Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fight of Flight in Leh, a northern Indian village smack dab in the Himalayas.

“Until the 1962 Sino-Indian war, Leh was one of the major crossroads of Asia, and a stopping point on the ancient migration routes of Trans-Himalaya, connecting Central Asia with the Indian sub-continent. The old caravan trails led westward through Kashmir to the Silk raods, northward across the Karakorum Pass to Central Asia, eastward across the Chang-thang highlands to Tibet and China, and southward through what is now Himachal Pradesh to the plains of India.”
- Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council informational brochure, given to me in the airport after registering as a foreign guest in the province.
Out the window of the plane the Himalayas just pop from the earth all white and snowy like thousands of boxes of frosted doughnuts. Flying over them reminds me of floating in a canoe over bobbing waves with my face close to the water, counting ripples, watching them ride away and join others in the distance. Barren land. Remote. No life here save only for the inspirational dreams of the mad. Looking down, it is a kind of magic only characters in books know. Flying over the peaks, the summits so close you could reach out and touch them like effects in 3D film. We zoom into a valley and the mountains are above the wings. We are birds, soaring into a majestic glide toward the valley below.
We land and I wrap myself in scarf and mittens and allow all the Indians to hurry and scatter off the plane. It matters not. They descend steps and stand directly outside the hull of the craft while armed guards wave for the buses. A German couple sits next to me, similar in sophisticated thought. We grin at one another as the colorful Indians, maroon clad monks, dark skinned laborers, sari clad mothers with children, all quickly pass. Then slowly, we gather our belongings and exit through the small doors.
Taxi from the airport to tiny Hotel Lasermo. I’d read about it online. Wood windows with brass locks. Small courtyard dusted with snow. At check in, I write my name, parent’s Colton address, and passport number in a dusty coffee book sized ledger. My room is sparse, 1,250 rupee, breakfast included. I wave off the boy and carry my own bag up the winding, rickety stairs.
The man says no electricity until 5:30 after I try the lights several times. It is then the village generators turn on. Head dizzy. Felt it at first in the small, dingy airport waiting for the baggage carousel to be fixed. Altitude sickness. Must be careful. My legs and hands shaking. Shortness of breath. I’ll be okay, just must sit down in the little wooden chair by the window in the sunlight. The room is cold, except for the sunlight, and I sit and wait for my breath to return.
The man delivers me coffee with white porcelain saucer and cup, bowl of sugar cubes, fresh heated goat’s milk, and fine brown ground coffee in a tin with spoon. I am too weak to get up from the chair. Maybe five minutes. I have carried a Snicker’s Bar and two lemon cakes wrapped in paper for my breakfast from Delhi. I should have brought peanut butter. I always bring one but this trip I forgot. Silly, the stuff you miss.
The Himalayas are directly out my window and there are millions of dust particles floating in the light of my room. School children in uniforms pass beneath my second floor perch with rosy windswept cheeks escorted by serious faced fathers to disappear down the lane. I would love to visit a school here. Perhaps tomorrow after I have adjusted to the elevation.
I miss my girls tremendously. I know it does no good to think about it, but it is never far from me. I miss the fact that any time I want I can just hold them, just scoop them up in my arms and lift them high in the air while they giggle and laugh and tell me never to put them down. Doesn’t matter if I’ve just scolded them or made them stop playing to pick up socks or an empty bowl. They just want my love. I will never fully understand the grace or beauty of that, but what I know makes me happier than anything God has ever bestowed upon me.
Breathing labored now. Going to pour the coffee and sit. Put my feet up and rest. I wish I were surrounded by you. I wish you were everywhere all around me. It is selfish, I know, but I miss you. I know I should look at things like rectangles of sunlight and snowy mountain peaks and unfinished books waiting to be read and sugar cubes stacked neatly in bowls and be satisfied, but I still miss you. I miss you all.
Going to rest now. Keep breathing deep. Read a pamphlet on Acute Mountain Sickness, chuckle. Later I will boil some tea, slowly and carefully peel an orange I have in my knapsack, and drink the juice slowly. I wish you were here. I wish I could hear your voice. I’ll be stronger tomorrow. Just lonely now and still so far to go. I want to get outside, onto the roof perhaps and look around. Just rest a little now, put my feet up, feel the sunlight. Keep breathing. Oh yes. There it is now. Let me try and sleep. I’ll hit the village market this afternoon.
Well, I made it, but it wasn’t pretty, still short of breath. This afternoon when I was feeling better I ventured into the village of Leh and wandered the Tibetan market. Later I actually hiked a couple of very slow kilometers outside the city up into the hill tops to about 12,000 feet and toured some abandoned Lama Temples. More to come, that’s for sure.

No comments:

Post a Comment