The indecision of conditioning – journaling a journey

28 june 2019
A conflicted mind at bedtime is probably the worst sleeping elixir. I’ve tossed and turned in indecision over something that should not be bothering me at all. I am to drive to Leh from Manali. I have done it myriad times, but, always with another car in tandem. This time I am driving it solo – my car and I. Can I? yes. Should I? The debate.

Snow banks and chocolate with cream

The car was ready – tightened nuts and bolts. Oils, water, brake pads all checked. Spare oils, new wipers, tow chain, tyre pressure pump. Newspaper to clean the wind shield, cleaning cloths, straps, Swiss knife, torch, sleeping bag, mat, chocolate, biscuits, soup – in the event that I got stuck on one of the passes due to snow conditions, overturned trucks or raging streams!
The whole checklist. Despite that for the first time in my long years of adventuring I was not quite sure, of myself, a wholly unfamiliar feeling and I couldn’t pin it down.

I had promised to meet friends who were flying into Leh. The friends who were to drive with me could not. Finally the point was, if there is no one to do things with, do you not do them? That’s what decided me, it is a policy I have been using for ages, for all kinds of other travel, what was it about this journey that made me think twice? I went and met turtles and sharks in the Galapagos all on my own!

So, I woke this morning with a singular focus – I was going to enjoy my drive – it is the first time I would do it with no one to be responsible for, guide, or tell stories to – just I and these incredible mountains and a most trusty vehicle. We would see what the days wrought.

Jispa, my first halt, arrived in very good time, despite the traffic jam trying to climb to the Rohtang pass. Day trippers going to play in the snow! Sweating into snow suits that they have hired along the way, wholly tricked by tourist feed. The long serpent of cars going up and down that narrow, winding road creates an impasse compounded by the tourists struggling in the muddy snow, trying to get a photograph of the board telling them they are high enough to be out of breath.

My trepidation disappeared as soon as I got behind the wheel. Every curve had a reminder of the multiple trips I have made into this area, trekking and driving. The streams where we set up camps, the broken love affairs, the new starts, the people that they happened with. The meadows where I met the shepherds, the trek across the sliding snow, the tumble down the river, the hunger of the terrain looked like chocolate cake and cream – I literally drove down memory lane.

Currently I am sitting under the waving shade of a large tree gazing at the silvered Bhaga river framed by shivering poplars and stately firs, backed by lofty, wrinkled mountains with sprinkled snow tops. This is the the valley of Lahaul. It used to be sere and known for growing seed potatoes. With the changing weather and more rain crossing the high mountain barrier, they now grow all sorts of vegetables, herbs and fruit making for a lush valley floor guarded by the mountain fortress of the Pir Panjal.

The first time I trekked this valley – I was amazed at how different high mountain rivers are in their infancy to what I had imagined. The receding, wide glacier beds create, multiple meandering channels in the upper reaches, that change colour all day from icy blue, to muddy silver. Going lower, the valley normally narrows into a gorge and that gentle water turns into the battering force of a leaping, cavorting cascade of furious white water. We would sit and stare as young trekkers, smoking our local ‘bidis’. Today I wander through the memories minus the smoke.

View from Gemoor Khar

I am staying at a home called Gemoor Khar, belonging to the family of the erstwhile wazir of Lahaul. The original, old home was a sprawling mansion built with traditional mud bricks and stone, with meeting halls and stables serving as a Serai or halting place for trading caravans going up to Ladakh to join the silk route over the Karakoram. It fell into ruin with disuse once borders appeared and traditional trade routes vanished. A newer home now graces the spot.

The family is in the process of constructing a ‘Chorten’ in memory of an elder. Conversing with the monks who have come from Bhutan to build this structure, I am discovering all that goes into the construction – special prayers at each layer, written and waxed for preservation before being placed inside. Different woods and stone in each step of the building – special colours and motifs for every decoration with particular prayers and significance. A work of painstaking art holding very special energy. After all these years I have finally begun to understand the depth of meaning and effect of these monuments that are found scattered all over Buddhist territories

The advantage of being alone to indulge in time for discovery. Reinforcing why I like the lone travel and still wondering what my trepidation was?

That it’s a tough, high mountain road crossing five high passes, some raging streams and some non existent roads? However, I have done it all before.

That I might get stuck or stranded? It isn’t exactly a lonely road, there is both military and civilian traffic all the way – I myself have so often towed people out of sticky spots – so there is no dearth of help available if needed.

Perhaps it’s more what people say about a woman travelling alone than anything that is a real issue…. conditioning, that most stubborn cementer of dogma.
I think about all the women who have done great solo journeys and the first one that comes to mind is Amelia Earhart – not perhaps the best example to make me feel better! But there have been women doing all sorts of things down the ages – I’m just driving alone on a relatively tough, albeit well travelled route and enjoying it hugely.

Having resolved my strange dis – ease for today, I shall wait to see what tomorrow brings.


30 june 2019

Tomorrow! It’s here and I don’t think I have ever been as fatigued as I am at this moment….just have to put this day down before I turn into a zombie.

I left Jispa at 06:00 hours in very good order. There wasn’t a soul on the road, I followed the silvered river. The checkpoint gentleman at Darcha asked why I didn’t have any companions and I said no one wanted to come. He looked quite befuddled. I’ve had many such reactions during the course of this day. But, to stay with the flow – I met a car coming from Bara Lacha and stopped him to ask about conditions ahead. His take, ‘the snow conditions are terrible and the stream at Bharatpur is like driving through a river.’ His number plate said be came from the deserts of Rajasthan, so I took that with a fistful of salt.

The approach to Bara Lacha was so heavily snowed that it took me back to a time when I trekked off this pass in similar conditions, the road works had only reached Zing Zing bar ( 30 kms short of the pass) and we had slipped and glisaded down to cadge a lift with the first army truck we could find. The same time that the world took on a chocolate and cream delusion. This time however, I was driving through a single lane tunnel of snow and I was so glad to have beaten the traffic – what a nightmare if I’d suddenly found myself facing some large truck, while my tyres were doing a precarious balancing ballet and trying to stay un torn, negotiating deep, snow melt gullies and the car was trying to stay even keeled when it desperately wanted to lean over and rest on the large, snow cliffs on any one side.

I got lucky and came off the pass with ease hitting the Bharatpur stream at its lowest, early morning level – though there were already people stuck there, proving the desert drivers story. However, they were a driving expedition and their leader was not enchanted to be asked, by a sole lady driver, if all was well. They were equipped, so I just kept moving and hit the amazing plains of Sarchu where the road became a newly tarred, smooth, dream.

A large gaggle of motor bikers were just leaving one of the myriad camps set on this beautiful plain. To avoid the irritation of them buzzing like mosquitos along the rest of the drive, I decided to stop for breakfast at the Sarchu dhabas with my friend Dolma. There I met my first Samaritan taxi driver, who saw me inspecting my tires and came up to chat, wondering why I was alone. He proceeded to tell me my tires were fine-‘Please don’t worry madam, I will be behind you all the way,’ was his re assurance.

The road was terrific now and I was making really good time – my main worry had been crossing Bara Lacha and I was through that hurdle, the Brandy Nala (I’ve never figured why the name) brought memories of days when none of the present infrastructure existed and we set up our own camps, carrying a whole expedition of gear to traverse this route.

The approach to the Gata loops always reminds me of the time when we came of our Zanskar trek at the bottom of these loops and could see a truck coming down them from way back down the valley.
How frantically we waved to catch his attention in the hope he would stop and give us a lift back to habitation. But there was really no way that trucker was going to notice three ( then slight) women walking up the river. We got to this corner and spread our mats on the side, determined to not walk once it was a motorable road . Luckily, another vehicle appeared going in the wrong direction, but it was a military jeep and stopped at the sight of said three women in the middle of no where. It was not a well travelled road then. The officer was kind, gave us his lunch to eat and made us promise to wait for him to return and he would take us to the nearest military camp. We had run out of food 3 days ago and were surviving on a ball of satu( a cooked barley lump) that a kind lady in the last village had shared with us. The military camp gave us a wonderful reception – hot baths, hot food and they put us in a military truck going to Manali. We rattled in the empty back sitting on spare tyres, wrapped in our sleeping bags.

