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  • Writer's pictureVoita

Rubbing shoulders with the military

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

The more I learn of the region - and now I don't mean the patriotic sentiment with which both Kashmeri and Ladakhi reminisce of time when their lands were unified - the more two things are becoming clear.

First, 17.000 feet is where the fun begins and while it doesn't cap as high as in Sagarmatha, the joy spreads out over a much larger area, with more trekking and climbing possibilities.

Second, when I'm coming back to Himalayas in 2026 (given I visited in 2017, 2020 and now 2023 it seems a fair bet), Ladakh will be a top priority. Following an example of a young dude who crossed ridges in Pakistan, spending weeks above 20.000 feet, I'll bring a tent and go hang.

no cats in Leh, you gonna have to put up with dogs <3

The morning I spent perched on a rock. It sits right at the feet of Leh's runway, and planes fly almost at eye level.

Photographing planes is a cool hobby. You chill in shade for most of the time, only hastily running out for half a minute every here and there.

Pictures are now online, Business Class exclusive. DM if you should have access, but don't. If you don't have BC, check out the first two dozen wallpaper worthy free to see pictures in the photostream =)

Spituk monastery and the airport

Sprinkled among the public flights are military craft. Early morn jets, followed by a morning bomber, a mid-morning bomber and few drones the size of a small glider, with a helicopter circling the area all morning.

spilling military secrets, are you?

this is essentially a public knowledge, every Chinese can see it

views from the monastery

The original occupant of the rock is a nice Buddhist monastery, to which I retreated just as lunch was being served. Some of the friendly monks extended an invitation to me. At first I hesitated, but the offer was patiently repeated.

And a Third offer, or request, is a sacred pact, an invocation of gods if you will, and to decline would mean to spurr the universe itself.

It was one of the best thalis I've ever had.

rare occasion when photos are silently tolerated

You cannot be Japanese unless you grew up in Japan. Similarly you cannot be a Buddhist monk unless you grew up being one. We can change our skin, but not our hearts, the formative core of our identity. But it sure is nice to listen to the prayers (short BC excl. video) and luckily for us white heathens, there are as many paths to enlightenment as there are to Rome.

Hall of Fame

equal entry fee... but you MUST pay with Indian card :D

In a stark contrast I went to a military museum in the afternoon, mostly because it was in the area. Apart from brief history of Ladakh it contains accounts of Indian military prowess and, aware of Indian nationalism, I am very suspicious of any claims the army makes. But hats off to the guys on duty in places up to 21.000 feet.

for centuries contested region

for hungry eyes

The Spituk Monastery and the Hall of Fame are some 4 miles out of Leh. Far enough to force me out of the sun and onto a bus. I managed to fall asleep every time. It's been a lazy day. (But I managed to process all the pictures :)

marathon flyers

Leh Main gate

PS.: the proverb in excerpt is traditional Ladakhi, which the army commandeered.

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