30/06/2018 - INDIA
Ladakh – the land of the high passes, in the north of India, a remote place in the Himalayas.
It was already the second time I visited this amazing and beautiful part of our planet. About 5 years ago I trekked for 3 weeks in this high alpine scenery. This time I came back to explore the monasteries and the far east a little bit further. The flight from Delhi to Leh, which is the capital of Ladakh, doesn’t even take 1.5 hours and you’ll not only land at 3500 m/11 500 ft above sea level but also in a whole different world. And there is not only one world: there is the massive presence of the Indian military as there are border issues with Pakistan in the northwest and with China in the northeast. With the military comes a very good infrastructure and with the newly build roads do come more and more tourists. Foreigners come to trek over high mountains and marvel around the monasteries, the Indian middle and upper classes come to escape the hardly bearable heat in the lower areas and hip adventurous Indian guys come to cruise the valleys with their awesome Royal Enfield motorbikes. Leh, with 15 000 people something you might call city, tries to serve to all these: hotels and guesthouses pop up, restaurant serve international cuisine …. it all comes along with the unavoidable: even more tourists, stalls that sell cheap tourist souvenirs, the lack of water, noise, fumes. Ladakh faces a huge challenge – what’s that place gonna be? How will the people of Ladakh deal with modernity that comes with infrastructure? It means a better health and education system, too. But what will be the impact on the area and their customs and way of life? Most of the Ladakhis are biased themself as they are very aware of the advances and probably even more of disadvantages.
And in all this mess of different worlds sit these meshmerizing monasteries like they did for centuries before: timeless, on top of a little mountain, with hundreds of steps to climb up to be closer to the sky.
It’s a bliss to travel the Indus valley and explore all of them, see how they still work and watch the monks doing their daily routine – sometimes you’ll see a young monk checking his phone, or you’ll see a bunch of monks in a small car speeding down the monastery to the village, but that doesn’t change the sincerity of the place.
When I explored the monasteries long enough I took a ride to the far East of Ladakh. And after hours on bumpy roads, after climbing passes and leaving the majority of people and motorbikes behind I finally stood at the shores of Tso Moriri.
A lake at the end of the world, in an area called Changtang, on the Tibetean plateau at 4500 m/14 800 ft above the sea, surrounded by snow capped mountains, with herderers in the distance that pass the grasslands with their yaks and goats … And I? I was stunned, amazed, blown away by the beauty and full with the peace of the scenery. This place in the north of the crazy Indian subcontinent is full of energy and it fills me with that much happiness and joy that is beyond the amount I normally feel in the mountains. Ladakh is a place to be and yes, I’ll be back.
The most well known place might be Hampi. This former capital of an old empire is dotted with numerous ruined temple complexes within a very scenic area. It looks as if giants had played with rocks and just left them where they fell. It’s a peaceful place and it’s relaxing to stroll for hours among those temples.
After marvelling around in magical Ladakh it was time to hit the ‚real‘ India! The province of Karnataka was waiting. Karnataka is a province in South India, that offers a lot of historical and religious sites and a spectacular contrast between the high-tech metropolis Bangalore and small villages and farmland in rural places.
Travelling in India might feel exhausting at first, but loosen up, let things happen, don’t expect anything and you’ll be rewarded by extraordinary experiences and situations. India is not just incredible but everything in between life and death. The contrasts between rich and poor, cities and villages are huge and yes, it takes energy to travel around … But from my point of view India is far, far from all those horror stories about females travelling in India people use to tell. Yes, I am very aware of the fact that India is the most dangerous country to live in for women, the public life is male dominated, females have hardly any rights and young kids are sent to beg.
I am aware of all that and I am aware of my privilege to come here and travel around. But I can’t save the world and maybe it has a small impact and empowers Indian women seeing me as a female travelling happily around … I am fascinated by India since the very first time I came here about 8 years ago. Something always pulls me back to here – it’s the colours, the food, the rich culture and history, the contrasts, the kind people, the landscapes and sceneries, I am fascinated by the religions, fascinated that you’re always within everything between earth and sky …. and there is something beyond the explainable that makes me wanting to come back to India over and over again.