Monday, 12 October 2009

The trident descends

Well here I am in Leh. In fact I’ve been here since Thursday, after 24 hours or so in Delhi. All I have to say about Delhi is that I don’t think I will return unless either interesting work beckons or I know someone there. Granted, I didn’t venture far from the airport but it did confirm my feeling that I’m not particularly interested in spending much time in big cities over the coming months. After London, I’ve probably had enough of them for a while.
The Delhi airport domestic departures lounge is very civilized – more so than Heathrow terminal 3. Costa Coffee Indian-style is nothing like Costa Coffee in London and a few disgruntled Indian customers were sent packing in no uncertain terms when they had the temerity to ask for tea. I’m not quite sure how to describe my decaf mocha: thinner maybe, but no worse for it. The flight over the Himalayas from Delhi to Leh was quite remarkable. I don’t know exactly how high the mountains we were passing are, but at least 6000m, so the plane wasn’t far above the peaks. The journey was made all the nicer by the air-hostesses actually calling us by name (we are not passengers but “guests” in India) and the smiles of the Ladakhis as we got off the plane into the crisp early morning light.
The light here is particularly beautiful: very clear and strong so that the outline of everything (trees and mountains spring most to mind) seems to be picked out in near-shimmering white light.
Apparently, I’m in a desert, so although the snow-capped peaks aren’t far off, here everything is grey-brown. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that it gets a lot colder than I remember Sinai in June and the mountains are generally rather bigger, it does look quite similar, certainly in colouring and dust.
Leh is the capital of Ladakh, once a Buddhist kingdom, and here is a picture of it, as viewed from the terraces of the half-ruined Leh Palace:

You see more mountains than town, but that tends to be the case wherever you are here. And here below is the gompa (monastery) set on the hill above it (those of us visiting on the day spent a while wondering how they got the prayer flags across):
It was while visiting the gompa that I was filmed by a French film-maker (who usually works with ballet dancers, would you believe it?). He’s going round India asking people the same 10 questions and he decided I’d make a good subject. I suspect I’ll get edited out, but if not, check out your nearest French TV or film festival in upcoming months. All following a theme, as last night, a nice couple from Mumbai (though they called it Bombay, so I’m at a bit of a loss as to which is the culturally respectful version to use) asked me if I was Juliette Binoche. This might have something to do with the fact that I’ve spoken virtually no English since I’ve arrived, as my guesthouse is populated with French-speakers. Nonetheless, I’m taking it as a compliment as I look pretty travel-worn at the moment and haven’t taken off my green wool jumper all week as it never gets warm enough to wash it (but cashmere being cashmere – and as Ladakh is technically eastern Kashmir, what could be more appropriate? – hurrah, it doesn’t smell!). The same goes for my increasingly baggy purple woolly longjohns; although I only wear those in the unheated evenings (it's bitter when the sun goes down), I don't dare risk that they won't dry in a day.
Despite the pretty pictures, taken in Leh itself, which is hardly large, I haven’t seen a great deal beyond the hotel. After my first day of mild adventures, my twisted hip which sometimes likes to remind me of its existence, flared up in spectacular fashion. There’s something quite interesting (not to mention daunting) about being half-way up the Himalayas and unable to walk. And so Shiva’s trident came down (as well I knew it would) and clearly I am meant to stay pinned for a while. It’s been an opportunity to discover how kind people can be and to watch various travellers coming and going from their treks while I enjoy the spectacular views from the terrace or my bedroom, do a bit of restorative yoga or read some of the small library I brought with me. Happily, the hip seems to be on the mend now (though at that annoying mid-convalescence stage which lasts far too long), and doubtless I shall be skipping once more in the near future.
My next challenge is to see whether I can get this to post to the internet in the hotel internet café – which seems to have a few viruses which have upset my USB stick. Endless adventures.
But enough warbling from me. It’s got to the time of day when there’s the greatest likelihood of hot (as opposed to lukewarm) water, and so off to shower I go. Here’s hoping to see you soon and that wherever you are, life is treating you kindly.
Lucy x


  1. i knew that i knew you from somewhere. you are juliet binoche!
    i hope your hip feels better soon, although your rest sounds pretty good too. it was lovely to see you & i will be waiting for your return (& maybe even reading your blog again. i dont mean to offend, but im super lazy & i HATE computers. fats will keep me posted if i dont ).
    take care darling. drink lots of water. put some pictures of yourself please.

  2. Lovely to hear (and see) how you are getting on. I look forward to the rest of your tale. One word springs to mind though... thermals! It's a beautiful place isn't it for both the eyes and the soul. Shanti, lots of love, Candy xx