The 90 minute flight from Delhi to Leh has to be one of the most spectacular flights in the world. Once away from the thick blanket of
monsoonal cloud, the views are breathtaking. Ladakh is a high altitude desert, situated where the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges meet. I could easily spot K2 which is just to the north west of Ladakh. Most impressive are the colours of the Zanskar Range – purple, red, yellow and jade striations exposed as the ranges continue to be pushed up.
It has been a quick turn around in Leh, the capital of Ladakh (population of around 30,000). Normally it would have been ideal to have
taken 4 days to acclimatise to the altitude – 3500m or 11,500 feet – but I had been acclimatising at home, sleeping in an altitude tent, kindly loaned to me by Box Altitude. I didn’t end up getting as much time using the tent as I’d planned, but I hope it will make the first few days a little easier.
I was met at Leh airport by Stanzin Gurmat, Global Himalayan Expedition’s Programme Manager and taken straight to Warila Guesthouse, owned by the Deputy Commissioner for the Ladakh Region, who provides GHE with a room.
Yesterday I met with the camera operators who will accompany me, (Stanzin Jigmet) and then film the GHE expedition (Stanzin Gurmet)… and yes, I had a meeting with three Stanzins! Later on, the final member of the team, Hussain, the support vehicle driver arrived and the team was ready.
The plan for the first phase of my expedition is in partnership with GHE. I will cycle approximately 500km to where the actual GHE project will take place in Zanskar. During this ride I will be stopping at four schools to speak to the students. These schools, in Khalse, Wanla, Photoksar and Lamayuru, have recently had GHE come in and set up an ‘innovation centre’, providing computers and a special hard drive/Wifi unit that enables students to access resources as if they were online, even though they don’t have the internet.
The first day is going to be a long, challenging one – about 100km to Khalsi, following the course of the Indus River along the Srinagar – Leh Highway. But I am looking forward to getting started.
On 22nd August, a week before I was due to leave for India, my father, Ted Leeming unexpectedly passed away at home in Northam, Western Australia. I returned home immediately and spent five days with my family. It has been, and still is, a very difficult time for us all, but after discussing with my family and friends, I decided it was important to complete this journey through Ladakh in his honour. I had actually spoken to Dad by phone on the day he died, and he was in good spirits and fully supported the expedition. He would not have wanted me to cancel it on his account.
This will be my third visit to Ladakh. I find it to be a very spiritual place, a place that gives me strength and energy. GHE founder, Paras Loomba and his team have offered to dedicate this expedition to my father; the light and educational opportunities we will bring to the remote villagers in Zanskar, Ladakh will be a special way to honour my Dad, in keeping with his spirit.
12 May 1930 – 22 August 2018