Monday, July 7, 2008

Condensed Kashmir Soup

You know how everyone says that Kashmir is the most beautiful place in the world, heaven on earth, bla bla bla, etc? Well, they weren't even lying a little bit.

I jumped off the plane, declared it's beauty, and ran straight for the toilet to kick start my day long vomit marathon. Altitude sickness. I spent my first several hours sleeping and throwing up in trashcans.

Sleeping on the roof top at our guest house here has been the best one yet. We are surrounded by mountains, the stars and the milky way are AMAZING, and we are awoken every morning to the OM meditation song that is broadcast across the entire city. This starts about 5:30-6:00 AM and continues for about 30 minutes on weekdays, and up to an hour on sundays. Don't quote me on this because I'm totally making it up, but I'd say about 90% of the population in Leh are Tibetan. It's such a change from the lower parts of India. It's the cleanest and friendliest yet. There are countless stupas, gumpas, and monistaries to visit.

Our first day functional was spent on a motorcycle (I'm begining to see an addiction developing. I really think it's the best way to travel). Alex and I drove (actually Alex drove, I rode) all around the outside of Leh. I can't even begin to describe how awesome it was. There aren't any street signs in all of India so it's easy to get lost even with a map. ( I have to mention here that while there are no actual street signs, there are plenty of awesome suggestive signs. For example, "Be gentle on my curve," "I am curvacious. Be slow," and "Love thy neighbor, but not on the road.") I can't think of a more beautiful place to be lost. I kept thinking. "Wow. I'm riding through the Himalayas on a motorcycle. WOW! I'm in Kashmir in the Himalayas!" So getting lost wasn't a concern. It was actually pretty cool because we ran into great people and photo ops. And everything ended up looping together anyway. We visited at least 4 or 5 villages. For more accurate details please refer to Alex's blog-if he ever gets to it. I'm glad we've been so busy having fun, but I wish I'd had time to jot down some details. My brain can't hold them all.

We found an amazing tiny cafe run by an older couple that has some of the best food I've ever eaten. Our salad prayers have been answered with a vengance. It's heaven. Actually, we're headed there right after this so I can't get it off my brain. I might have to break this up into sections because, as I said, I'm starving, and the internet in this town in crazy expensive. 100 rupees an hour. Everything is a little more expensive here. We've gotten used to road side and local food (our last meal in Delhi was 40 rupees for 2 people). One thing I miss about the grittier parts of India are the food stands and chai shacks. I'm really gonna miss the chai masala. I'm already missing India so much. I don't know what I'll so without the constant craziness.

Back to Leh:

Day 3 was spent white water rafting on the zanskar river. sweetness. I don't know where the rest of our time went that day but we met an Indian doctor/photographer from Australia and booked a trip with him to the nubra valley about 4 hours north of leh. I went up the highest drivable road in the world in jeans, a tee shirt, sandals and a sheet. Because I'm brilliant. The day up I spent trying to sleep to avoid sickness on fast curvy mountain roads, but the ride was totally worth the result. This valley is the absolute most beautiful place I have ever been in my entire life. I think my heaven would seriously look a lot like this. Or just be this. You'll just have to see pictures. But even that won't represent a fraction of the awesomness. Photos can't capture the smell of herbs and mint, or the sounds of all of the running streams, and the ab fab temp. the people all smile wave, and yell "julley!" There are mountains and sand dunes and two humped camels all rolled into one (evidently there are only 2 places in the world with 2 humped camels and Russia is the other. Just a little FYI. Everyone seemed quick to sell this point).
We spent the night and had a spontanious photo shoot in the sand dunes the next day with our photographer friend. By the time we got back to Leh, a wonderful surprise had arrived on our doorstep- carrie! Now I've swapped out one awesome travel buddy for another. Unfortunatley, the one who left took the tooth paste and deoderant that I've been borrowing. Hmmm... it might be a stinky last few days.
I slept late this morning for the first time in weeks- 8:30. I felt like I had slept the whole day away. We've been getting up first at 3:00 AM on the roof to the horrible, off tune call to prayer from the masque next door (I'm convinced that they are waiting patiently for him to retire and fill his spot with some one who can carry a muslim tune) , and then at 5:30 AM to the meditation song. I spent the day with our new photographer friend, Summit. It's been nice to just stroll around and sit for hours with tea. It's funny how you can have heart to hearts with complete strangers. It's part of the fun of travel and meeting people. We're meeting up tonight with a group of german girls we met at our guest house a few days ago. Oh crap, i think I'm out of money. I'll have to update more later.

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