Oct 102016

How I spent my first day in Leh trying to avoid AMS 

So this is a monologue and some boring details about my first day in Leh. Those of you looking for something interesting about “ How going to Leh changed my life” kind of post, please stop reading right here, remember, this is desi Traveler Blog not desi Giani Baba blog.

Anyways those of you still with me let us begin my Leh Yatra:

It was not my first trip to high altitude, but first via a flight. Experienced Himalayan explorers say a road trip acclimatize you better to the high altitude and low oxygen levels. I slept most of the journey from Delhi to Leh as I have not slept the night before fearing I may miss my early morning Delhi to Leh flight.

I got up when the pilot was announced

“ Those of you who are sitting on the right side of the plane can see in the distance the famous Tso Mori Lake” as if on cue I got out of my slumber and pressed my nose against the glass window of the airplane.

But no matter how hard I pressed my nose against the glass the lake continued to slip away in the horizon and thus ladies and gentlemen there is no picture of “ Tso Mori” from the plane in this post. And for some reason the pilots are not allowed to stop planes mid way so that people can click pictures. But now that I was wide awake and the greatest mountains on earth right below our flight path, I became what some would categorize as Click happy, mobile photographer and one of the pictures of Himalayas clicked from the flight is given below.

Just before we landed at the Leh Airport, we heard the announcement that it is a military airport and clicking pictures in prohibited. But I was paying more attention to the other announcement about AMS. So the cabin crew announced that first day we should take rest and not exert ourselves.

At the airport also there were signs that you are now in a high altitude area and you should take complete rest to avoid AMS or Altitude Mountain Sickness. Later I learned that one of the journalists who traveled with us in same flight had to be hospitalized as she could not cope with the AMS.

In one of my previous visit to Spiti, which is at almost same height as Ladakh, I had seen a fellow traveler collapse due to AMS at Kunzum Pass. Ever since I have feared AMS, more so when I read the book by highly experienced mountain traveler Rishad Saam Mehta – Hot Tea Across India , in which he shares his experience with AMS. So as a relative newbie to high altitude Himalayas I was trying my best to avoid AMS.

I cannot share any pictures of the airport as I did not click any ( remember guys Leh Airport is military airport, so all those selfies you clicked can land you in trouble so stop doing it till you are in Leh Airport )

As I was waiting for my luggage to arrive, I read the posts about AMS and how to cope with it. One of the suggestions was to eat something light.  I really liked this suggestion as I was hungry and outside the airport waiting for my car to arrive, I saw a little snack booth, selling my favorite street snack- SAMOSA, I screamed at the top of my voice, scaring the petite girl at the snack counter and everybody who was not an Indian  around me assumed that SAMOSA must be something really exotic that this little desi guy was so excited about. So they all said, “We also want a SAMOSA”.

But as I looked at the expression of the scared samosa girl I realized my ears have not got used to the different in air pressure hence I was not hearing properly and hence screaming at top of my voice. So I blew some air pressure in my ears by keeping my nose closed to equalize the pressure and soon things were better. I thanked the petite girl selling samosa and chai as politely as possible.

Samosa Street food of India

It was not a spectactular scenery but a “SAMOSA”, was my first picture in Leh

Feedback about the Samosa sold at Leh Airport: If you can get two get two as it is is too good and much better than most samosas you get in Delhi. It is a little  tamed down version for the caravans of backpackers from western world who arrive, but besides that the Samosa at Leh airport snacks counter you get is really good.

Soon we were on our journey towards our hotel cum guesthouse cum base camp. I was in a second-floor room and while the hotel staff climbed the two floors with my suitcase and camera bag as if going for a stroll in the garden, I was struggling to climb even 3 stairs without struggling for air and my head spinning. AMS I told myself, I must rest.  So after breakfast I rested, then after lunch again I rested, I rested so much on that morning that I got restless resting.

Blue Skies of Leh

Scenery from our hotel : I soon made up for not clicking earlier, thanks to the energy provided by ” SAMOSA”

Blue skies with cloud in Leh

The scene as seen from my room is it not scenic ?

So we all decided to walk till the Leh Market about 40 minutes walk if you are desi Traveler, and about 10 minutes if you are a Ladakhi. I walked slowly behind the group, stopping to catch my breath and compose myself. Slowly I reached the Leh Market which has some shops selling curios and souvenirs, dry fruits and some cafes on the top floor. There is also a post office that I am sure plays a big role in bringing letters for our Jawans on the front. Even in this age of SMS , MMS and WhatsApp etc. a letter from  home has a value that no message via a smartphone can deliver. Remember those days when we gave cards to girls in our school and college after sprinkling it with perfume ? Don’t remember ? You must be one of those youngsters who has not seen the good old days. Anyways let me continue further towards the Leh market.