Gata loops

The memories kept me company up the loops and across the Nakila and Lachulang la passes where I met my second Samaritan taxi driver. Stopping on the pass to lay a thanks giving stone, this whole car load disgorged on me like buzzing papparazi – after the usual surprise and multiple questions, the driver assured me that with his passengers, he would be a lot slower and therefore able to keep an eye out for any mischance that may befall me.

The best however was the J&K check post officer. The main entertainment at these lone outposts is the people who stop to register. These gentleman made me sit and have chai, wanted to know the whole story of why I was travelling alone. When I asked, ‘don’t you see many drivers alone,’ their reaction was, ‘yes, but they are men.’ A discussion on gender bias was not my purpose for the day, so it was just chai and chat. I left them with the thought that perhaps they may see more women in future. Regardless the gent offered to come with me as my passenger if not driver, he only backed out on realising I was not returning in a day or two. But they took my phone number and gave me theirs and that of the next check post in the event I had any trouble. Mobile phones don’t have signal on this route, but it was just so heartwarming, these random, simple people and their concern and kindness.

My ordeal started when I was climbing Tanglang la and for the first time in my life I experienced an altitude head ache of epic magnitude – copious amounts of water and it just got worse. Luckily this pass climbs in long, shallow loops and I made it across in quick time. The descent taxed me severely, non existent road, deep, snow run off, cuts and gullies. Bump, slip, slide, with a pounding head to compound the torture. I was not having fun. I finally hit the bottom and stopped by the stream that comes off the pass – blooming wild roses and sunshiny buttercups, soft meadow grass. Filled my empty water bottles and lay enjoying the sun, breeze and gurgling water, calming that thumping head. It was only 14:00 hours and a lovely afternoon. I could take my time, Leh was just around the corner….. got to the hotel and was hit by this numbing fatigue. Barely managed to say hello to my waiting friends and swallow a bite to eat. I am going to crash like a felled tree after a very welcome hot shower to wash off much dust and all ills.

3rd July 2019
Nubra – one of my favourite valleys and the Kesar, a homestay that embodies the place. Warm, warm hospitality, a garden full of abundant vegetables and wildly growing herbs, bright rose bushes and flying prayer flags backed by the ubiquitous poplars and striking, textured mountains. Extremely comfortable rooms with bathrooms almost as big. An amazing chef – Saajan – who can conjure up meals of exceptional quality under all sorts of circumstances. A well stocked bar with a mean Martini. Another old Serai, this time in all it’s crumbling splendour with so many wondrous stories sits just a short drive into the next village begging exploration. A valley of enchantment – wild forests of rambling rose, hillsides of lavender drenching the air in the most wondrous scent. A little Shanghri la that you only enter after crossing one of the highest motorable passes of the world.

6 the July.

Alone again, on my drive back from Debring to Manali. Yesterday we drove to Tsomoriri lake. I haven’t been here in a long time and it is as magical, though the little village of Karzok has expanded into homestays and multiple camps along the stream. The price of progress. The lake is still pristine and the Brahmini ducks and Bar headed geese are still coming to breed, seemingly, in much smaller numbers than before. I am hoping the majority of birds are hiding on the far side of the lake away from the disturbing humans. Marmots, Pikas and Kiangs showed themselves along the drive to the Tsokar lake, enroute back to the highway, so my long travelling friends from South India saw the whole gamut, including really non existent roads. They returned to Leh via the Tanglang la and I meandered my lazy way south. Stopped at the Gata loops to try and figure out which way we came off the Zanskar trek onto the road that long time ago. It has changed beyond recognition or else no one uses that path any longer, those villages that sheltered us in the Zanskar valley have probably disappeared too.

Tso Moriri

My driving day ended at Sarchu after having a late lunch break of spicy, egg maggie with my chai shop friend Dolma. The hard working spirit of these people is amazing, coming into this cold, windblown wilderness for 3 months of the year to create a little oasis of comfort and hot food for travellers along this road. She does say that they earn more than they otherwise would, making it worthwhile, I guess.

I am happy to have some sit and stare time and the wind blown grasslands of Sarchu leading to the sculpted turrets along the valley of the young Tsarap river are a perfect dreaming place.

