Leh2009, Adventure, Cycle Touring, Holidays, India, Indian Himalayas, Travel
Imposingly the Leh Palace is built on a crag overlooking the town, above it a little gompa (monastry) is perched, almost lonely against the vast blu, cloud-puffed sky. Below the old city, densely built, slowy crumbles and decays. The main bazaar is a bustle of old Ladakhi ladies selling their fabulous apricots and vegetable grown in their home gardens, chatting and knitting with their long grey braids, the belching tata truck and horn blasting jeeps do little to disturb them.
Ladakh opened to the rest of the world in 1975, and since then according to researcher Helen Norberg Hodge the rate of transformation has not suprisingly been to the detriment of Ladakhi society: socially, economically and environmentally. Once upon time 20 years ago this sustainable and self sufficient society was literally bombarded by the West as the road opened- goods, army and tourists flooded in. ‘Poor’, dependant and polluted are always a conveniently forgotten result of ‘progress’. Its not difficult to see even as a first time visitor. That said parts of the town have to some degree retained the rural nature: typically double-storied wood and mud brick homes with large gardens of vegetables, barley and wheat. While concrete blocks exist side by side, coupling with tourism and blossoming businesses means more pollution and less water in a very water scarce environment. Yet we too are part of the problem and hopefully a solution, as Helena says.
Leh is pushed up against the sandy eroding slopes that rise up to the 5600m Khardung-la pass, apparently the highest pass in the world according to the Indians. Ha! well we checked it out for ourselves, yes we cycled once more up another mega pass just to see if it really was 5600m. Our alt metres only just made 5300m, a huge difference! But when you are selling T-Shirts, thrilling bike rides and Jeep jaunts up the “Highest Pass in the World”, you can easily round it off to 5600m. 5300, 5200 or 5600m doesnt really matter, it is dam high and hard – a 40km uphill of almost 2000m. At least it was a merry expedition with Matt, Rich, Ben, Carlos and Tom, and we didnt get views of K2 either, not possible, but it was rewarding to some of the peaks of the Karakorum way off in Pakistan. Leaving Leh. Up the Khardung-la pass, supposedly the “Highest Motorable Road in the World’, at 5600m. An almost2km vertical climb over 40 tough kilometres.
I live in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal which is great cycling country, within 10 minutes I can be bouncing along some of the finest single tracks in the province.
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