We had planned our trip to Leh well in advance, for 30th May to 6th June, thinking that it would be the onset of Summer. Earlier weather patterns showed it would be closer to 25 degrees, which means pretty good weather. But what a shock we were in for!
Just a few days before leaving for Leh we checked the weather predictions and it showed snow and rain for our period of stay. Temperatures on Khardung-la and Pangong were predicted to go down to negatives at night. So we packed up on sweaters and jackets and gloves and scarves.. It’s a good thing that we did.
We took the early morning flight from Delhi to Leh. The sight from our flight window of the mountain peaks, varying from barren brown to snowy white, was wonderful. We had an amazing pilot too. When we entered the snowy peaks and started to approach lower altitudes, he tilted the flight a bit to the left and then to the right, for passengers on both sides to get good views of the peaks.
As we approached Leh city, he mentioned that the Leh airfield belongs to the army and they let civilian flights operate here till 2 pm. After 2 pm the weather becomes too unpredictable and it is not safe for civilian aircrafts. He also informed us that there is only one landing/taking off strip on the airfield. We then passed the landing strip and took a U-turn to make a landing. We could actually see the landing strip as we crossed over it.
When we got out of the craft, it was pretty chilly. The airport was very basic, with just two baggage claim stations. I went to the washroom to freshen up and water in the taps were ice cold! My hands actually got numb and blue! It was so cold, we had to take out our heavy jackets and gloves. But then when we went out and were waiting for fellow passengers from MakeMyTrip, it suddenly started to get warm, and we had to remove jackets again! And the weather was this fickle, all through our trip.
We stayed at Mir Villa – pretty much a home-stay. The owner lives in the ground floor and rents out rooms on first floor. The dining space is traditional Kashmiri style where guests are supposed to sit down on the floor to have their meals. There is wall-to-wall Kashmiri carpeting and you have to leave your shoes outside. We were served Qahwa as soon as we reached. The owner met with us and strongly suggested to take rest the whole day. He also told us to keep eating small meals at regular intervals and keep sipping on Qahwa.
Frankly, before leaving for Leh, though we were aware of all these precautions, we had thought these apply mainly to kids and elders. But when we reached our home-stay, realization actually hit us that we needed to take it easy. Just climbing one flight of stairs was making us out of breath! It was pretty uncomfortable for the first 5-6 hours, and we just keep lying down on our bed. An elderly gentleman immediately fell sick, although he had entered Leh hale and hearty with us on our flight. It took him one night of sound sleep to regain his strength and he was pretty ok the next day.
So anyone traveling to Leh.. First day, just relax and stay back on your bed. Breath and soak in the sights from your hotel window.
I will post experiences from the whole Leh trip in a series of blogs.
Things to remember before leaving for Leh:
- You need one whole day for acclimatization in Leh. Do not plan or book packages that start your sight-seeing from the very first day. Do not attempt to go for a walk to the market.
- Consult a doctor to prescribe medicines for altitude sickness, motion sickness, diarrhea, etc, which are pretty common in Leh.
- Most people take Diamox to cope up with low levels of oxygen. Please consult with your doctor is you are allergic to Sulphur, as Diamox contains Sulphur.
- Check the weather forecast before travelling. In any case, do carry warm clothes to be worn in layers as weather in Leh is very unpredictable. It can be very sunny one moment and suddenly become very chilly the next.
- Carry Electral. It is difficult to find washrooms everywhere so you cannot drink a lot of water, so it is good to drink water with Electral.
- Carry chocolates with you. At higher altitudes you need to consume extra calories. When you feel a bit weak or dizzy, bite onto some chocolate bars.
- Carry sunscreen and shades. The snow on the pass reflects sun rays and can cause sunburn.