My longest journey was started from the USA via New Delhi and had ended up Leh Ladakh. After a working 12 hours night shift, I took my flight around 1300 pm from Chicago to New Delhi. The non-stop Indian airlines took only 14 hrs to reach India from Chicago. I told the air hostesses not to wake me up for food or anything. Being a frequent flyer, they were pretty familiar with me. The airlines’ staff was always nice to me possible being not an annoying passenger or helping them to handle for any unexpected medical situation. So, The air staff woke me up when the plane landed at New Delhi airport.
As always, Altaf was waiting for me at the international airport. We rested in the hotel then the next day we had started our long journey in a Jeep from New Delhi via Punjab to JK. We had stopped to eat the food at Hiwali which he still remembers how good the food was. On our way, we had stopped briefly to visit a friend.
Altaf was the only driver. I can’t drive in India. The drivers in India are brave and they know how to drive without rule and regulations. So, I felt sorry for him but he loves driving. Of course, he doesn’t like having a driver or any of his bodyguards following us. We never liked anybody sitting between us. We loved our non-stop conversation. So, the journey always becomes easy and wonderful when you are with your loved one. Both of us always talked endlessly. We could never become bored talking to each other. we have continued to drive until we reached Jammu where had spent a night.
Early morning, we had started to drive again toward JK. we did spend a night at friend’s hotel in Sonmarg. We did drive from New Delhi to Sonmarg in the past but this time journey was continued until Ladakh. The real journey was started from Sonmarg to Kargil and Leh. No doubt, Altaf is a very good driver especially driving on those hilly roads. I get scared from the heights, so I tried not to look down so I kept myself busy talking to him. He had kept insisting me to enjoy the view, which I did. but I did not dare to look down into the valley. We had made some small stops for tea breaks. Via Kargal, we reached at Leh where we stopped for the night at Mantra. The winter was ready to start. People were coming down the hill but both of us were crazy who was going up toward the hill. Both of us are very well known to do things unexpectedly and never go according to the plan. Sometimes, I used to think why the hell we waste our time making a plan when we won’t follow.
It was very cold out there, but I enjoyed having dinner outside in the open sky. I still miss the lemon hot tea which I had twice to keep myself warm. We had dinner with a private contractor for the army who was also the owner of the restaurant. He had provided a very rich history of Leh. Altaf is very good about history though. History is always a very boring subject for me, but Kashmir is my soul, so knowing the history of Kashmir is always very interesting. It was always fun to fight with him when I used to claim that JK belongs to the Sikh Kingdom. Of course, he doesn’t end until he feels satisfied that JK belongs to them.
After spending a night at Mantra Cottage in Leh, the next day again we had started our journey to Ladakh. The entire journey was interesting. You could not be bored at looking at those beautiful mountains and geophysics. I could still remember each moment of that journey. Our planning was to camp somewhere but we did not do it. we never do the things as we plan. So, it was not something new.
We have seen many local attractions on our way such as the world’s highest pass, Buddha temple, lakes, etc. I had captured all the beauty of paradise on the camera. I have captured all the memories in my brain.
We stopped at Hunder a small town of Ladakh. The first time, I had seen a double hump camel. The camel living in cold weather instead of desert, it was news to me. Altaf had told me the entire story behind when and how the camel had ended up to live in the cold weather. The story of the salt road which was once an only way of transportation between Russia, and to rest of East.
However, living in “the Organic Retreat’ hotel in the wilderness was another wonderful experience.
The organic retreat is a luxury tent house hotel. Don’t get confused looking from the outside, inside of the tent is so beautiful, homely, and comfortable. I used to see in the movies that how old times the kings had settled their camp in nowhere so, I had enjoyed a similar experience in the Organic Retreat Hotel. After 11 pm there will be no electricity, heat or hot water. “so highly advised not to go alone, go with your loved one so you can cuddle with each other, and don’t drink much water so you don’t want to have to get up using the bathroom”. Living without electricity and all those modern amenities was a wonderful experience. In the morning, of course, you will have access to those modern amenities.
I didn’t want to get up in the morning but Altaf was very good to get up on time and leave. We left early morning to see the lake Pangong Tso which India shares with China. India only has one-third of the lake, rest of the lake is in Tibet controlled by China. The lake is wonderful. The water is so clean that you could see the surface of the lake. There is another lake, Tsomoriri Lake where we just stopped for while to eat our breakfast. It was very good experience sitting by the lake both of us alone, eating the food, which was packed by the Organic Retreat’s staff.
We were in the places where we were closer to Beijing than New Delhi. We went to many other places.
Back at Hunder, I met a monk at Budha Disket Monastery temple who was not very friendly, I also met a dog there which I loved so much. The dog knew well that Altaf doesn’t like dogs, so my new doggy friend had found Altaf’s shoe to pee into it, which had made my day.
We started back and was stopped at the same places and other places. I am not good with high altitudes which had given me a severe occipital headache. I could see the fear in his eyes. The headache was so severe I could feel the pulses with my hands. Altaf had felt bouncing pulses when I rested my head on his arm. I slept but he could not sleep. I could have a possible hemorrhagic stroke. But also, I was happy going to die in the arms of the man I love. next day, he called me Kamini because I slept and he kept looking at me in case I would die in my sleep. Now I wish that I were dead that day.
We did stay a couple of days more at Sonamarg before I started my journey back from JK to New Delhi and then back to the USA. Altaf came along with me to New Delhi from where I had started my journey alone to Chicago.
Of course, I was treated with high doses of steroids. MRI of the brain was done which shows my blood vessels were swollen and inflamed but was not ruptured. However, despite my medical condition, it was my first and last best long journey which I had enjoyed.