Leh Post Office Pincode

Leh Post Office: When was the last time you wrote a letter ?

I soon befriended some vegetable sellers as my first friends in Leh. All of them were used to posing for tourists and some of them even suggested that I should go to hell as she was very busy selling vegetables. Fair point I said and moved towards her friends. But look at the vegetables you get in Leh. I have never tasted such juicy carrots or seen such King Kong size Radishes.

Fresh vegetables grown in Leh

Fresh Vegetables in Leh Market: Just look at the colors and size

The cauliflowers were more like Football heads and the apples redder than a blazing sun in Rann of Kutch.  One of the chattier vegetable sellers told me that they are all farmers from local villages and come to sell whatever they harvest in the morning. Mostly they sell everything and whoever little is left is used to make dinner.

Vegetable seller portrait Leh India

I am bored of getting clicked

Vegetable seller portrait Leh India

OK, if you insist you can click one picture

Vegetable seller portrait Leh India

Yes, she loved getting clicked as much as l love clicking portraits. Thank god for such awesome people, may their tribe increase

Fruit Seller from Kashmir in Leh India

Things are slow in Srinagar so I have set up business in Leh

While coming back I clicked some small curious being sold by local as well as Tibetan women in the market.  After spending about 2 hours just moving from one sunny spot to another at a snail’s pace we decided to go back to our hotel.

When I was sipping my evening tea in the hotel our server asked me what would you like to have in dinner sir, without a thought I said “ Make some fresh vegetables for me”

Tibetan curio in Leh Market

Curio shopping in Leh

As I was climbing the stairs to my room I was already feeling better and thinking about the veggies that I was looking forward to eating in dinner.

So this is how my dear reader I spent my first day in Leh after arriving by flight from Delhi. By next morning I was ready to explore further and was feeling totally refreshed after a good night’s sleep.

Let me give you the best suggestion about how to cope with AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness: Well the best way to cope with AMS or acute mountain sickness is to not let it happen. Prevention is better than cure is an old saying and is most appropriate in the case of AMS as once you get AMS your trip will be ruined. So listen to what the websites, the cabin crew of the flight and the posters at the Leh airport tell you about AMS. Take it easy on the first day, rest as much as possible do not exert you.  I walked in 40 minutes what was a walk of about 10 minutes and took it as slowly as possible. I was ok , but remember each body is different so take care enjoy your trip to Leh.

Naropa Festival 2016

I was in Leh to attend Naropa Festival 2016

Thus ended my day one in Leh, where I was a media guest on invitation of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa to cover the Naropa Festival 2016. Watch this space for more about the Kumbh Mela of Himalayas and if you do not want to miss the coming posts about Naropa Festival 2016, you should consider subscribing to desi Traveler Blog.  

A Note for readers about AMS:  Dear reader this is a layman’s account of his worries about AMS and not medical advice, please consult a qualified doctor if you want to know more about AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness.

Portrait of a Lama

A Lama jee in deep thoughts in Leh Market.

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  9 Responses to “My First Day in Leh: Overcoming Fears of AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness”

Comments (8) Pingbacks (1)
  1. This is a kind of post I would love to read again and again. Full of humor, no Gyan. What we were advised during our EBC trek was that don’t sleep/ rest inside your lodge room during day time, also don’t overdo anything that may cause exhaustion. So I think your walk was a good idea.

    • Dear Anupam: Coming from a seasoned trekker and somebody who has completed EBC, this is a great compliment. As we took an early morning flight and were very sleepy the seasoned guy in our group suggested we go for a short walk without exerting ourselves. Thanks a lot 🙂

  2. I love your sense of humor Prasad! You make even the most mundane interesting! I belong to the age when we got and gave cards! 😉 Thank you for refreshing those memories. Your first day sounds exactly like my first day in Ladakh many, many years back. We just rested at the hotel and went to Shanti Stupa which was very close to our guesthouse. Our guesthouse had a little kitchen garden and the food they made using the fresh vegetables was just amazing!

  3. As always I just love reading you posts. They are always enjoyable and fun to read. The pictures are beautiful… specially the view from you room and bored vendor lady 🙂 I was just waiting for your post on Leh 🙂

  4. And I added some glitters to the letters so when she opened it would give me a an extra brownie points…

    Great writeup, I usually struggle with AMS most of the time, I mean pre AMS symptoms with bad headaches and slight puking….

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