Curry in a hurry in Leh
Manali (India) to Leh (India), Aug-22-07 / Sep-08-07
It is September 8th and we are at this moment in Leh, in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in the very northwest of India. It is going a little bit better with us. We have used the two weeks that we are in Leh now, to get fit again. The flu that we had in McLeod Ganj was followed up by diarrhoea, also called derisively “curry in a hurry” by many travellers in India.

During our first week in Leh, we thought that it would go away by itself. It did also come by itself. But after a week of ups and downs (some bad days, but also some good days), we decided to go to the doctor. After asking around, we heard that Dr. Norboo would be a good choice for foreign travellers. We had to go to a small pharmacy were we got a number, after which we had to queue with some local people. After half an hour it was our turn. We went to the doctor for Ivonne, because she was feeling bad that day. Edwin had a better day, so we hoped that it would go better and better from that day on. The doctor did some standard actions (like measuring blood pressure and listening to the intestines) and came to the conclusion that Ivonne had to go to the hospital to get extra liquid via an infusion. Did we hear this right? Yes, she had to go to the hospital because she was dehydrated. This diagnosis was way too premature. She could not be dehydrated because she had no acute diarrhoea, vomited only once, and sill drank a lot. After we said to the doctor that the hospital was no option for us, he gave us the following list of medicines: ORS (salt-sugar solution to keep liquid in the body and to get some energy), a stomach gel to accept food better, pills against vomiting, painkillers just in case and of course an antibiotic for 5 days. We got all these medicines for two persons because Edwin had the same trouble. The price for all the medicines, including the consult of the doctor cost us 6 Euro (approx. US$ 8). Eventually we only used the antibiotic.

A young Indian couple enjoys the view from the Shanti Stupa in Leh.
From the day we started with the antibiotic, we felt better and better. Only Edwin had two really bad days because he eat bad food in one of the restaurants in Leh. Leh is “famous” for the bad food in the restaurants. We have the idea that many travellers have problems with their health in Leh, caused by the bad food. Most people we spoke were sick for some days during their stay, and we even saw people spontaneous vomiting in the streets. In our opinion, the bad food is partly caused by the fact that the menus of the restaurants are way to extensive. All restaurants compete for the same tourists and the strategy to do this, is to offer a very broad range of food. You can really eat everything here, from Indian and Tibetan, to Korean and even Israeli food. It is impossible for the restaurants to keep fresh ingredients for all these dishes. Besides that, Leh is frequently hit by power cuts, making it impossible to keep the ingredients cool. But ok, it is better with us now and we try to be as careful as possible with food. Meat is out of the question for us in Leh. We are now vegetarians for the time being.

Since we feel better again, we are also more active. We visited some nice monasteries last week (see also the photo-impression about the Spituk Monastery) and did also some hiking again. Besides that, the Ladakh festival started at September 1st (end September 15th). This festival gives you the possibility to see some cultural aspects of Ladakh, by means of music concerts, mask dances, polo matched and archery. In our opinion, the festival is a disappointment. It is specially made for the tourists (to extend the tourist season with two weeks) and the acts are not authentic. The combination of the huge number of tourists and the fact that the artists just do their ‘show’, gives us the feeling to be in a theme park. Besides that, many of the tourists in Leh have absolutely no respect for the local culture or didn’t prepare themselves for a visit to Buddhist Ladakh (see also the column: “Lack of respect in Ladakh”). Leh is not really a place for us. But on the other hand, there were the masses of the tourists go, must be something to see. And that is absolutely true. The scenery of Ladakh is fabulous. Ladakh means “land of the high passes”, which means that you can make great trekkings in where you have to cross passes of more than 5000 metres.

A polo match during the Ladakh festival in Leh.

The only reason for us to stay in Leh is to do a trekking. It was impossible to trek last weeks because of our health, but now we are fit again. We decided to do a trekking of 12 days, starting near Leh (at Hemis) and ending at Moriri Lake (Tso Moriri). The trekking is extra interesting because we are at the end of the tourist season. That means that the prices are more interesting and more important, that there are almost no other travellers on the trails. The end of the tourist season also means that most restaurants and hotels close their doors at September 15th and will only open again in May next year. From September 15th on, there is also a chance that you can not leave Ladakh anymore by land. Because of the snowfall, passes can be closed, which means that flying is the only possibility to get into, or get out of Ladakh. We start our trekking on September 9th. Much later is not possible because snow can make passes impassable. During our trek we will cross passes of more than 5400 and 5500 metres. The trekking is like a small expedition. Besides ourselves, we also take a guide, cook, horse man and five horses with us. The horses will we used to carry the equipment like tent, kitchen, food and backpacks. We really look forward to the trekking and we hope that the passes will still be open. We heard that there is already snow on the highest passes, but that is no problem yet. We expect to be back in Leh around September 21st and than we will see how we can leave Leh, by bus or plane. But that is an issue for later. First we go to the mountains!


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