December 7, 2019 | 4:42 pm
So many things happened since we came back from the 10th-grade class trip to Leh, Ladakh in the Himalayas, that I always postponed this blog post. Halloween, Diwali, Nagar Kirtan, sports and other competitions, so much to cover. But now, finally, it’s online. Yay!
At 3.30 pm on September 27th grade 10 class hopped on the school bus to get to the Amritsar station where we took the train to Delhi. No special events happened during the ride, we got food and water and slept a bit. In Delhi we got picked up by our travel agent who brought us to a hotel where we could eat and rest until 5 AM when we had to leave for the airport.
There it got really exciting… The airport was packed and the line at the security was huge. We tried to get in front but in vain. The minutes were running, the plane was already boarding. When we all had passed the security it was almost time for the plane to start. Luckily we had sent our travel agent to the gate to hold the plane, which he did. The gate called security and they brought us through secret back doors running to the plane. In the end, the plane departed 15 minutes late because of us. We were so happy to have made it.
Getting off the plane at Leh in Ladakh is an experience all its own. All around the only airfield are just mountains, huge mountains. So beautiful. This was just the beginning of a series of wonderful views which Leh and surroundings have lots of.
Finally arriving at the hotel at 11 AM one day after our travel started we had a quick breakfast and retreated to our rooms to rest. To avoid altitude sickness we got homeopathic drops from our wonderful staff at the medical. We took them every few hours throughout our travels and none of us got sick! Thanks again, Prem and medical staff!
Still exhausted from the travel we had a late lunch and at 5 PM we drove to Shanti Stupa for sunset. Shanti Stupa was built by both Japanese and Ladakh Buddhists. The original idea of building Buddhist temples as part of the Peace Pagoda mission goes back to 1914, but construction started only in 1983. The stupa has become a tourist attraction not only due to its religious significance – it holds the relics of the Buddha at its base – but also due to its location with panoramic views of the surroundings. After a delicious meal at a local Chinese restaurant we – still exhausted from our travel – went to our rooms for the much-needed rest.
The next day we kept it easy to get used to the high altitude. If you have never experienced the thin air at such altitudes, it’s hard to imagine. You really have the feeling you cannot get enough oxygen no matter how deeply you breathe. So this day we strolled around the center of Leh, called Leh market, and went to the Leh museum which unfortunately was closed because of power failure all over Leh. This – as we experienced – is totally normal in Leh! Most of the shops have their own little generator in front of the store to be able to sell their goods in the evening. After a great pizza lunch we walked through old town to the Leh Palace and then back to the hotel.
5:30 AM the next morning we left for the Thiksey Monastery to sit and meditate with the monks. It is a beautiful monastery built on a hill where we could freely walk around. Lots of photos were taken with that amazing view. In the end, we sat with the monks when they did their morning prayer and it was a beautiful experience. After breakfast at the hotel, we drove to Stok Valley for a 4-5 hr hike along a dry river bed. Again, unbelievable views.
The next day was easier. We traveled first to Zanskar River and stopped where two rivers meet. One can feel the forces of the two rivers, the Indus and the Zanskar, become one. We stopped there for about 30 minutes and afterward left to Magnetic Hills where the students could ride ATV quad bikes. They had tons of fun riding through the hills and then we enjoyed langar at the langar hall of Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, a beautiful Gurudwara constructed in the memory of Guru Nanak. The history of the Gurdwara you can read here: https://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Gurdwara_Pathar_Sahib
After an excellent dinner at the hotel and a good night’s sleep, we drove the next morning to Hemis Monastery. Again a beautiful monastery with an interesting museum, but the best thing was the 1-hour hike from the main monastery to the meditation cave and surrounding buildings, a well-kept place that is used by monks for seclusion and meditation. We were allowed to meditate in the cave which was very special to us.
Back in Leh, after a short rest in the hotel, we went to town to have another dinner at Chopsticks for our last night in Leh. Time passed very quickly. Early the next morning we flew back to Delhi, where we again got picked up by our travel agent. They dropped us at Khan Market where we could do some shopping. Unfortunately it was a bank holiday and not all shops were open, but we could nevertheless buy imported foods and have a nice lunch in one of the restaurants. At 4.30 PM our train left back to Amritsar where we arrived at 11.30 PM, exhausted but happy!