Ladakh - Land Of The Passes
Glenn Guy and friends surrounded by Buddhist prayer flags over looking Leh, Ladakh. Canon F1 camera.
What's Your Comfort Zone?
The weather has cooled down over recent weeks in Melbourne, Australia. What's more the heater in my lounge room is on the fritz. Looks like I can't get a technician over until Tuesday. Still it's not all that bad and the less than toasty temperature at home reminds me of my early days traveling.
Memories of Days Past
My very first trip of 3 1/2 months in 1988 including a visit to Ladakh (land of the passes) on the Tibetan plateau in the far north of India. The guesthouse I was staying in cost just a couple bucks a night. An old granny would bake flat bread on an ancient stove and you'd smear it with home made apricot jam. The jam was made from fruit from the nearby Nubra Valley (a disputed border region that, back then, tourists were not permitted to visit).
Here's to Old Friends
Prior to breakfast I'd be out and about making photos, most of which were ruined due to both camera and (film) processing related issues. The above image is one of the few that survived. It features me (I'm the one in green) and some friends on a hilltop over looking the capital Leh. There are Buddhist prayer flags flapping about in the wind.
After breakfast we'd line up for a shower. It was rustic to say the least. The water, coming directly from snow melt from the surrounding mountains, was carted by hand by an old granny from an outlet several blocks away. She was well into her 60's but was as tough as old boots. She'd carry the water in a large metal jerry can, secured with rope around her shoulders. You just knew she'd be able to chew you up and spit you out again without raising a sweat. She most certainly had my respect.
As the water was poured into a large 44 gallon drum on top of the shower block the idea was to delay the shower for as long as possible, without waiting for the day's water to run out, in the hope that it would be heated by the sun's rays. It probably did take the edge off, but boy oh boy was it cold. Talk about a bracing experience. I never got out of that shower without a headache. Kind of like the one you'd get as a kid after eating ice cream too fast. But, rather than based around the forehead, this one was centered around the skull with the rest of the body encased in a dull ache.
For years afterwards I used to spend the last few minutes of my daily shower, even in winter time, under cold water in the hope that it would help me acclimatize to those horrible Himalayan shower experiences. It never did, though I'd like to think it was still beneficial.
It's interesting that not long after my heater went on the blink that I began, unplanned, to look back through my picture archive. And the above photo is the result.
I have many great memories from my first overseas trip in 1988. It's true to say that it changed my life. And after the initial disappointment associated with losing most of my photos I determined to return again next year, which I did. And I've kept at it ever since. Photography hasn't just recorded my travel experiences, it's also informed and enhanced them. I can barely imagine traveling without my camera gear. Like would definitely be easier, but no where need as exciting.
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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru