and found someone from Tapo Stanzin's office waiting for us to receive us. He took us to Mahey Guest House located in Tukcha Main Road, Leh. We are suppose to take rest for two days to get acclimatized to Leh's high altitude before we start our trek.
The Mahey Guest House provided us a cozy and homely environment. The view from the courtyard is remarkable. They have a small garden where we could find variety of flowers and vegetables. The green of the garden gives a very good match to dark grey mountains in the front with brilliant white peaks and blue sky. The white cloud playing a vital role in forming patterns of shadows on the mountains and plains in the front. And the pattern keeps changing every minute because of drifting clouds.
I could experienced that the place is unusually calm and quite. It is so quieter that one could hear the humming flies or bees passing by - everything felt so nicer to our eyes and ears. The view from Mahey Valley Guest House is so much picturesque. The colourful flowers in midst of green vegetations, dark mountains in the front with blue sky is just awesome. I felt like sitting there rest of the day and watch them again and over again. I could see so many sparrows and other birds chirping and playing around the coutyard of our guest house.
As we entered the guest house we found an inviting dining hall cum lobby decorated in tibetian/ladakhi style - tea table and low raised cushioned seats running all around the endge of the room - very similar to Japanese dining setup. The tibetian chanting music playing at the background have added a new dimension to the setup.
We were all very hungry, having skipped our morning breakfasts. We quickly ordered for our breakfast and went for freshening up. We finished our breakfast in our room and crashed in the bed. It was late afternoon when we woke up and hungry too. We quickly ordered for our lunch meals and gathered in the courtyard of the guesthouse for a lavish lunch. Most of the vegetables (cauliflowers, cabbages, peas), were hand picked from the garden of the guest house, had added pleasant taste to our food. After stomach full of lunch we crashed once more into our bed.
Some of us, including me was feeling slight headache, due to high altitude and lack of oxygen supply to our brain. It was only end of 2nd day when the headache had completely gone.
Rest of the day we spent watching movies in the lobby room, sipping cup of tea and admiring the view of the mountains and flowers in the guesthouse. At night we had one more round of delicious meal and went to our bed. Getting sleep was bit uneasy for many of us and we had to get up many times between our sleep to catch our breath.
21Jun2008, Monday - Resting in Leh :
(CONTINUES... ... ...)