At an altitude of 12,000mt above sea level, we really were meant to do as little as possible in the first 24 hours to acclimatise. I was keen to walk in the direction of a local monastery; I could see a mysterious old bridge, decorated heavily in bunting that I wanted to explore. Instead, we discussed all the possible activities on offer over the coming days and what I soon realised was, that there was no rigid structure. This way, it allowed for us to get lost wandering through local villages, spend time having tea with monks in the monastery or watching local ceremonies in Leh. Without this flexibility, we wouldn’t have had some of the local experiences we allowed ourselves to get into.
One fond memory of mine was the evening when one of the daughters in the family was explaining her wedding to us. Ladakhi women wear an attractive headgear called ‘perak’, made of black lambskin studded with semi-precious turquoise stones, covering the head like a cobra’s hood and tapering to a thin tail reaching down the back. The next thing we knew, we were prancing around her garden in all their best jewels and rich fabrics, having a photo shoot.
Each night, we’d dine in an authentic setting, my favourite being the cosy kitchen at Likhir House where I could interact with the chef, watch him cooking our Dahl’s and lamb, goat and vegetable curries – we were never short of exquisite food or our next cup of warm tea. Tika cooked endless curries and let me join in with the cooking. We would also wander around the garden looking for any spices to use.
Rudi, our guide was like an encyclopaedia. He fascinated me with his knowledge of ancient history and helped unravel the ancient stories of the many monasteries we visited. For a truly authentic trip, look no further than Shakti Ladakh.