Friday, October 30, 2009

Passage to India IX

22 September
After the bone-breaking 358 km drive on the day before we needed some rest and decded to stay in Leh. The day started slowly, having literally good times...



...and some decent food in the Leh View restaurant.

In Leh, it is usually Leh that's being photographed...



...and people from Leh.

I liked this young lady in particular. It was about time to buy some presents for the folks back home and there was no shortage of money-spending opportunities. Prices are usually fixed in Leh but not with the street vendors, and she was great fun to bargain with.


And this lady was the owner of an internet café, a very kind person. I wanted to take a decent portrait of her, stretching her kindness and patience to the limits, and eventually she asked "why you need this photos?" I replied, I put them on the internet, people tell me they are wow great shots, and this makes me feel as if I would be a good photographer. She said "but why you photo me, I am not good in photos." I showed her the shots on LCD and told her, "Here you look calm and pensive....


...here you are lost in your thoughts...


...and here you look beautiful...


...you see how many different faces you have? You are like a real photo model, always different. You are much better than Aishwarya Rai. Because Aishwarya Rai has only one face in the movies, when she is looking worried with tears in her eye because she can't decide whom to marry. But you have many faces." To which she answered, "Who is Aishwarya Rai?"

I sighed, closed Firefox on my screen and left.

Anyway, two minutes later asked myself why graffittis look the same on the whole earth...

...and spent some time photographing this Tibetan doctor, to the great amusement of nearby shopkeepers...

...and of course everyone not quick enough to hide from my camera....


...and a nice lady selling me a yak-bone necklace painted blue to imitate turquoise. God, was I angry when I found out.


Now, the problem with Lehladakh (as Soni called it) is that coming here is like entering a carroussel in a Buddhist theme park. "You go Hemis gompa sir, Thikse gompa sir, Buddhist prayer meditation sir, Tibetan refugee camp handicraft centre sir give you good price." Problem Nr 1 was that I'm not interested in gompas. I went there to see people, catch moments, great lights, and not for sightseeing. Problem Nr 2 was that even if I wanted to see Thiksehemisalchigompa, we were not allowed to to this in our car - we had to rent a local car from the Ladakhi taxi maffia (LTM). We were assured that otherwise our Rajasthani jeep could experience some "problems", meaning not a breakdown on the roads but a rock in our windshield or knife in the tyre while we sleep; in a better case, we could have been simply refused to pass through a checkpoint maintained be the LTM. On hand hand, it is understandable that they don't want to lose business. On the other hand, it was clear that behind the happy-happy tashidelek jhuley jhuley atmosphere lots of greed is hidden. For example, there was our hotel manager. He did everything to force us into this game by recommending brutally overpriced ayurvedic massages and taxi services (causing him to become the first Ladakhi hearing the expression "menj a retkes picsába"), and the little bastard knew that we had no other chance than to accept (except the ayurvedic rip-offs). As our cellphones didn't work in Ladakh (in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, that is) he offered his own local card for extra money, which we also had to take. I hated his guts. Later I found some emotional text messages on his card: "You are our only son. Please come back to us. At least pick up phone." Reply: "I have nothing to talk with you". This made me sad and realise that he is only just a human being, having his own problems and troubles in life and deserves compassion. Another soul opened up before me when I read these messages and I really felt sorry for him and his troubles as a father. From then on, I treated him with more understanding and smiling and nicely and didn't sent him to the picsa again. But I still hated his greedy guts of course.

Anyway, the plan was to go to Nubra valley (what a wonderful name) and Pangong lake, as far as tourists are allowed towards the Shiatsen glacier and Tibet respectively. Fortunately Soni made his own research and found a car for less rupees than with the tourist agency we were pressed to use. This gave me a little bargaining advantage when I had a long and not too pleasant business discusson with the agency. I wasn't happy to being pushed into this deal by threats of the LTM and the bastards knew that I have to, otherwise no way to go except by bus (which didn't go to Pangong lake anyway). Eventually, after some mutual shouting and bitching, we agreed in 10.000 rupees for the five-day trip. I tried to look at the bright side: Soni can have a rest, we don't need to torture the Scorpio on those bad roads, and having a local driver who knows the way couldn't harm either. But Soni was sad. "You know sir, there is Khardung pass on the way, 5600 meters, highest motorable pass in the world and I was looking forward to drive over it". His dream was eventually to become true.

2 comments:

nagyerzsi said...

Áááá, nagyon jók a fotók és a szöveg is! Én is ebben a kajáldában voltam de sokszor Lehben, szörnyű, hogy nem ülök ott. Nagyon köszi ezt a blogot! Mostanában egész blogeső van (a ttied, Varanasi Varangyai, Indiában jártam, Namaste, nagyon élvezem). Végre nemcsak melózni kapcsolom be a laptopot.

Pataki Balázs said...

Annyira ne sajnáld - iszonyú gáz félig nyers húscafatokat bírtak adni seekh kebab helyett, nem is bírtam megenni és ezen a pincérek sármja meg a kilátás meg a Kingfisher sem segített... :)