India was always on my bucket list ever since I developed the urge to travel. I heard nothing but amazing stories about the country from everyone who had been, and the pictures of Agra, Varanasi, Jaipur and Jodhpur just floored me every single time I took the time to peruse. There was no way we could even scrape the country in three weeks, but in August 2015, JH and I touched a little bit of the north. While I did not love the tourist circuit all that much (as I never really do), I still took away that India is a vibrant and beautiful country in so many ways. It gives you a bit of a rush that hits all your senses – a rush that takes weeks to recover from when you return. Because I made a stupid decision with my life (that I should have never made in place of finishing India – it was stupid), I never got my true ending or closure with the country. I think in many ways, leaving India early led me to fall less in love with the place than I would have wanted to if given more time, but in the right circumstances, I am always one for second chances and I will definitely go back.
- Mood – Moody and retrospective. I am supposed to find a new therapist – the last one did not work out. There are days where the writing and psychiatrist visits just won’t work.
- Focus – Remembering all the little details from our India trip.
- Craving – Ginger soups.
- Feedback from the husband – He loves the India trekking story, because he’s the hero.
We were supposed to travel from Leh –> Delhi –> Varanasi –> Agra –> Jaipur –> Jodhpur –> Udaipur –> back to Delhi.
Because of the ‘stupid’ circumstances however, we took an early flight home from Delhi after visiting Agra. India in many ways feels like the ‘one that got away’. I will have to go back at some point, which is fine, because I still want to visit the south – places like Goa and Kerala to be specific. Maybe in doing so, we can also hop over to Sri Lanka. I can always daydream and wish.
Getting back to the actual story, I loved the first part of the trip when we were in the Indian Himalayas. It felt different from the other parts of India we visited. The food was less heavy, the mountain air was refreshing, and the people were really kind and sweet. It was during this leg where we also experienced one of our most harrowing travel stories ever – a story that JH and I probably will never forget, and one that I still feel frantic feelings about when we recount the memories to others.
In our planning, we allocated 9 days to visit Leh in the Indian Himalayas and attempt to climb Stok Kangri, one of the ‘shorter’ non-technical mountain treks in the Ladakh region of northwest India. It would be our first mountain over 6,000 metres / 20,000 ft (at 6,153 metres). While it seemed daunting, I was really excited for the trek. That and I had read that this part of the Himalayas was much less saturated than the well-beaten trails of Nepal. We wouldn’t be trekking with crowds, and we could really take our time to enjoy the journey. Stok Kangri is only climbable within a small window between June and September. Otherwise the region is either compounded by rain or snow, and the area around Leh shuts down. We were really lucky, as we generally received amazing weather – blue skies and sun every day we hiked.
We left Toronto on a Friday night flight to Delhi. Our flight got delayed, and we ended up missing our connecting flight to Leh. Because the only available flights to Leh were the next day, we ended up having to stay overnight in Delhi by the airport. This was horrible news for us because we lost our altitude acclimatization day, and for high altitudes, acclimatization is so important. For a person with asthmatic problems, acclimatization is a must. Because we only had three weeks in the country though, and different activities set and paid for with other vendors, the agenda was not flexible at all, and we could not shift everything backwards. We just had to go with the flow.
Our problems continuted at the airport with Air India (and if we ever go back to India, we will never use Air India again if we can possibly help it because they are the worst air line carrier; if they were not government-owned, I would hope that all the TICOs in the world would work together to shut them down). They were willing to put us up in a hotel, but it seemed like a battle to fight for them to cover our dinner, airport transfers, and any other extra costs we had to incur by not making our original flight. The guy JH spoke with was literally a sleaze ball-and-a-half; he tried to bargain with us over the price of the taxi as we were walking to the taxi. They ended up putting us in the most disgusting place ever – the Centaur Hotel, located a short drive away from the airport. It was dark, dreary, musty, and every sort of out-of-date feeling you could ever think of. The fact that it was so dark inside made it seem extra creepy. JH and I tried to walk outside to get away from the hotel but it was really hot – 40 plus degrees hot. The lawns and yards were not kept, and the pool looked dark and murky like bodies could be hidden at the bottom. The elevator certifications were all expired which was not comforting. Our room itself was also uninviting. I literally slept on my jacket because I was that afraid of bed bugs. The only thing that seemed okay was that the people at the front desk were reasonably nice and efficient. We were given food tickets for a lukewarm dinner. I bitched and complained for the rest of the day, and we went to bed early.
Fast forward through many more arguments with the Air India counter (to get an earlier flight) the next day, we finally arrived in Leh. When I saw the mountain ranges from the window, my heart skipped a thousand beats. My excitement levels were over the top and I immediately forgot about the crappy days before. I could not wait to start the trek. After some research (and there was not much because Stok Kangri still felt under the radar back in 2014/2015 – not sure about now), we went with the Peak Adventure Tours company – a company based out of Delhi. Communication with the tour group was easy. We received quick and detailed responses to all our questions about the itinerary, equipment, training and expectations.
I was ambitious and asked that our trip be 9 days, when the proposed tour was originally supposed to be 10 days. I think 10 days would have helped because we ended up losing our acclimatization day, but we could have never known that that would have happened. In the end, we just had to go with the swing of things. For 685 USD per person (some of this was deducted because of the loss of day 1, but I don’t remember at this point how much), Peak Adventure Tours put together a nine-day agenda that looked like this:
- Day 1 – Arrive in Leh.
- Day 2 – Spend the day in Leh acclimatizing by exploring monasteries and markets (we ended up doing this when we returned).
- Day 3 – Trek Leh to Zingchan (3,900m).
- Day 4 – Trek Zingchan to Stok La (4,400M).
- Day 5 – Trek Stok La to Mankorma (4,900M).
- Day 6 – Trek Mankorma to Base Camp (5,000M).
- Day 7 – Trek Base Camp – Stok Kangri Summit (6,153M) – Back to Base Camp.
- Day 8 – Spare Summit Day (we never used this but kept it in fear that weather conditions would change; we ended up staying a day in Leh to explore).
- Day 9 – Trek Base Camp – Stok Village – Back to Leh.
Leh is a small, walkable town, and the base to start any trips to Stok Kangri and surrounding areas. JH and I both grew to love the town very much – with its kind, humble people, beautiful mountain atmosphere, delicious food with all the Chinese-Indian-Nepalese-Tibetan influences, and comfortable climate. To this day, it is still one of my favourite places I have ever travelled to – that culminating with the fact that I recently learned that Priyanka Chopra used to live in the area growing up. Priyanka Chopra, despite being cheesy sometimes and playing nothing but overly sexed-up characters, is just great. Love Quantico.
The tour group put us up at Lharimo Hotel. The main tourist strip (Fort Road) was right by our hotel, and we had easy access to restaurants and shops. We stayed at Lharimo twice –before and after our trek up Stok Kangri, and we found it comfortable both times. It is not a five-star or even four-star hotel (and don’t go in expecting that) but it gave off a beautiful, simple and rustic charm that made it feel really homey.
The inner courtyard of the hotel has a beautiful garden that we loved to sit in – to read, to enjoy the beautiful blue skies, reply e-mails and relax. We did some of that before we started trek, and after to decompress. The hotel itself looks like an old oriental building from one of the Asian dynasties. It was beautiful and peaceful. The rooms are very basic. We had hot water for showers and the beds were comfortable and warm with extra blankets. With everywhere, Wi-Fi and power was spotty, so there was nothing really to complain about. Each morning we had a basic breakfast of eggs, toast, bananas and tea. Perhaps the best part of the hotel was the extremely friendly and helpful front desk manager. He was literally always there, but eager, smiley and helpful to give advice. He helped to store away our luggage while we were away for the trekking days. When we arrived, we checked in, changed and decided to start exploring the town right away.
Fort Road is the main road, and can be walked through in a few minutes. We decided to have lunch at Chopsticks Noodle Bar. The momos and thukpa soup noodles were so good. I was instantly addicted. Toronto has a couple of good Nepalese restaurants, so I have been able to re-live our moments in Leh just a little bit. But I miss those meals in Leh. Leh’s food was a mixture of Nepalese, Indian, Tibetan and Chinese – and every meal we had was really good (including, and especially, on the trek).
After lunch, we did the tourist thing, and bought some souvenirs. Leh specializes in pashminas, and every store you walk into, they offer you tea. JH ended up buying me a really pretty light brown pashmina. I plan to use it again later this year on our Central Asia trip (until now, I was afraid to wear it because it is so pretty)
With this experience, it was really nice talking to some of the store vendors. They were not really pushy, and they were just eager to talk to you. We learned that basically the stores / vendors work within the confines of the short trekking season – June to September. Basically, after that, they move back to elsewhere in Nepal or India until the next tourist season. Leh then becomes a ghost town. It was cute though – whenever we said we were Canadian, a number of vendors would light up and mention that they really liked hockey. Hockey apparently is a good pass-time for those that remain in the town for the wintery season.
Later that day, we met up with a guide from the tour group to allow him to check out our hiking gear, and recommend if we needed to rent anything more. This person did not end up being our actual guide. We are not sure what happened, but this gentle, older looking guide, was replaced with a younger, slightly disgruntled guide- Lobay. Maybe we looked really weak, who knows. Overall, we had a team of three – a cook – Sidar (pronounced like Sedar – the securities filing system), Lobay, and an assistant guide Dawa, along with donkeys who transported most of the camping equipment up to each of the camps.
On the first day of trekking, we started earlier in the morning. We had to drive one hour out to Spitok, which is the closest road access to Stok Kangri. Surrounding this entire area were a number of military camps set against the dry, brown mountains. We were after all very close to the Pakistan-India border. From this point onward, even though we could technically drive forward, Lobay elected to start walking. So, we walked around a flat switchback highway for maybe an hour. The roads overlooked the river and valleys. From way below, we could see some people rafting. JH and I thought we were fast walkers, but Lobay blew us out of the water. To my annoyance, he kept on walking ahead of us. When we asked him questions, he either answered them like we were stupid, or like he didn’t really want to talk to us. Over a few hours, we managed to get out of him that he grew up in Leh; he didn’t want to get married yet; and that he had summited a number of 7,000 plus meter mountains. That’s probably all we got out of him for the remainder of the trip. Thank goodness for Sidar and Dawa, who were much more kind and friendly (Dawa’s English was pretty fractured though). But at this point, it just us and Lobay, as Sidar and Dawa had moved on ahead with the donkeys to unload the equipment and set up camp.
Because this was two years ago, my memory will be somewhat blurry on the full route of the trail. But for the most part, I remember this day was really easy, and we got to the camp – Zingchan really early in the afternoon. It was basically a field by a ravine. I think we walked about three hours that day, and were the first group to arrive. Note – The switchback was warm that day, so layers were not really necessary.
We set up our tent, and then washed up and walked around. At some point, a larger group doing a different trek came to set up camp. If I remember correctly, they were a G Adventures tour group, who received a lot of detailed explanations about the area before they took off the next day. JH and I were a little jealous of that because all we got from Lobay in the morning was a muttering of a hello. While doing a casual walk around, we also bumped into a couple from New Zealand staying at a nearby homestay, and doing extensive travel around India and Pakistan. I was jealous of them per usual. I want to go to Pakistan (for Fairy Meadows and Hunza Valley). We talked to the various groups for a while here and there. Finally, we settled into our tent to rest. All I remember with this camp is that you had to run across a field to find places to pee in private. There were horses there and a lot horse crap, so you had to walk very carefully especially in flip flops (my feet wanted rest from hiking boots).
This first night, we had our first of many delicious dinners from Sidar. He was an amazing cook. He made these really gingery tomato soups (that I have not been able to ever replicate), but I have dreamed about for two years. He made dumplings from scratch, fried rice, cumin cauliflower, curries, papadum, and the list goes on. The food on that trip was just excellent – it tasted so homemade and healthy, and I was always awed by what he was able to do with basically five pieces of equipment, a bunch of vegetables and aromatics, and the smallest working area inside the tent. He later told us that he worked here during the tourist season while his wife stayed back home in Nepal. Then, during Nepal’s tourist season, he worked as a porter. He was so kind and fatherly (and important to a story I will tell later), and whenever I talked to him, I just couldn’t help feeling nothing but positive feelings for him. I felt like this especially so given how disgruntled Lobay was all the time.
