Leh and Ladakh – days 5 and 6 – to Hunder we go.. May 2017

Having had an antihistamine last night, I wake up late, at almost 7. We get ready, I skip a bath to favour my cold, which is not too troublesome except for a raw nose. Change and set out by 830. Nap on the way, much against my will, because the beauty of these mountains is something I will never get over…

 We stop at a couple of places to take photographs. At one place is a large sign in the middle of literally nowhere, proclaiming proudly a ” Mighty Bombers Dosa Stall”! Of course we have to stop! A bunch of soldiers from the south, from Tamilnadu, Hyderabad, Karnataka and Maharashtra are here, homesick for a taste of how mother made it.

 PS strikes up a conversation with them and they are happy to hear Tamil and Telugu so far from home…the Telugu from me as my dear husband, after over three decades of being married, still is completely lost!

 We are not hungry but he orders dosas and vadai anyway…we take photographs with the soldiers. When we ask for the bill, they absolutely refuse, insisting they we are their guests. We are deeply touched and go away with a heart even more full of admiration for these hardy soldiers who guard our borders in the most unimaginably harsh conditions, staying not just true to their colours but also managing to stay cheerful and hospitable through it. Jai Hind!

 We reach and I promptly go to bed to nurse my cold. PS sets off to see the sand dunes and the Bactrian double humped camels.

 Early dinner and bed again- we are faithfully following our Madras regimen here too! Tonight there is an interruption however. Wake up at about 11 with a tummy ache. The next few hours are best not remembered….my stomach heaves up EVERYTHING, it feels like, including itself! Luckily am carrying pills for this so with medication, drop off to sleep for a couple of hours from 4 in the morning. Wake up feeling pretty sick still but Hunder, where we are staying, in the middle of the great Himalayan desert is so cold, my brains feel like congealed eggs!

 We decide to move on…am a little apprehensive as we need to cross the Khardungla pass on our way back to Leh. Our driver and factotum, Ali is very concerned about my health and does everything he can to make me comfortable, including tying up my shoelaces, which have come undone….am very embarrassed but also too dehydrated to care any more! We reach North Pullu, where the traffic up and down is regulated on this narrow and highly dangerous road. We are told that we might have to wait for two hours! But PS does his magic talking up bit and a couple of the police guys, one incidentally from Vellore in Tamilnadu and very happy to talk in Tamil and his boss come up to check on me. They decide to give me a pass on medical grounds and accompanied by another army guy, we set off. We reach the pass finally and the medical centre chaps attend to me immediately and with great skill. Some dehydration and low oxygen. Matters are soon set right. But as I sit in their little tin shack, breathing in oxygen, am quite horrified by the primitivity of the conditions they live in. Erratic power, a diesel set spewing out sickening fumes and the guys are expected to cook their own meals on the most basic of equipment! My respect for the brave men and women of our armed forces goes up a million fold. They live and work in the harshest of weather conditions in the world, with the most basic of amenities and are still cheerfully prepared to lay down their lives for the nation! PS is deeply moved and thanks every army guy we meet, for their dedication…

 We finally reach Leh at about half past two and I am happy to collapse on my bed in front of a heater! Before that though, I do notice the paintings in the lobby…all over and about as brilliantly coloured as possible…hmmm…but the room is comfortable..and that’s all I care about. Manage a couple of spoons of rice, dal and curd, my first food in 24 hours and crash for a couple of hours…

Food… to follow!