17 August – Finally back in Leh

From a Facebook message to family:

It took us two tries to fly to Leh early this morning – the first plane circled Leh airport for 20 minutes before “technical difficulties” sent us back to Delhi.  We climbed down one plane and up another for a second try.  I think the difficulties had a lot to do with the Prime Minister making his tour through the Ladakh area this morning.  The airport is still the best way to get here. Most of the roads in are open but rather dangerous IMHO. They get better by the day though.

In Leh, they only need three things, tourists, money and labor. Of the 3,000 tourists estimated to be in the area on the night of the flood, only a few hundred are left.  Most expected new arrivals have changed plans and have gone elsewhere.  I feel very bad for the shopkeepers I have spoken to so far.  One hotel that told us weeks ago that they are full until the 21st, now only has 6 guests, including us.  Another hotel we were supposed to be in just after the flood is completely empty.  At dinner, Melanie and I were the only people in the restaurant (but we looked for a place that needed the business – not hard to find).  Their season lasted 1 1/2 months.  Ugghh.  Having said that, after speaking to the driver, barber, money changer, hotel staff, trekking store staff, etc., I have found no one that has lost family in the flood.  The man at the tourist office lost land but that is it so far.

We talked to the tourist office once we arrived and they sent us to local gompa (monastery). The association there asked us to show up tomorrow at 9:00 ready for work. We don’t know what we are doing but we’ll find out.

At the moment, electricity is only on from about 7:00pm to 11:00pm throughout the town and phone connections are patchy at best. We could see some damage from the mudslides and floods at the airport and at Chonglamsar, just south of town, but I have only been to the main part of Leh and Chongspa.  We’ll try to see the hospital road tomorrow and we may go to Saboo soon too.

In summary, Leh is as beautiful and welcoming as always but it is wounded badly.  We’ll stay here until the 23rd to see what we can do.

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