The dramatic flight from Delhi to Leh over the Himalaya range takes just about an hour and is arguably among the most beautiful commercial passenger flights in the world.
The equivalent journey by road, which we experienced on our way back, is not less beautiful or exciting and takes a harrowing two to three days.
Landing at an elevation of 3500 mt (12000 ft) and stepping out into the thin air feels as if the pilot has prematurely opened the doors in mid air. After a short taxi drive up into the town we settled down into the lovely Ti Sei Tibetan guesthouse – a double room with stone hard mattresses, a semi functional hot shower, an extravagant kitchen, a large cabbage field, a central court complete with black rabbit and breathtaking views from the rooftop on snow covered 6000+ mt peaks of the Stok range.
Leh is a green oasis nestled within strikingly arid mountains. It has a big Buddhist temple, two mosques and bustling streets.
Much of what is going on is geared for tourists who flock here in great numbers in the short summer season. Every second shop is a travel agency or a souvenir stand. Leh serves also as the municipal and commercial center for a huge region and kids from all over Ladakh go here to school. We bought a detailed topo map of our trek in the excellent Ladakh bookshop and Roi bought the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry to read on the trail.
On the second day, while Roi was acclimatizing in bed, I climbed up several hundred stairs to the Shanti Stupa a modern Buddhist monument overlooking Leh.
On the third day Roi started to acclimatize and already joined me climbing up to the ancient Namgyal Tsemo Gompa on the opposite hill. This flimsy whitewashed construction seems to be held together mainly by myriads of colorful prayer flags.On the way down we explored in depth the nine story royal palace.
In the afternoon we hired a car with driver to take us to Lamayuru and Wanla to hit the trail…