Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 09/8/13 8:32 AM

Photo Feature: A Ladakh journey

                                             Ladakh by road: 2013


                   All photographs by Sheila Kumar. Images are subject to copyright.

Round a curve of the Boulevard along the Dal in Srinagar.

At the base of the glacier in Sonamarg.

The first of the lovely snowmelts.

Onto Ladakh, land of jagged rock…

…and rock-wrecked roads.

Dras, where the wind howls like a banshee.

Tololing, site of the Kargil conflict. They sure fetched up in our backyard.

Namikala, altitude 12,139 feet asl.

A Ladakhi hamlet basks  in the late summer sun.

Fotula, altitude 13,479 feet asl.

Animate/inanimate. Just outside the Alchi gompa

Prayer wheels at the Alchi gompa.

Apricots drying beside the Indus.

The navy ribbon of road…

 …that leads to  Magnetic Hill.
(Which may or may not be an optical illusion.)

Changla, altitude 17,586 feet asl.

Serene reflections…

  …and human detritus.

The Border Roads Organisation do a sterling job up in these parts.

The turn to the Siachen glacier lies just ahead.

Minutes before a full moon rose in the Nubra valley.

A  double-humped Bactrian camel.

The donkeys of Nubra.

The 32-metre statue of the Maitreya at Diskit.

Diskit: a monk offers prayers in the most scenic of surroundings.

A chorten outside Leh town.

Well, they don`t do hardsell here!

Stok Kangri stands tall, as seen from atop the Shanti Stupa in Leh.

The Chemrey gompa.

        Stanzen’s mother at the Gangba Homestay.

Tangtse, where SK and I once lived.

The once shy marmots now come bounding fearlessly to vehicles!

The global village syndrome?

 Pangong Tso. Yes, it really holds all these colours.

        Pangong Tso lies calm beyond the prayer stones.

      A herd of yak heading home, near Pangong Tso.

A mural at the Theksey gompa.

From a terrace at the Theksey gompa.

He casts a benign gaze over all of Ladakh.

The corduroy hills near Hemis gompa.

At the Chumathang hot springs.

A rainbow arches over Tso Moriri.

Prayer stones atop a hill overlooking Tso Moriri .

Tso Moriri in the early hours of the day.

A wild ass (kyang) beyond Tso Kar.

The wetlands near Tso Kar.

A geyser near Tso Kar.

Taglangla, altitude 17,480 feet asl.

Ladakh’s long and winding roads.

Rock formations just outside Leh town.

A window at the Shey Palace.

Buddhist nuns near Shey Palace.

  Glimpsed while making the climb to Khardungla.

     At Khardungla.

A dzo (yak-cattle hybrid) just below the Khardungla Pass.

And everywhere, prayer flags that lift up the heart of  the traveller.

Travellers Tips:

1. Be patient, people in a hurry have no business in Ladakh.
2. Always go clockwise around a gompa.
3. Don’t take photographs where it is explicitly forbidden to do so, like inside the gompas. The Ladakhi is a soft-hearted soul and doesn’t know how to tick intrusive travellers off.
4. Be prepared for long and exceedingly uncomfortable road trips.
5. Fortify yourself against high altitude sickness.
6. Don’t do whatever you wouldn’t do at home.
7. Do your sight-seeing quietly.
8. Don’t go shoving your camera into the faces of reluctant monks, nuns, farmers, householders, children.
9. Carry your own litter bag and carry your litter away, please.
10. Leave your road- raging ways back home, it won’t work on Ladakhi roads.
11. Please don’t join a group that has hired a guide; hire your own guide.
12. Please don’t pick up unfamiliar currency from the donation bowls at gompas for a closer look. Just not done.
13. Please don’t touch anything in the gompas, be it the drum or cymbal or prayer books lying on the prayer tables. You wouldn’t do it back in the temples of the plains, don’t do it here. 
14.Don’t let anyone (driver, guide, tour operator) rush you from place to place, Ladakh is best done at a measured pace.
15. Please be good guests at Ladakhi homestays. This excludes rude behaviour, thoughtless demands, great (and grating) expectations. 
16. Women travelers, be prepared for quite the worst loo situations (dry loos are a bonus, here) you have encountered in a long time.  


And finally…..



Spotted at one of the many memorials to defence personnel who have died in the upper reaches. A poem by Mary Frye, written in 1932. I read it with a lump in my throat….

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there – I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints in snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
As you awake with morning’s hush
I am the swift-up-flinging rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there – I did not die.
BROChangla PasschortensKhardungla PassKyangLadakhLehPangong tsophotosTso KarTso Moriri

Sheila Kumar • September 8, 2013

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