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Ladakh 2014 – Final Phase (Stok in 24 Hrs)

Phase 3 – Boredom & Stok

Since I was able to attempt both of my objectives near Korzok in good time and complete both, the Merkha Valley and the Tso Moriri legs of my trip well within the time I had allotted them, I was back to Leh on the 20th. I had originally planned to be back by the 23rd, and fly out after a rest day at Leh. But I probably acclimatised very well and was able to achieve all the objectives in quick time; to my disadvantage really, because now I had 5 days to kill in Leh; well 4 days at least, since I would fly out on the 25th. Since I have been to Leh so many times and since it is such a small place that I have probably visited every street and alley on so many occasions; I was beginning to freak out at the prospect of not having anything to do over the next 4 or 5 days. 20th was no problem, because I reached Leh at about 5 in the evening. I had called John from somewhere near Choglamser, so he was able to arrange a room for me. I had a nice shower and was out to have dinner. John had to visit his friend for a little Nepalese get together. It was a community thing. I went to the market place and got a shave since I was among civilized folks for the next few days. I had my favourite apricot+seabuckberry juice before and after dinner. A lot of people would be a little put off by its tangy sour taste; not me. I absolutely love the concoction. Anyways, after dinner I walked around the market place, bought some fruits and returned to my room by 9. I had some difficulty falling asleep but fell asleep eventually and I think I slept well. The torment was to begin the next morning.

I woke up quite early. I heard Johns voice in the lobby, so I went down to the lobby. He was talking to a guest while I was checking out a Scooter parked in the guest house. John told me that it belonged to a friend who gave it to him, the night gone by, at the party, since it was too late. It was the same model which my father once had. My father had owned a number of scooters since the 80’s; Vijay Super, Bajaj Chetak, LML Vespa and so on. I remember, when I was 6, my father once let me handle the accelerator while he changed the gears for me. So I just couldn’t NOT look at it. I asked John if I could check it out. He said that I could actually ride the scooter. I was ecstatic. I jumped on it like a monkey and took off. I can say for sure, that those were the best 5 minutes of my whole time in Leh during the trip. I thanked John for the ride. He asked me about breakfast and told me that he would have to go downtown to return the scooter to his friend. I couldn’t resist a second ride. So we were off to his friends restaurant in 5 minutes. I had some lemon & honey tea while John had some black tea. While we were talking, one of Johns pretty acquaintances came in for breakfast. Her name was Anna and I think she must have been in her 50s. She was Italian and on hearing about my mountaineering trip, she began talking about the place she grew up in; apparently the place is surrounded by mountains and is a haven for mountaineers. Anna was witty and she had a sense of humor and it was hard for me to not pay attention to her alluring Italian accent. We hung around for a while and then walked back to the guest house. On the way back, I stopped at a bakery to pick a doughnut for me and a couple of cookies for John and his missus, since he told me he couldn’t finish the fairly large doughnut. I was hungry, so I just gobbled up my doughnut which was covered with chocolate all over.

At the guest house, I had nothing to do and thus began the torturous run of boredom for me. I spent some time browsing, courtesy the wi-fi from the office near our guest house, had some lunch and even walked around town for some time. It was no good. Then I was reminded something that could keep me occupied. The pinhole in my shell pant was bothering me. So I went to the market place to look for a patch of gore-tex or similar fabric that I could glue to my pant. Surprisingly nobody in Leh had it or had even heard of such a thing. My transportation sack which I use to cover my rucksack during flights also had a few tiny holes. So I took the sack to a cobbler and while he was working on my sack, we started talking and that is when he mentioned a shop in the old market which stocked waterproof fabric that could be appropriate for my shell pant. I was elated. The hole was very tiny, but as long as I knew that it was there, I wouldn’t be able to sleep well becauseI have a tendency to obsess with things dear to me. After patching up my transportation sack, I had some dinner and walked around the market place. It was beginning to get chilly which is normally the case in ladakh towards the end of august. By 9 I was at the guest house and I sat at the balcony for an hour browsing.

On the 21st, I woke up late and had some tasty Aloo Paratha with pickle and curd for breakfast at a restaurant called Gohil. It was by far the best breakfast I had in Leh; and it beat the Spanish Breakfast at Ooh La La (which I liked) hands down. After breakfast I went to the old market place, which is a part of Leh that I have seldom visited. The old market is a place which probably runs on a parallel system that is quite unlike the main market. Everything in the old market is laid-back.The shops are different, the people visiting these shops are different and the whole set up has an easy going pace. I was able to track down the shop I was looking for and bought a piece of waterproof fabric. I walked around the old market for a few minutes just to let it sink in my system and then went back to the room to fetch my shell pant. I rushed to the cobbler to fix the pin hole and the guy turned out to be a clown. I had to do everything; I had to cut the patch, apply the glue and paste the patch to the pant because the guy was useless and he did nothing. I don’t even know why I had to pay him.

Anyways, since my pant was nicely patched up, I was feeling much better. So I went to the guest house and John was at the entrance. Since my trip was over, or so I thought, I invited Jo