Receiving oxygen improved my headache almost immediately.
Our travels started out benignly enough when we flew from Hyderabad to Srinigar in Kashmir on a Thursday. Altitude 5,200’ We were inundated with abnormal scads of traffic that our host said was due to Ramadan starting tomorrow, and people were out enjoying their last day before fasting. At one point, he left the car to see what was the hold-up.
We took a shikara to a quaint houseboat on tranquil Lake Nigeen where we passed a restful night. The ubiquitous houseboats stem from decades past when British citizens occupied the area, but weren’t allowed to own land, thus the water lodging.
Our local host, Bilal (Zubi’s brother, whom I befriended at Shilparamam,) and his cousin Rumi picked us up from the airport and showed us around their lovely city. Later that evening, we joined them at Bilal’s house for dinner to meet his most welcoming family and see the crafts collected and sold by his family. So many amazing, beautiful carpets with patterns so detailed you could spend hours just enjoying it. The truly refreshing aspect is the different shades displayed when viewed from opposite sides. If only we had more floor space at home, I’m pretty sure at least one of those spectacular pieces of art would have become ours.
Both Bilal and Rumi were scheduled to accompany us all the way to Leh, but they were called back to Hyderabad unexpectedly so we made our goodbyes and continued on with the driver they arranged.
Two days of travel with an otherworldly overnight in Lamayuru (Altitude: 11,500’)next to a monastery brought immense delight from the spectacular views of multi-hued rock formations, snow-capped mountains, and frozen glaciers transitioning into rushing waterfalls.
Relaxing in my toasty frog onesie
Seconds after moonset in Lamayuru
Upon arrival in Leh, Ladakh (Altitude: 11,500’) our driver brought us to purchase our inner line permits, required to visit the 2 places we planned for over the next few days.
Sunday at 7am we left for Pangong Lake with a new driver, Javed, (also a friend of Bilal’s.) 11+ hours round-trip of winding, bumpy roads and mountainous switchbacks made for a long, rough day.
The 3 Idiots cafe
yak yak yak
While the colorful lake and mountainous views wowed us, I’m not sure I’d choose to do it again knowing what would happen. Crossing over the 2nd highest motorable pass in the country (3rd in the world) took us up to an altitude of 17,688’
I’d already had some dizzy spells since Lamayuru and had been fighting a headache since then also, but after that drive, my head felt 3 times its normal size, I began throwing up, and I realized I was truly ill. So we cancelled our proposed trip to Nubra Valley and spent a few hours in the local hospital instead, diagnosed with Acute Mountain Sickness. Before beginning this portion of our trip, I looked up the recommended drugs to prevent AMS, and did not like the possible side effects. I try to avoid any drugs if at all possible. Ironically, the treatment for AMS is the same thing as the prevention, plus a steroid shot and oxygen. The best part about this visit (if there is a best part) is that we got to pre-purchase the meds, steroids, and sterilized needle ahead of time, all for a measly 36 rupees ($0.57) and only paid 200 rupees ($3.15) for the entire visit. Luckily, the doctor didn’t admit me overnight, provided I rent an oxygen bottle for overnight use and promise to rest for the next 24 hours. Total=$50.90 Done. Cheapest hospital visit I’ve ever had!