Ladakh is like any place for me. Well, the truth is every place has its own charm. And I’m more or less in love with every place we go to. So Ladakh’s charm for me is its power.
When I think about Ladakh I feel it in my gut. Powerful. Like that excitement right before takeoff. Together with the challenge of getting there, getting used to the altitude (3500m/12,000ft), together with the ringing echo of the prayer bell, and the traditional dresses that always attract me to come closer, to explore, taste.
And the huge, mighty desert, the raging rivers in colors from mud-brown-gray and all the way to shining blue.
And the snowy peaks that only show you that you can get much, much higher. What did you think, huh? That your 3500m even count?
Ladakh gives me its powers and gives me the inspiration to stretch my limits. Because that power is there. And I’m going to try to get to it. Going to test myself. To show myself that what I thought was my limit actually really isn’t.
We crossed (on a motorbike) the highest pass in the world (5600m/18500ft) and danced there right at the top. We drove the twisting mountain roads, staring at the breathtaking view. Sometimes it rained, sometimes it snowed and the flakes kissed us on the way down, and sometimes it was scorching hot. A few rainbows graced us with their presence. There were even some freezing drives through glaciers.
We drank tea on the Pakistani border, and watched K2, climbed up and bathed in crystal clear waterfalls. We trekked between remote villages, walking on mountain sides and cliffs, a track with a lot of steep ascents and descents not less so, and stopped for refreshments at forgotten monasteries carved into the mountain, (where they served us tea and biscuits), we drank fresh snowmelt, simply because there wasn’t anything else, we ate with the locals the fresh bread, the vegetables from the fields, the butter they make at home, the dried curd, and slept with them in their homes.
We met a lot of amazing people that live a simple life of hard work. Gali didn’t even want to leave. Despite sleeping in mud huts, and the improvised toilets and the water that only flow in the other side of the village.
In the city itself (Leh) we met yet more people, travelers, from all over the world. Young Gali and the old(er) Yotam spent a lot of time on the rock climbing wall in the neighborhood, Yotam found a lot of people to play chess with, Roni celebrated all day with Momo, the girl of the family that hosted us in their house. They read lots of books (well, the internet there is crap), listened to music, went to the Stupa and climbed the stairs leading to it (575), and took lots of pictures.
We had one bad sprain in the wrist (Yotam played basketball with the locals…), and a flu that affected everyone.
We joined in on a number of interesting musical performances organized by Israeli producers and musicians (that were themselves joined by locals or other tourists), and spent wonderful evening singing.
We met old friends that arrives, Ana and Sabi from Germany (they brought us some really good chocolates!), Tom and Josie from France and Lebanon. And of course the locals that remembered us from last year, to my surprise (‘where are your girls’ was the most popular question I was asked the first time walking down the street).
And on a personal level, we arrived to Ladakh right after a visit to Israel, which included a visit to the rabbinate, where I got officially divorced. Ladakh was exactly what I needed. I went out, out of the city and into the nearby mountains and cool springs. To breath. I let the water cool me down, men and nature tempt me. And what to do, sun, cold water, and warm rocks always make me want to get naked. So there was a lot of “outdoor passion”.
The way back we drove, across the six stunning passes that make the way between Ladakh and Manali, and slept in one of them, in a sweet, warm Dhaba, under three thick blankets, 4600m(15,500ft) above sea level.
And, as usual, met lots of love.
So I gave the limits a hell of a stretch this time. Just flowing with everything. Whatever comes comes. Two-and-a-half months in Ladakh-Kashmir have left their mark on me like a tattoo, after which my body, soul, and heart will never be the same again.