Storytellers of a new generation
 Snow Leopards, Romanian explorers and private Israeli shows : The Real Ladakh

Fusion Yoga, Royal Mountains And Hebrew Hits: Leh’s Underbelly

Ladakh is full of surprises. (Part 2).

So I didn’t think I’d make it past week 2 since I was running out of things to do and fast. Lucky for me, the season really began gaining momentum. Quite contrary to what rumours had told me, the Israeli tourists were a fun bunch much like most travellers out in the mountains. But naturally the Europeans were in many ways more gregarious, energetic and yoga-happy.

Even though my best friend is a yoga teacher, I did learn some new fusion yoga poses – my favourite was the Amphibian head stand. I asked the German guy if I was doing it right and he said “if you hear some light cracking in your neck region, it might be too late to answer that dear friend.Haha Im teasing...”  

CRICKKK.

Our driver for the day Tundup , coolest Ladakhi with an epic collection of Backstreet boys Our driver for the day Tundup, coolest Ladakhi with an epic collection of Backstreet boys

Most people go to Ladakh for a week or 10 days but I began to detect my equation with Ladakh into the 3rd week. Apart from riding though stretches of road over the horizons with royal mountains to the left and turquoise rivers to the right, what I slowly started loving were the nights - when it got crispy cold and everybody patrolled out to bonfire lit restaurants to chit chat and rendezvous under the fat beaming moon and a million stars.

Here are some highlights from my consequent 2 weeks in this striking abode that the cameraman often called Yakland

Week 3 Day 4

As the crew woke up, we got our equipment ready and drove 2 hours outside of Leh to capture some shots by the slow-moving river with the mountain outlines during sunset. But once we arrived at the location, we learned that there was too much light so we’d have to wait it out. A senior cinematographer with his monster camera would have to let time flow slow like the waters. He told me that this was maybe his 100th time in Ladakh and he had shot a snow leopard the last time he was there. Shot as in captured footage.

Unbelievable views from random rooftops Unbelievable views from random rooftops

“The Snow leopard is a master camouflager... Unless you have a spotter with you it could be sitting right there and you wouldn’t be able to tell… Perfectly suited zebra spots and long tail”

“Uhm wow... I didn’t even know there were so many of them”

“There aren’t that many actually”

Fun fact for you: even though snow leopards can't roar, they can jump nine metres. So just because he isn’t growling doesn’t mean he’s not going to have your face for lunch. It can be spotted by it’s furry tail which is as long as the length of it’s body.

Just as the sun set, the shots got taken and it got freezing cold. We hopped back into the car and drove back to the hotel, the owner of which had organised a small get together with a bonfire and liquid joy. Lucky us.

Guess who got smashed beyond his limits: the leopard spotter.. It was safe to say he was having trouble spotting his next step UNTIL somebody brought out a state of the art digital binocular which he then proceeded to explain the intricacies of and consequently drop into his plate of chips.

Facing the glare of the sun on a Leh rooftop ( Remo expedition Godown) Facing the glare of the sun on a Leh rooftop (Remo expedition Godown)

Week 4 Day 1

With scenic beauty and swirling winds come dry dusty roads. With dry dusty roads come new lifestyle choices such as mouth bandanas, lip balm & sunscreen. That didn’t stop my face from getting sunburnt because of the powerful sun at such high altitudes. I could literally smell my burnt forehead every morning. Getting the sunglasses and headgear right was crucial too. The crew had literally said “wear the right sunglasses”. So I brought my finest pair of blue ovals which were apparently the worst colour to be wearing because the sun rays ruin eyes behind blue glasses. Walking around with no sunglasses had me quinting so consistently hard, that some people thought I was Korean. I digress.

I hired a bike along with the pads and jacket – and rode for a few hours with a friend from the crew. I realised hitting the roads on a motorcycle was the only way to cruise through the mountains. At a pit stop back in the city, I met a Romanian guy from London called Sergio who was there on glacier movement research.

We ended up becoming tight by the end of my trip cause he was a blasty blast to hang with and was doing real cutting edge work for universities back in the U.K. Not to mention his love for Indian rum and drag racing.

Lunch with the kids at school within the monastery Lunch with the kids at school within the monastery

Week 4 Day 4 

The roads were dead by 10pm but if you knew the right spots to go to, your nocturnal experiences could be significantly contrasting than those who crashed early. The only challenge was the right spots were never the easiest to find because then everybody would be there. So the challenge was to find the right locals who could take you there.

After hitting up a local restaurant with fancy bar lights and bartender with suits and magic tricks, it was time to shift this thing into 5th gear. So when it closed a few of us – English, Swedish and Estonian travellers - got walking down the alley when we heard a large group of people singing to pianistic tunes... We zoomed in on the location. It appeared to be an Israeli guesthouse with Hebrew scribbled all over the door. I turned to the English girl and said “what if we’re entering like a religious gala or something?”

“No fear soldier,” she replied crossing her hands on her chest like she's a general.

With smiling lady With smiling lady

5 of us odd balls walk into what can be described as a last supper sort of gathering with hay, carpets and hebrew on adjacent walls. A man with rimless glasses and a taqiya was playing the piano and a group of 30 people sat around him listening to his 20 minute long sermons followed by Hebrew hits. We clearly werent supposed to be there but the audience seemed tolerant enough to let a few songs pass without kicking us out. In their defense, the music was powerful even though we didn’t understand a word of Hebrew.

One of the English guys started rolling a joint  and looked at me for a nod of approval to which I turned and asked the girl on my right if it was ok. Her prompt reply was “Not here if ok” . We obliged and walked out shortly.

“I was sweating my tatas off in there mate, wonned too spark this rockit loike 10 minites ago” blurted out the English guy as soon as we stepped out.

On my walk back to the hotel, an American couple walked up to me with a sense of urgency that felt like a medical emergency only for them to help them score some A grade hash. I didn't have any.

Ladakh never ceased to surprise me.

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.

 

By Roshmin Mehandru
Photographs by: Yash Bandi