Monday, July 28, 2008

Ladakh Trip: Day Seventeen. Return to Stok.

A long, leisurely walk back to Stok, where As and M, who have taken the last six days to freak out in shopping, setting contacts, and exploring the city.

We return to Ladakh Serai, where after a week, I finally have a full, regular, long hot shower. Emerge feeling extraordinarily evolved, glowing with cleanliness from within - it's like I've taken my soul through a car wash and a five-star spa.

A session in the afternoon with Godfather beer. Everyone knocked flat.

Evening, take St to Leh Market, where she makes up for the deprivations of the last week in a titanic explosion of retail therapy.
Ns decides to head to Dharamshala instead of staying with us; he's taking an overnight return Tavera cab to Manali, who will do the 48-hour trip in a screaming, terrifying, 14. We wish him the best and pray for his soul.

I pack by candlelight, dumping inessentials, guesstimating weight, etc, and sleep, to be woken up at 4 am for my flight. Luggage limit is 20 kg. My luggage weighs 19.8. Am I good or what?
The departure lounge has only foreigners.

The flight leaves on time - no bad-weather cancellations, which would have meant I get to see Kashmir with the rest of the group who's going on till there - until the engines roar, I get pushed back into my seat, and the holiday is finally over.

The last look back... icy peaks below. I feel... yes, sad that it's over finally... yet also, in some strange way, elated. This trip had been on my list of things to do for years. It's happened. And no way is this over. This has just been the beginning... and a list is unscrolling in my head, a list of names that ring with more cold, forbidding wastes, monasteries, peaks, valleys, walks, cold wind and warm fires...
The next 20 expeditions, from Kashmir to the Seven Sisters, are already being planned.


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