HOW TO PREPARE FOR A ROAD TRIP TO LADAKH
In today’s zipping lifestyle, all it takes is to take a flight to Leh, hire a cab, and visit the exotic locations following the established routes. Now that is not how we travel. If you are planning to visit Ladakh, take some time out from your busy schedules and do it on road enjoying the drive through lush green pine forests; passing through numerous old monastic complexes; witnessing drastic scenery changes from green pines to rocky mountains that change color at every turn… grey, blue, pink, purple, violet… it reflects all shades at some point.
Its once in a lifetime experience so don’t settle for anything less than a road trip just because its difficult to take much time off from your busy schedule. The smooth drives gets difficult and then dangerous on the rocky terrains of high Himalayas, but then every second and all the effort will be worth it!
Now that you have decided to explore Ladakh on road, how and what to pack is very important. Needs of every individual will vary but the following things shouldn’t be missed out on.
CLOTHING: In Ladakh it is best to dress in layers, since majority of coldness is due to wind chill and temperatures can change rapidly depending on the place, time and weather. Hence dressing in layers will allow you to add/subtract layers as and when needed. So make sure apart from your regular clothes, you are also carrying a sweater, gloves, cap (protect head and ears from cold winds), warm inners and if possible, air/water resistant jacket. Pack separately for the road travel and for leh and surroundings.
MEDICINES: Carry Diamox if you aren’t allergic to sulfur drugs as it helps reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. Additionally, carry general medicines for headache, fever, stomach ache, cold and cough syrup. Also prescribed medicines you are on.
- Sunscreen lotion: UV rays at high altitude can be quite damaging to the skin, even during the harshest of winter, so don’t forget to carry a good quality sunscreen lotion
- UV sunglasses: Having decent quality UV sunglasses (Fastrack ones are available for as little as Rs. 800) is quite essential, especially if you are traveling early in the season or during winter, when mountain passes have a lot of snow cover and sunlight reflecting from the snow can be even harsher.
- Lip balm: Dry and cold weather of Ladakh will make your lips dry, which can get quite painful due to cracking and skin coming off, so make sure to carry a lip balm or Vaseline.
- Mustard oil: Mustard oil can be used for moisturizing skin, putting it in your hair and for lubricating insides of nostrils, which can become quite dry and painful due to dry and cold winds of Ladakh.
- Other essentials like Soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, toilet paper, shaving kit and face wash.
- Water: Water is the most essential thing while traveling in Ladakh, since dehydration can further complicate health issues at such a high altitude. So make sure you are carrying at least couple of liter of water per person all the time and drinking at regular intervals.
- Glucose: Carrying water mixed with Glucon C/D is a good idea while traveling at high altitude, as it provides instant energy on the move, when your appetite is likely to be reduced due to AMS and at the same time, doesn’t act as a diuretic, like most caffeinated energy drinks. Carry couple of small packs with you, which you can mix in water, at the beginning of the day.
- Chocolates, biscuits and nuts: Carrying couple of chocolates, a pack of biscuits and few hundred grams of almonds, raisins and cashews is a good idea, as these provide instant energy and easy snack and don’t take up too much space. Those who love spicy food, make sure to carry pickle or sauce, since Ladakhi food is a bit bland.
DOCUMENT AND IDs: It is essential to carry at least one government issued identity card and couple of photocopies of it, since it is needed while applying for inner line permit and at certain places, to register at the check post. You should also carry your medical insurance card (if you have one), your printed itinerary, couple of copies of your flight ticket (if traveling by air) and list of important contacts (useful in case your mobile phone stops working).
BATTERIES AND MEMORY CARDS:
- Spare camera batteries: Carry at least one spare set of batteries required by your camera, since in cold environment, batteries can die quickly.
- Car charger or battery bank: If you are an avid smart phone user and planning to log your route on your favorite GPS App, then make sure you are carrying car charger or a power bank with at least 4000-5000mAH capacity to keep your mobile phone running throughout the day.
- 3 socket Belkin Surge Protector: While it is a little large in size, 3 socket Belkin Surge Protector will not only keep your gadgets protected from power surges, but will also allow you to charge multiple devices simultaneously and at the same time, provide the crucial cable length to safely place your gadgets in rooms with idiotic power socket locations that sadly many hotels have.
- Enough memory cards to last you the entire trip: Doesn’t matter if you are carrying a laptop or planning to burn CDs/DVDs at Leh, carry enough memory cards to cover your entire shooting duration in Ladakh. If needed, borrow from friends but don’t depend on laptop HDDs or worse still, virus infested cyber café computers to copy and save your photographs.
- Torch: Not really needed if your mobile phone has one, but if in case it doesn’t, carry a small LED one.
MONEY: While our recommendation would be to carry enough cash you need, to avoid wasting time withdrawing cash, it may not be feasible for everyone. So please keep in mind that ATMs beyond Srinagar and Manali are only available in Kargil and Leh and they too are few with often long queues in front of them.
We know mountains are not the same as the plains. Temperature, humidity, oxygen content, air pressure etc. all work in various ways on your body; body is not acclimatized to these extreme conditions. Travelers in that case might develop a condition called AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) also known as Altitude Sickness.
This condition can easily be avoided. The key to avoiding AMS is a gradual ascent that gives your body time to acclimatize. Spend at least one night at an intermediate elevation below 3000 meters. At altitudes above 3000 meters, your sleeping elevation should not increase more than 300-500 meters per night. So be very careful while finalizing your itinerary.
Things to avoid: Alcohol, Sleeping pills (acetazolamide is the sleeping tablet of choice at altitude) and Narcotic pain medications in more than modest doses. Respiratory depression (the slowing down of breathing) can be caused by various medications, and may be a problem at altitude.
Take rest for a day (don’t involve in anything that exerts you) after reaching Leh.