When people hear about our long and slow travel stories, we are often asked questions – how do we plan, what do we plan and how long do we plan. And when we say that we don’t really plan for anything, then follow up with more questions. We have always said that serendipity is a big part of our journey and we let the path forward.
We are starting this series from our first long-term trip (well, it was not long but for us, it was at that time) – our 3 months in the Himalayas. We will not talk much about the place and our experience but how we decided the next floor, how we proceeded and how we decided. We would just “write out loud” what was going through our mind. We hope this series sheds light in the mindset of long-term travel and serves as a guiding tool for future candidates.
Continues from… Part 8
Dispatch # 41 – Real World
In addition to losing interest in everything around upon our return from Fukult, we also faced a very “real world” problem. We were running out of cash and the nearest ATM was in Kargil. We asked our hosts if they would accept the check. He said that if it was the ultimate last resort. It takes an eternity to clear a check. We did not want to keep the family in one place.
It was now over two months on the road. Most of this time, we spent in the mountains. Suddenly, we felt an urge for something flat!
We put forward our plans. Go back to Kargil. Go to Leh, spend a day there and come back through Manali. We were going to Leh only to return. We will explore Leh and those areas in another trip.
We were tired like a mountain.
The next morning a jeep was coming out of the Padma. We asked the man to reserve two seats for us. The family made an elaborate meal for us that night. And resisted the temptation to take a bottle back Arkh With us, that granddaughter was insisting.
A journey that had been taking several days on the way down took just eight hours on the way. We passed by the valley, saying our goodbyes to the drunken Drung Glacier, to Penzi La, to the mountains that had prevailed until now.
We stopped for lunch at Rangadum, where we met some more crazy people. He was cycling in Padum, a school he helped to volunteer!
We try to remember every detail that passes by, remembering it.
Dispatch # 42 – We’re Dying!
We booked our tickets from Kargil to Leh for the next morning. We will be in Leh till evening. Just spend a day in Leh and come back via the Leh Manali highway. The plan was set.
That night, we treated the Tandoori Chicken. The next morning we went to the bus stand in the dark at 4 am and put our bags in the bus. It was already full. Chetan and I had to sit separately. As usual, we filled our bottles with water with a hand-crank pump while waiting for the bus to leave.
A spectacular sunrise greeted us as we exited Kargil. We had heard a lot about Leh and now finally we were about to get there.
I was thinking about what Leah can offer when I feel a slight stomach cramp. I gave it away, but there was something else. I indicated to Chetan that something was wrong. We had to stop the bus because the cramps became relentless.
Anyway, the journey resumed. The bus stopped for breakfast in Mulbekh. Everyone went behind the bushes to relieve themselves. So did I feel fine by then Chetan, but when I emerged from the bushes on the road, I saw that Chetan came out from the other side too, carrying a mug in his hand. He also complained of stomach cramps.
From now on, the pain became excruciating. I thought I was going to pass. I only have vague memories of people saying that Fotu La. I know it looks only because Chetan managed to take some pictures, despite the pain.
We did not know where we are reaching after Photu La. But the pain was unbearable for both of us. There is no chance we can move forward. We saw each other on the bus. Looks like let’s go to the next village.
A village meant houses and a house meant a toilet and in that moment, it was paramount.
Dispatch # 43 – Golden Landscapes, Golden Hearts
As soon as the bus stopped after crossing Foto La we jumped out. I couldn’t even carry my bag, just threw it on the ground and ran away. A little boy, looking at the bus, came looking for customers for his homestay.
“Where is the toilet?”, We shouted. He knew something was wrong. He pointed us in the direction of his house.
We got out after an hour. We were feeling weak and dry. Stomachs were still aching.
After an hour of living inside a room in a stranger’s house, without saying a word to them, we set out to meet them.
“Is everything alright? I saw you running to the bathroom.”
“We probably have a stomach infection. We do not think we can move beyond Leh. We will be here tonight. Hope you have a room. ”
“Oh, you did not intend to stop here? It must be a bad infection. He will take you to the doctor. ‘
“Did you have a very tasty dinner? They do not use the right salt in those delicious meals. ”
Since then, he and his wife became our mother.
“Do not drink cold water. I’ll boil water for you. ”
Hearing our story, his wife had already stored yogurt.
We drank boiled water and took the medicines prescribed by the doctor and slept.
We were woken up by a knock at the door, the owner of the homestay himself had our lunch and came to check on us.
“Eat well and relax.”
We still felt sad but loved and cared for him. Who does this for random strangers who walk into your homes without permission?
We knew the answer very well. Kind, friendly people of the Himalayas.
Dispatch # 44 – One more plan … derailed (happily, this time)
By evening, we were well rested and feeling much better. We knew that Lamayuru was famous for the moonlight landscape, so the name “Moon” did not come as a surprise in every other hotel / homestay / guesthouse.
We had climbed a “meditation hill”. The wind made us feel that we would fly. Instinctively, we sat down. Stupas and monasteries had put a pleasing gold on them. Colored stones reflect the colors of the mountains of Ladakh.
We crossed to the other side of this hill and landed on the moon! A strange never seen before landscape stretched out in front of us. Curves and folds – not that we ever described mountains! This was the moonland of Ladakh!
The next morning we were on an event-less trip to Leh. At the Leh bus stand, we were looking for information about buses to Manali when we saw these three people at the time table. There were entries in the time table – except the 10th, 20th and 30th day of the month! The amazing thing is, it all seemed logical.
We talked to all three.
“We have been in the mountains for some time. We will leave for Manali tomorrow. ”
“Do you want to come with us Tso Moriri?” We are looking for two people to fill the car. If we do not find any, we will leave tomorrow also.
“okay let’s go.”
Deep in our hearts, we were probably not ready to say goodbye to the mountains yet!
Dispatch # 45 – It was magic
Planning to leave the shelter, the three of us left for Tso Moriri. After a long time, we were traveling with “people like us” (urban Indians). We discussed our trip to Kashmir, Zanskar and now, here. We told them that we had recently left our jobs to pursue our dream of traveling. We will see where life takes us from there.
This is the first time on this trip when we were telling this stuff to someone. And as we said all this, we felt that the answers to some questions had already been found.
“Do we want this to be our life?”
The answer magically came to us, demanding this even without us.
What to say about Tso Moriri’s journey? What can we say about the journey in Ladakh that has not already been said?
We knew that we could not come back to Ladakh. no one could.
Tso Moriri’s first vision is an image engraved in my mind forever. I remember my heart beating with excitement as we walked through Korzok. I remember the breeze. I remember the sparkling blue of the lake, the lush greenery of the fields, the washed white of the houses and the golden sunset.
It’s been almost five years and I remember it as I just returned from the lake.
This was the magic of Ladakh. Not only this, we fell in love with Ladakh and the Himalayas.
We fell in love with the road. We knew then, that this was the way to live ahead.
To be continued…
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Sandeepa and Chetan. married. Indians. Traveling as a lifestyle. Displayed by National Geographic, Yahoo. We hope that through our travel stories we inspire others to make their dreams a reality.