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  • Writer's pictureJodie Mohrhardt

LADAKH, a city that rests just below the clouds


Today we woke up really early at 3:45 to catch an early 7am flight to Leh, Ladakh. We flew for only an hour and looking out the window got me super excited already. When we arrived we were surrounded by mountains and the hillsides of Ladakh. We made it to the guesthouse area around 7:30 but we needed to search a bit and barter a lot for a good deal. When we go ourselves situated we walked to the main bizarre where there was clearly something going on. There were monks everywhere and a red carpet laid down. We knew his holiness the Dali Lama was in Leh so maybe he was there. We didn’t see him though. We counted our losses and got to business on figuring some thing out. It’s like when you have relatives unexpectedly come into town and you have to quickly make a list of everything you need to get done and all the things you will do when they get there. (I wouldn’t know what that like but I’m guessing it’s similar) we knew we needed to acclimate because the city of leh is over 11,000ft. So what were we going to do for our 10 days? One of the thing that was on the must do list, was a trek through the Markha Valley. We originally planned on doing a 7 day trek which would have taken all our days after acclimating, but over some masala tea at the coffee house we decided to do a few other things and shorten the trek. The rest of the day involved quite a lot. Let me tell you, a lot happens in a day when you wake up before 4:00! Darja got acupuncture in her head, feet and hands to try to help her plantar fasciitis. We got Lehs best pastries to make her feel better afterward when she about vomited and passed out. Then we went to rent bikes from an awesome travel agency who totally hooked us up! He didn’t just rent us bikes at a killer deal he came with us and lead the way and drove the bike for darja through the rough parts of the city! His name was Dorge from YakTravel. We rode through the city, smaller but in a way just as scary as Hanoi. We went to the Tiksey Monastery and the Shey Palace to begin with. We chatted for a while with a very friendly monk (you honestly will NEVER find an unfriendly one) about the peacefulness of life. He asked me how much peace I have here. It was an interesting question that was hard to answer. We also went into the temples where we had to remove our shoes and be silent to see the large Buddha inside and of course I enter like a horse as I fall through a hole while reading the sign please be quiet and respectful! Yikes!!

It was really cool to be back here. About 8 years ago I was at this same spot in such a different place in my life. And now I am experiencing it from a whole new perspective, with all new people. It’s amazing the change and similarities it has. I’m also not with 14 kids which makes it nice.

All the above is part of the Tiksey Monastery. All the below images are from the Shey Palace.

As we make our way back Dorge takes us the scenic way above leh. It is incredible looking over the city an I d the Palace, it’s almost like a painting. We arrive at the Palace just as the sun is setting. I know I know, sunsets are sunsets! But this sunset was amazing the way that it fell across the many layers of mountains that seemed to go on forever. And then the Palace that was in from of all of them contrasted so intensely against the haze of the hills folding behind it. It was an incredible sight to see the colors bounce of the white Leh Palace walls as it changed from white to a golden pink color. The only thing that could have ended that motorcycle day trip of euphoria any better was if Dorge didn’t crash the bike with darja on the back heading back to the city!! It was more of a slide than a crash and everyone was perfectly okay, but definitely enough to bring us a few clouds down from cloud 9.

The night ended at a perfect recommendation of traditional non touristic Ladakh food. We had momo kothey, paneer Manchuria, thenthuk, and my favorite lemon ginger honey tea. It ended a great night and we were all ready for bed after a 19 hour run of fun! 

Life is like a photograph, you need the negatives to develop- as stated on a road sign 


The day started with us finally sleeping in a little bit until 8 and leaving for Nubra Valley. This is a place that I had been before and is well known for the way in which you must get there. I think If I would have remembered it more clearly I may have suggested a different place. They route to Nubra Valley is typically by passing the worlds highest motorway road. And it not like the world best cup of coffee with Will Ferrell in The movie Elf kind of way, it’s a 18,380ft. road that is called the Khardongla Pass. The thing that’s so bad about it, is that the road is so bumpy and slow and terrible to drive. It’s basically a one way road that has two way traffic that honestly no one should even drive on to begin with because of the number of craters in it. At one point the bumps literally made me bounce so far off my seat that my head nearly hit the ceiling. I would say I was wearing a seat belt but our taxi didn’t have any!!


Once past the rough road, literally, we made it to Disket Monastery and the big Buddha. At the Monastery the monks were rushing to make arrangements for the Dali Lama to come the next day. The Monastery was beautiful and full of life with tourists and monks. After that we snagged a hotel and went for a quick camel ride with some Kashmiri friends that we meet the day before. What are the chances we would be in the same place at the same time. The camel ride was a blast, they were two humped camels and we got to ride out into the sand dunes. It was sunset so it ended up being a good time for a ride in a place that’s so hot! The next day seemed a bit of a wash as we had to drive back over the pass again which took so much time. We did stop a few times to take some photos and climb even higher on the mountain pass.

The rest of the night was us trying to arrange a taxi for our trek in the morning, a bus to Manali for when we got back and getting a few other things like snacks and warm things for when we cross the mountain pass at 17,000 ft or more. We ended the night staying in one of the only places we could find available after checking 10 full hotels. 

I can see why it was empty. The floor was carpet that wasn’t even tacked down and also oddly wet. It had a bathroom with a nasty toilet that didn’t work and so much grime and mold on the walls that I would rather have peed outside and never stepped foot into the bathroom. It was by far the worst accommodations on this trip so far and I hope it stays that way! 

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