Bharatpur Nala

7th July

Probably my best day yet – I left Sarchu at 0600 hrs. Empty, smooth road till I reached the big nala at Bharatpur, which was already a deep torrent, luckily in only one spot and not spread across its whole bed like it had been earlier. However in that one deep, gushing bit was sitting a little Maruti, water flowing into the car, passengers tucked up on the seats, one poor gentleman wading in the freezing water trying to push and pull moving rocks in an effort to help the car find traction. A small truck on the other side tried to pull it out, but their rope broke. Finally it was easier for me to use my chain and pull it back, then tow him across behind me. He followed me till we crossed all the mad, bad, bits across Bara Lacha, luckily he didn’t need any further help and zoomed off after a waved thank you. I lazed through the short journey to Jispa enjoying the burgeoning fields, the nomadic rock shelters, the silvery streams which have grown in a week from trickles to full flow. There is a bubbling joy one feels, occasionally, when everything is just so, the spirit soars and the world becomes a wonder.

The day continued in this lazy vein, came into Gemoor Khar by 10:00 even with the slow pace and stops. Sat on a bench under the poplars gazing at the river and mountains, listening to the history of this place and it’s association with the trade route and the great game of the British. The stories that have played out in these remote mountain fastnesses which beg further exploration.This trip took me to two such old Serai homes in completely different parts of the mountains – I wonder if they perhaps hosted the very same travellers aeons ago too. That may be my next journey of discovery.

8th July

Home safe with a reinforced belief in the gut versus the conditioned mind. An absolute conviction to never mix a cocktail of altitude with fatigue.

Journeys are just the best classrooms.

Information of interest:

This route crosses all of the Himalayan ranges across 5 high passes with constantly changing terrain. The average elevation along the route is 4000 m. The road stays safely open for about 3- 4 months – mid June to mid September and is a mix of snow melting mud slides, bouldered river beds, and some well tarred stretches.

Rohtang Pass: 3978 m, Baralacha La: 5030 m, Nakeela Pass: 4739 m, Lachulang Pass: 5065 m, Tanglang la: 5328 m.

Leh town: 3500 m. Khardungla Pass into Nubra: 5359 m.

Tso Morriri lake: 4522 m


I’m writing on a flip chart, recording some important bit of information during a rather serious conference. I look up for a moment and am transported to another dimension. Rippling sands and a tent on a land rover.

I’ve done this countless times, walked through the soft sands, ridden over the dunes on camels and in four wheel vehicles, lain under the shifting shade of an acacia or slept under the myriad stars of a breezy desert night.

It never palls – the magic is eternal and one can plug into this special feeling anytime. Just return to those timeless spaces that nurture the spirit and soar the soul.

When it’s combined with a meeting full of like minded people all focused on a social enterprise to make the world a better place – it just made for a memorable few days and renewed my faith in our world.

Comforts of alone.

Much like the song from Sound of Music.

It struck me this morning when I woke to something prodding my shoulder – it was Maya’s little, old dog! Look at it and the heart gets both warmed and nostalgic. How very many stories that little dog tells.

Barre Moms’ old black and white comforter, the association obviously adds an extra layer.

Sheets she embroidered for my trousseau, which I finally decided to use. The dressing table at which I can still see her sitting.

A bookshelf full of my mothers collection of Georgette Heyer!

The glass warmer, Maya’s first knitting attempt. The stickers on the mirror, when Rifq thought Mama was great!

Photographs and decanters. The contents of which has most to do with comfort! But the memory is of my Grandfather holding it by the neck and carrying it to and from the drawing room every evening.

Perhaps waking to all these around me, makes for never being alone. I guess it’s why we surround ourselves with memorabilia.

Driving the same road – does it vary?

