Route: Leh – Hall of Fame – Magnetic Hill – Indus Valley – Shey Monastery
We were supposed to leave at 8 am to Nubra valley via Khardung pass. But Shah was feeling even sicker than the previous day and when I told my agent Rigzin Dorge about him, he advised us not to take him with us as it is not safe to travel to high altitudes, and he also called the doctor. We were shocked when the doctor told us that Shah was suffering from High altitude pulmonary edema. The oxygen level in his body was below 35 where it has to be above 80 for being normal. So we had no choice but to take him to the hospital. Our agent was really helpful as he was the local guy and knew most of the people around. After the complete checkup the doctor said that his lungs are filled with fluids, and needs medical attention. Without wasting any time, he was hospitalized and provided with an oxygen mask supported by a couple of injections.
Tips from the doctor:
- It’s very common to have Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) for tourists in Leh, Ladakh. (where altitude varies from 11,500 ft to 19,000 ft)
- Atleast 24 hrs of complete rest is necessary to get acclimatized to the rarefied air in Leh.
- Never stay at night in the tents of Sarchu (4300m)(where we did!) or Pang (4500m), as it is too high (17,000 ft) and the oxygen level is very low. So it will not help the body to get acclimatized properly or it can worsen the AMS.
- Drink lots of water and black tea, it will help the body to accelerate the acclimatization process.
- It’s very common and easy to recover from AMS once treated, if ignored or left untreated, the altitude sickness may also result in death.
- The main symptoms of AMS are fatigue, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, confusion, difficulty in walking, rattling breath, and feeling generally extremely ill.
Me and Ruby was feeling bad for our friend, as we were waiting and waiting for this trip to happen for a long time which was even rescheduled a couple of times. Doctor assured that he will be fine by next morning. After taking him into the tourist ward (only to admit tourists with AMS), I went back to the hotel to pick Ruby and brought him lunch. After a while Rigzin asked us not to waste time staying at the hospital, when there are nurses to take care of Shaz, and both of us staying in there will make the ward crowded. Even Shaz wanted us to continue with our trip. But we were not feeling that great, seeing our friend in that situation. But Rigzin and Shaz insisted on and we decided to go for the local sightseeing, so that we can get back to our friend in the evening.
Our driver, Tashi got another job offer in a place called Far Far Away so he left and we ended up with a new driver – Sirjim, and thankfully he lasted for the rest of the trip. He was smart, talkative, friendly and knowledgeable. So he gave us couple of options for the sightseeing, in which we opted for the Hall of fame to be visited at first, and then Magnetic Hill and then the Indus valley and the Shey monastery on the way back.
Hall of Fame near Leh is worth a visit for every Indian citizen. It is a glorious museum constructed by the Indian army. You can see the memorabilia, eminent Indian military personalities with biographies, images and weapons used during Kargil war and belongings of enemy soldiers found at war site.
Another section of this building is entirely dedicated to Siachen and its heroes. On display are attires, multi layered shoes to keep their feet from frost bites, their daily instruments, their day to day food mainly frozen and packed, which is heated by lighting small balls of Hexamycin tablets, as fire is difficult to ignite at a temperature dipping -30 deg to -50 deg centigrade. It is mentioned on a board that 97% of the casualties in Siachen are due to cold and terrain.
Magnetic hill was a rare experience. The hill is alleged to have magnetic properties strong enough to pull cars uphill and force passing aircraft to increase their altitude in order to escape magnetic interference; in reality, the effect is an optical illusion created by the gravity hill. This is a remarkably common illusion that is found in numerous locations around the world. Usually it is a stretch of road in a hilly area where the level horizon is obscured. Nevertheless we had fun. We really enjoyed the way our car went uphill, never knowing that it was just an illusion or maybe not, never know!!
Indus valley is a large valley formed by the main channel of the Indus River as it flows across Ladakh. The Indus Valley is the soul of Ladakh and is strategically the most important part. Its borders touch those of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and India.
Shey Monastery is situated about 15 km to the south of Leh town. King Deldon Namgyal constructed this two-story Shey Gompa in the year 1655, in the memory of his late father, Singay Namgyal. The main image inside the Shey Monastery is of Buddha Shalyamuni. It is a huge image of the seated Buddha and is considered to be the biggest metal statue and the second largest Buddha statue in the Ladakh region, which is 12 meters tall made of copper and gold.
By the time we got back to Leh, it was around 6 pm and was getting dark. So we went straight back to the hotel and arranged for packed dinner for Shah. Meanwhile he was recovering fast and had gained the oxygen level back to 75. But the doctor insisted on taking rest for one more day for complete recovery. We will be traveling to higher altitudes in the coming days, so it was almost certain that Shaz won’t be able to travel with us for the rest of the trip in Ladakh. Even he was not feeling completely comfortable to venture out, so he asked us to continue without him and he opted for a low altitude road trip around Leh town. We returned to hotel after a not so adventurous day.
The Himalayan Road trip continues….