Jeeps, Moonscapes, Snow and Mountains

Trip Start Jul 27, 2004
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Trip End Dec 13, 2006


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Wednesday, June 7, 2006

We arrived into Leh after our spectacular 2 day Jeep journey from Srinagar and checked into a lovely guesthouse (Asia guesthouse) in a quiet part of Leh area called Chamspa. Here you are treated to small rivers at the bottom of the green gardens, snow capped mountain views and lots of lovely, friendly 'tibetan' people all saying JuLeh (hello, goodbye, thanks, please) to you. Leh for us was a relaxed quiet place and it's only accessible by road for about 3 months a year. At the moment it's just the beginning of the tourist season as the roads have only just opened but in a few weeks time it will be a lot busier with plenty of tourists to fill up all the cosy guesthouses and excellent restaurants.
We celebrated Martin's birthday in style.. firstly we had rum as an aperitif in our room overlooking the mountains, then we went out for a lovely Indian meal - tandoori chicken etc... Afterwards we got the party going a bit more when we (Martin, Annie, Thomas, Paul and Mandy) were joined by Frank, Frank and Barbara (some French people who had arrived in Leh that night). For a quiet town where everything seems to shut up early, we managed to stay out til midnight and walked home with just the stars and moon to light the path back to the guesthouse.
After a couple of days in Leh, we took a Jeep tour to the Nubra Valley where we drove along the highest motorable road in the world. The highest point was the KhardungLa pass at 18380 foot where we also fortunate enough to spot some rollerskaters who were attempting to break the Guiness Book of Records by rollerskating on the highest motorable road in the world!! The highest pass was also where lots of people put up prayer flags and as Paul was getting ready for the world cup, he put up some prayer flags in the hope that Wayne Rooney will get better and also that England will win the world cup.
For three days we travelled round the valley and back to Leh and stopped in Diskit (fab monastery), Hunder (lovely accommodation, great food, cute village children, and also where we met Sergio and drank lots of rum), Panamik (most northern point you can visit in India as a tourist, also has 'hot springs' - the photo explains it all) and Sumur (where we had a sandstorm). We also stopped a nice lake hidden away in rocks and saw some sand dunes. The area is very 'moonscape' like with some vegetation and the mountains are huge - hope the photos do the area some justice.
After 2 days back in Leh to rest and recouperate from being in a Jeep for 3 days we said goodbye to Thomas then the four of us (Martin, Annie, Mandy and Paul) braved an 18 hour Jeep journey down to Manali. We met our jeep at 1.30am and arrived in Manali at 7.30pm the same day. The journey was long, cold (at night) and very bumpy but amazing. The views were always spectacular - snow capped mountains, golden 'hoo-doos', purple, red, orange and brown rocks and mountains, and further towards Manali the landscape becomes greener with lots of trees and as the snow is melting - waterfalls and rushing rivers.
Manali is a very touristy (and for good reason as it is very picturesque - snow capped mountains, covered in forests - alpine like) with lots of western and Indian holiday makers.
We said a fond farewell to Martin and Annie yesterday as they were going trekking with Frank, Frank and Barbara then spent our day visiting nearby Vashist (very holy place, with lots of cows, farmers, hot springs and nice walking trails) and booking flights from Delhi to Varanasi which is our last destination before we head to France to visit Paul's family.
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