Some, but it’s the road from Manali to Leh and it’s magic stays undiminished no matter how often I travel it. There are more people on it, at Gramphoo the chai shop has got left up above the road and Koksar is almost merged, there are a few more dhabas. The meat curry was just as good and the overheard biker conversations just as lurid! The Lahaul valley is greener and more prosperous and utterly beautiful. Jispa is almost a township of many more camps and small hotels. The Padma lodge was nicely located and quite comfortable, though the camp across the road by the river looked much more inviting! Bara Lacha Pass brings back so many amazing memories, not least being of chocolate pudding and cream! The plains of Sarchu and the sculpted rocks beyond are timeless. The Gata loops and the spot where we crawled out from trekking the Tsarap gorge to be discovered by the nice Military policeman, oh so many moons ago. All so familiar, well remembered and so very relivable.The road to Ksokar is paved and what was an abandoned village is a thriving homestay enterprise, though I doubt any of the original owners are there. The lakes themselves have diminished, but the bird life still seems to thrive. Didn’t see the ubiquitous marmots – nor heard the whistles, but there were a lot more Kiangs than in the nearer past.Met some young people doing studies and comparisons – intense and interesting, sure we must have been so too at the stage… it was just nice to sit and stare, remember and build a new memory.The intention to go to Tso moriri was canned as some of the team was not feeling upto the altitude, but we drove to Leh via Mahe and enjoyed the drive. The Indus, that grand river, that always gives a thrill…the name evokes tales of travel, romance and adventure! I have never seen it like this – blue and green, such low water levels for this time of year. Lovely to look at but a harbinger of not nice things. Leh is a changed town that I am getting lost in, but it seems a lot of good, positive things are happening and so many young people doing interesting homestays, cafes and trips. The one’s that made it happen for us were Hajra and Mayas friend Jigmet of Mantra Himalaya with his happy cafe and interesting concepts. Behzad with his photography tours and super homestay in Nubra.A lovely meal at a really rather special restaurant called Bon appetite – Jigmet walked us up and up tiny alleys to emerge out into a lovely garden and quaint restaurant. It was dark but I am certain the views were spectacular. The food was excellent – lasagna, Mediterranean Nan was my favourite. Chocolate momos for desert.Driven over the Khardungla into one of my favourite valleys, Nubra. It is a gentle space of vastness. Cross the highest motor able pass into this Shangrila of spreading silver waters and sand. Striated and screed mountains and beautiful vegetation. It’s like land before time, a garden of Eden where all the so called super foods grow in wild abundance. Thorny thickets of ———-abound, Alfa Alfa is fed to cattle, hillsides of springing lavender scent the air. Wild garlic gets crushed underfoot as you walk. It’s an uncanny mix of sere brown mountains and this lush abundance. Clean, clear water and vividly blue skies. I cant get enough of it.We walked slowly up to the monastery where the Dalai Lama is coming next week to hold teachings. The burbling stream ran alongside, the myricaria and roses blushed pink and the lavender sprayed up in beautiful bushels of….I guess..lavender. Spires of poplars spear the blue, blue sky and the willow woven fences make most interesting dividers. You can fill your water bottle from the stream like in the old days. There doesnt seem to be the usual plastic blocking every water way and tree stump. I think I fell in love with a perfect spot. Dinner al fresco surrounded by wild garlic, swaying trees and lanterns, life does not get much better. I say that so often and how blessed it is to be able to do so.A drive across a river bed, a walk up a rocky outcrop in the middle of the river just short of Panamik and found a lovely lake in the middle. Came back to a marvellous picnic laid out by Sajjan and forgot his name. Perfect day – then the dunes at Hundar and hordes of people to see the camels and the dunes , but it is organised and clean most impressive. An evening around the bonfire with excellently crafted Rob Roy’s and a ‘Gajjar Chillum’! Most interesting and utterly hilarious. This is Behzad and Voygr hospitality and it was brilliant.The drive back from Nubra was very quick and we were back at our hotel in record time. The fatigue is setting in and I slept. Dinner at bon appetite again – Behzad invited Kendrup who is the warden at hemis national park and a snow leopard tracker cum conservationist. It was a tremendous honour to meet him and hear of all the work that is now happening in these amazing mountains with both the people and the other life that still manages to co exist. Good to know all these great people that add to the experience. Had an uneventful if beautiful drive to spend the night at the plains of Sarchu in a windy tent. I must say I do not fancy tent living any longer unless it is my own. Woke to rain on the roof and the thought of the Baralacha nalas made for a swift departure. Rained all the way but thankfully we crossed Bara lacha with just a smattering of slippery snow. The icing on the cake was an empty Rohtang it being Tuesday – pure bliss to not have to ask men, women, children in deep winter overalls, sweltering in the hot sun up high, avidly looking for non existent snow! Home by 4 with no crowds at all. Blessed that everything went so right.

Spring at the LAMA HOUSE

Last year this time, I was sitting in a mausoleum of a building with plumbers, carpenters, painters – a fleet of people tracking dirt and material across the beautiful wooden floors. Snow in the garden that needed so much work. And I thought, ‘what in the world did I take on?’

