Friday, 11 April 2014

Ladakh part 2 (Leh and the Donkey sanctuary)

After getting back from our wonderful time on Pangong Tso lake we decided to take a couple of days to relax and see the sights of Leh and then do another adventure with Bec and Drew (The couple from Canada and Australia). We put a notice up in the travel agents looking for more people to keep the costs low.

The next couple of days we had gotten over our altitude sickness and were ready to see some sights, we walked along the beautiful small roads of Leh that were filled with dogs, donkeys and cows. We came across this little hike that had a temple at the top so decided to venture up. Along the way we came across some houses and the owners were sticking their heads out the windows shouting hellos and waving. It was such a lovely experience and defines our entire stay in Ladakh perfectly. It was midday and since Leh is so high up, the sun feels so hot on your skin so we were sweating about half way up and that combined with the altitude meant we couldn't walk more than 15 minutes before panting. But we made it to the top and it was definitely worth it! The temple was so old and beautiful and was watched over by one monk. There was only one other tourist there, we hadn't seen anyone on the entire way up either which was great! At the top we had a beautiful view of the Leh Palace and the beautiful snow-capped mountains that surround Leh. It was so peaceful up there.

View of the palace from our hike.

Myself and Jason during our hike.

The temple.

…and again.

Leh city. So many beautiful stone buildings!

The monk at the temple.

Walking through the beautiful temple.

At the temple with an amazing backdrop.

After that we decided to venture down to the palace to take a look at it. From the outside the palace is absolutely beautiful, it is a sand formation that is jutting out of the mountain. Unfortunately at this time our camera battery decided to die so we don't have any photos from the inside but it was a nice activity to pass the day by. Afterwards we found a small little cafe to drink some tea in and pass the evening by. The next day we met up with Drew and Bec who said that they wanted to visit the local donkey shelter the next day. Both myself and Jason had seen some signs for it and were both eager to go so we organised to meet them the next day.

Leh palace.

The next morning unfortunately Jason wasn't feeling well so I went to meet Bec and Drew by myself. I was quite excited to see the donkey sanctuary as I had never really been close to a donkey before and actually didn't know much about them.

It took us about 30 minutes of walking around the amazing Leh countryside until we finally found the sanctuary. We walked in and instantly about 10 donkeys just came walking towards us. They were so sweet and all that they wanted was for us to pet them, I had no idea donkeys were so loving!!

The amazing walk to the donkey sanctuary.

…and again.

Some very cute pups that we met along the way.
The entry to the sanctuary.
I love the paintings that are all over the sanctuary.
A man came out to us and greeted us. He was the only person at the sanctuary and couldn't speak much English but had the nicest smile and seemed like such a caring person. He spent his days just with the donkeys, you could see how much they loved him as they would just follow him around all day. While we were there we helped him put ointment on the donkeys that had been attacked by dogs. This is a very common thing to happen to donkeys on the streets. At night time packs of dogs attack the donkeys and because they are such timid creatures they just stand there and take it. We saw some really badly bitten donkeys but they were finally at peace in this beautiful enclosed sanctuary. They never had to worry about dogs again and the sanctuary cares for the donkeys until they die.

Drew with the donkeys.

Mommy and baby donkey.

They were such beautiful and loving animals!

Petting baby and mommy.

Most donkeys end up on the streets because they become too old or sick to continue helping the farmers so they are simply released to fend for themselves. It's quite heartbreaking to think that they have given their lives and worked so hard for these people just to be abandoned when they are no longer useful.

We spent the day at the sanctuary giving each of the donkeys a turn to get petter and spending some time with the adorable baby donkey there.
Baby…he was ridiculously cute!

The man that worked at the shelter…he was such a kind man
that really seemed to love the donkeys.

That evening I got back to Jason who was feeling much better and we decided that we would all go back to the sanctuary the next day but this time with food (we thought that we would be able to buy food for them there but it wasn't possible) After the great day that we had there Jason was really excited to see it for himself. We got up early and headed to the market area in front of the fort and bought some carrots and parsnips for a ridiculously cheap price!

All stocked up, we headed to the sanctuary once again. This time unfortunately we weren't prepared for how food obsessed they can be. Poor Jason was carrying the carrots and all of the donkeys completely surrounded him. He got a bit scared and threw the bag away, at which point only one donkey made it to the back and would kick any others that tried to get near so one donkey got very well fed that day! After the food frenzy finished Jason got to relax and enjoy spending time with the donkeys.

Jason with baby.
The tent where the donkeys can get away from the sun and also eat their hay.

After our time with the donkeys it was time to get back on the road for another adventure. A girl from Latvia that now lives in California signed up to join us for our trip to the desert so we were all set to go the next day.

Getting there and away:

This is probably the toughest part about Ladakh is getting there. There is only 1 option for 9 months of the year and that is flying which can be quite expensive. During June, July and August the snow is cleared on the mountain passes which makes driving possible. It's a long journey that took us about 26 hours on our way home. We had heard that many jeeps take 2 days to do the journey which we would have preferred but there was nobody offering this option when we were trying to book our way out of Leh.

We flew up from Delhi and then drove back down.

Travel agent: 

For the life of me I cannot remember the name of the travel agent that we used to book our trips while in Ladakh. He was a really nice man and genuinely seemed interested in keeping costs down for us. His shop was on the main street and right by the delicious bakery/restaurant that everyone frequents while in Leh. (I hope that helps a little) He organized a jeep to and from the Nubra valley and Pangong Tso lake for us.

Where we stayed:

Oriental Guesthouse: We moved to here after leaving our ice box of a room at the previous guesthouse. We had seen that this place had excellent reviews on tripadvisor. We definitely weren't disappointed! For the same price as the other place we had a beautiful room that had the most wonderful views of the mountains. It was about 15 minutes walk away from the main area of Leh, but this walk was down wonderful small streets with beauty all around. I 100% recommend staying in this part of town, it was an amazing experience!

How to get to the donkey sanctuary:

We saw some signs around town about the sanctuary and they had arrows to follow, the more you get in to the countryside the less the signs are but the locals are very helpful in pointing you in the right direction. As I mentioned earlier there is nowhere near the sanctuary that you can buy food for the donkeys so buy some in town before leaving. We found a vegetable stall right outside the palace. You can also donate to the sanctuary and adopt a donkey for a year through their website:

Me and one of the sweet donkeys.
One of the donkeys with the amazing Leh backdrop.

All of the stones were painted too.

Standing on top of the mountain overlooking Leh…I love that place!

A message on the wall of the temple.

Prayer flags near the temple.

Taking in the incredible view.

…and Jason too :)


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