For the second consecutive year I have been a able to tick off a ‘To do’ from my bucket list. The common thing between the two is that both involved high altitude. Last year I jumped out of a plane at 11,000 ft, & this year I traveled up to 18,380 ft.
This post captures the planning of my most-awaited and longest in the planning holiday to Leh.
We* started planning this holiday in November 2014.(*We = My wife Nidhi and my friends Tarrun & Anu). While the initial plan was to drive down from Manali to Leh in June (the roads don’t open until then), we had to move to Plan B (fly down from Delhi to Leh in May) because my son’s school reopens in June. May marks the beginning of the holiday season in Leh.
Flights: Booking the flights was the easy part, though I later discovered that given the limited number of flights flying out from Delhi to Leh & back, it is best to book the tickets well in advance for two reasons:
- Price of ticket: While I booked a return ticket for a little over Rs.17k per person (in December), the prices were soaring well above 30k closer to the date
- Availability: I overheard someone say that he is taking a bus from Leh to Jammu and will then catch a flight to Delhi from there, because there were no seats available on the direct flights.
Hotels/camps: Leh has many options for accommodations and the options range from a few hundreds per night, to a few thousands. After researching the options on various travel sites (I find Trip advisor to be most reliable) and checking with people who had traveled to Leh, we finalized the itinerary and booked the hotels/camps in Leh (Hotel Lingzi), Nubra valley (Nubra Ethnic camp) and Pangong Lake (MarTseMik camping resort). Here again, because we booked the hotels early and for May (Peak season starts in June), we got some good discounts on the rates quoted. I transferred the advance amount online to confirm the three bookings.
Acclimatization: Unlike other holidays, this was one holiday where we did a lot of research (more than the usual). We not only looked up places to visit, things to do & where to eat, but also – how to get acclimatized, what could go wrong, what are the chances of something going wrong and what to do if something did. Summary of my findings:
- Take it slow: Given the altitude (11k ft), it is strongly recommended that you relax for a minimum of 1 day at your hotel (or go for a stroll to the nearby market) and eat light food (preferably vegetarian). Even day 2 should be spent in Leh (there are many places to see). Avoid going to higher altitude (Nubra, Pangong).
- High Altitude Sickness (HAS): People are different, and different people respond differently to high altitude (lack of oxygen). While some may do just fine (with some time spent acclimatizing), others may not. I heard stories of people flying back without stepping out of the airport, to others who had nose bleeding and terrible headaches. While there are prescribed medicines (The airport had a signage recommending Diamox), it’s best to check with your doctor before you travel. And remember – take it slow once you get to Leh. As a precaution we bought small, disposable oxygen cans (available at medical stores in Leh) for our travel to Nubra and Pangong, as we pass very high altitude on the way to both (18k & 17k respectively) . If not used, the oxygen cans can be returned to the store and you will get some amount back (paid Rs.450 to buy it, got Rs.300 back). It is also strongly recommended that you not spend more than 15-20 minutes at the high points (Khardung la & Chang la pass) and also not run around (no form of exertion).
Coming up next – ‘Trip to the barren paradise – Leh’.