Today, there are daffodils nodding their early heads. The birds are warbling. Skies are blue.

This old Lama House is beautiful again, there are six lovely rooms for you to come inhabit.


I like walks in the woods, have the perfect picnic spots, the corners in my garden offer the best reading, writing, painting spots.

We bake lovely cakes and cookies – and do real coffee.

The whisky comes from some of the best parts of Scotland and even Japan.

Having lived a life of complete adventure – I can facilitate a climb across the mountains on a trek or a jeep safari.

I have just revived for myself the old world arts of water colours, knitting and embroidery – they are therapeutic and healing. In sync with the essence and energy of this home built by monks.





The best of the mountains happens here. Come join me.

Ladakh – A drive over high passes

I love this drive and have done it myriad times. Am doing it again this June with some friends – if there are others that would like to join us please call 9810184360 or mail :

I have copied below the descriptions I wrote years ago – this land stays the same and still touches the soul. This will be our itinerary:

22 June 2018: Arrive at Manali and stay with me at The Lama House.
23 June 2018: Day in Manali for acclimitization – a short hike through temple woods or a picnic and a relaxed day.
24 June 2018: We drive across the Rohtang Pass into Lahaul and stop for the night at Jispa on the banks of the Bhaga river.
25 June 2018: Drive on over the grand Baralacha la – and a wholly changing landscape to camp at Tsokar Lake.
26 June 2018: Tsokar to Tso Moriri – a lovely back trail through meadows filled with Yak herders to the beautiful lake. Both these lakes are breeding grounds for myriad birds and high mountain creatures.
27 June 2018: Tso Moriri to Leh. Hotels and hot baths and wander the shops.
28 June 2018: A day to visit some of the famous monastries, explore the town.
29 June 2018: We drive over one of the highest roads crossing into the Nubra Valley – where the terrain changes again and we see another aspect of these amazing mountains.
30 June 2018: In Nubra – exploring.
01 July 2018: Drive back to Leh.
02 July 2018: Fly out of Leh. ( If you are even thinking of coming book this flight – it can be cancelled but gets harder and more expensive as it gets closer)

No of persons on the trip 3 4 6
Costs per person 96870 89720 89780

I will send the details of what the costs include if you decide to come. Most of us don’t read so much in one go.



This spectacular road through the highest mountains in the world is open for only 3 or 4 months in the year – from mid June through September – crossing the Pir Panjal, the Greater Himalaya and the Zanskar ranges, it reaches a maximum elevation of 5304m. Calling this a road, maybe conferring more than it’s due, that it is a drivable route: a grand testament of human endeavor is the truth. The 476 km journey over four high passes and some of the most awe inspiring terrain in the world starts from Manali, along the green valley of the Beas river, up the steep switchbacks of the Rohtang Pass at 3978m. The Rohtang forms the divide between the verdant Kullu valley and the stark expanse of rock and glacier, in the rain shadow of the Pir Panjal range.

From Rohtang, the road descends to the Chandra River and follows it to Tandi where the Chandra meets the Bhaga River, little villages with groves of poplar, willow, and potato fields irrigated by glacial streams dot the landscape. The road continues past Keylong (district headquarters of Lahaul) and the last town till Leh, 360 kms beyond. Following the Bhaga River through Darcha and past the pastures of Zingzingbar, starts the ascent to the Baralacha Pass (4892m). “The Pass with the crossroads on its summit” – this grand pass straddles the meeting point of gigantic ranges, offering passage down four different routes, along the valleys of the Chandra and Bhaga rivers and into Ladakh and Spiti.
A rough stretch of road descends to the pastures of Sarchu 107 kms from Keylong. Now begin the wide-open spaces, dotted with the amazing textures and colours of craggy mountain faces, the gash of the Tsarap river, with it’s mud sculpted sides. The awesome world of nature’s timelessness dwarfing Man.

Once across the Tsarap river starts the grueling ascent to LachulangLa Pass (5059m), 54 kms from Sarchu. The amazing shapes and colours as you reach the top compensate the hard drive, descend along a little stream to Pang. Beyond Pang, the road crosses the Sumskyal, a deep gash marking the edge of the great Kyangshuthang plains – a massive plateau at an altitude of 4500m. Across the vast expanses of this plain are chances to see the Kyang (Tibetan wild ass), the Nabu (Blue Sheep), lots of marmot, as well as the Pashmina sheep of the Shepherds of Rupshu.
We take an interesting diversion at this point, short of the Tanglangla Pass – at 5325m, the highest point on the highway. 136 kms short of Leh a dirt road east leads to the Tso Kar Lake. We camp at this lake and see the breeding Brahmini ducks, Grebes and Black necked cranes. From Tso Kar we take a little used dirt road past hot springs and meadows where yak herders and goat herds have their summer pastures and taking a circuit north meet the highway in the Indus valley, and onto Leh and the comforts of hotels and hot baths.

(Along the regular route, once across the plain, at Dibring, the road starts climbing across the snowy reaches of the Tanglangla and descends into more inhabited Ladakh, meeting the Indus river at Upshi. Passing the Monastries of Hemis, Thikse and Shey, The road reaches the Bazaar of Leh.)

Leh is located in the Indus river valley at a crossroads of the old trading routes from Kashgar, Tibet, and Kashmir. Its importance as a trading town slowed down with the partition of British India, and ended with the closure of the border in 1962 during the Sino-Indian war. Since the 1999 war with Pakistan, and the consequent development of the Manali-Leh highway, it has become a bustling tourist town, the sights to visit are the Palace and the monasteries, and a wander through the bazaar is essential.

We can do two trips out of Leh: to the Nubra Valley and the Pangong tso lake.

For Nubra we cross the highest motorable pass at Khardungla (elevation 5359 m or 17,582 feet). Khardong La is historically important as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Chinese Central Asia. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hundar, in the area north of the pass. It is an area that has only recently opened to the world. Still only about 45 kms of the valley are accessible. It is a tiny bit of paradise, orchards and wild flowers, the bactrian camels, wide meandering river. A discovery, leading to the highest battleground of the world – the Siachin glacier.

Pangong tso lake: situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and extends from India to Tibet. Pangong Tso can be reached in a five-hour drive from Leh, most of it on a rough and dramatic mountain road. The road traverses the Changla pass, where army sentries and a small teahouse greet visitors. The lake is spectacular, we spend the night in a camp on the banks, you get to see breeding Bar-headed geese and Brahmini ducks. If you are lucky enough to be there on a moonlit night and brave enough to weather the cold, there is magic there too, as there is all over these mountains.
wind sculpted




The Lama House

IMG_0677Sometimes I wonder at how to say this? All my life my dreams have come true – in some form. I remember awaking one morning in the camp that I had on the banks of the Ganga thinking – this is one of my dreams – a home with mountains and the sea, it was not the sea but the grandest river in the world and it was a camp, not a permanent structure, however my home for more than 20 years. While in that camp (which I loved and enjoyed whole heartedly) I sometimes thought I would like a proper home in the mountains by the water again. I sit here today in this huge house, the stream gushes outside and provides us with pristine water. The house is what I would term a folly, built by a Rinpoche as an advanced learning center, on blessed ground on the principles of buddhism and fengshui – amazing energy.

How did I get here? I have a crazy, beautiful family! My brother, Girimer bought this property off the Rinpoche and let it lie. Some months ago I said, I would like a place to grow pretty flowers and organic vegetables, a place to write stories, make pot pourri like my grandmother did. A place where I can knit hot water bottle covers and people will enjoy warm toes.

Giri said, ‘do it, I have just the place’. Here I am, doing it, in just the place. The neighbours call it ‘The Lama House’, so do we. It’s a beautiful space, with astounding views and amazing energy. That I have been snowed in, dis electrified and dis

watered are some of the disadvantages of getting this place up and running. That it will be up and running and amazing in very short order is a given. That all my friends from far and near will want to visit – I hope. That I have an amazing neighbour who provides fresh milk and eggs, plus looks after the apple trees is a blessing. Doubling it is the fact that he pops up every morning and plants, kiwi tress, gladioli, cherry trees, apricot trees, daffodils and irises. Promises to help with my vegetable garden, suggest exactly how the compost pit must be and in all is a store house of all the knowledge that I need.

That I have had no time to write is something that will change. That dreams come true is a given.