The next day was a long day. We walked for about 6.5 hours to get to the base of Stok La pass at 4400m. Similar to Tongariro, the landscapes we passed looked like Mars. There was a lot of uphill, and at this point, I was becoming slower with the rising altitude. Every step I took felt like we were walking through quicksand and our breathing became heavier. The terrain was not hard. It was smooth gravel, but just a lot of brown everywhere, and steep uphill. For most of the walk, there was one group that day walking either behind us or in front of us. As they slowed down, we reached a point of momentum and vice versa. At one point, we reached a place with really beautiful panoramic views of all the ranges. There were also colorful prayer flags beating against the wind, so it felt fairly peaceful with the views of the valleys below. I am trying to remember very hard what the camp looked like for this night, but I forgot unfortunately (need to take more pictures). I think it might have been a random spot with gravel and mountain views. I do remember this day that we tried to fall asleep after getting to camp, but because the sun was shining so hard through our tent, we almost roasted. The weather did become more severe as we continued climbing. You could stay really hot in your tent with the sun shining through, but once you step out of the tent, the cold winds immediately cool you down until you are shivering. Layering was essential on this trip, as it is for most treks.
This next day was a bit rough on the feet because we walked on a lot of rocks and pebbles. The basic terrain of the area was rocks with streams. We had to jump over streams, and sometimes climb to higher ground and subsequently lower ground to make a path, all this while avoiding donkey crap.
The general atmosphere was absolutely gorgeous though especially with the blue skies and sun. Sometimes when you are trekking, you are so focused on ‘making it’ that you forget to take and breathe it all in. Over here, with the lack of people, and the gorgeous atmosphere everywhere, you just can’t help but stop and breathe in the mountain air. As we moved closer and closer to Mankorma, Lobay pointed out Stok Kangri peeking out from behind the ranges. My heart beats went crazy looking at the snowy tips and I was excited for summit day. I wasn’t afraid of the snow at that point; I just actually wanted to get away from the pebbly terrain. On this day, I remember us walking through villages where there might have been opportunities for homestays. The people and children we passed waved and smiled. One little girl followed us, so I gave her a colouring book. On these trips, I try not to bring candy, and often we will give things away at schools so children are not encouraged to beg. But this girl was just so cute.
Once we left the village, I kind of remember us crossing these grassy (yet still rocky) valleys. They had a bit of a steep incline, and with the altitude, JH and I took big, long breaths with every step we took. It was like we were climbing the rolling hills of ‘Sound of Music’, but not whirling or singing really. We climbed and climbed, and finally we saw Sidar waving from where our camp was set up. If I remember correctly, we actually camped just a little bit outside of Mankorma on a grassy knoll. This day, we walked I think for about 6 hours.
On the final day before summiting, we walked for about 5 hours from Mankorma to Base Camp. There were a number of tents set up at Base Camp, but nothing like what we saw at Kilimanjaro or what I would imagine is a crazy amount in somewhere like Everest Base Camp. There was a port-a-potty here that you had to support with your hands to hold it up (it was basically an umbrella-material covering over a hole in the ground). Lobay and the group set up camp right near the base of the starting path to the summit. We took a short walk up the path (100 m) to help with acclimatization. We talked to some people (who were fairly experienced climbers) and psyched ourselves for later that night. We went to bed early so that we would be well rested for the climb starting at midnight.
At midnight, Lobay came to us with hot tea and told us to start getting ready. JH and I swiftly got everything together and before long we were on our way. Despite having head lamps, the next few hours felt like we were walking around blind. I had a sense of what we were walking through, the types of terrains and the lengths of the paths. But I couldn’t picture it all together in my head. If I remember correctly, we started on a long steep uphill on gravel, and then walked around the side of a mountain on the same gravelly terrain. We then descended to a narrower trail that felt like it was next to water (or from looking back at our itinerary, may have been a glacier). We further descended into a valley that felt rocky and grassy before the hardest part. I don’t remember how many hours this took, but we were in the dark for awhile with no one in sight. At some point, we were climbing snow, and it was nothing but a series of ongoing steep up hills. If we looked up, we could finally see some blinking in the distance of people who were getting close to the summit. Lobay would point this out to us and tell us to move faster. At some point, JH asked me if I knew it was going to be this hard. I quietly said no. It was indeed one of the hardest mental (I’ve faced harder mental challenges now) and physical experiences I have ever been through.
When we were told we were at the half way point of this up-hill sludge (and I am pretty sure it had been a couple of hours already), we put on crampons because it was getting slippery and hard to keep traction with just our hiking boots. Lobay and Dawa started to break a path using ice axes. We continued to slug upwards for the next few hours, trying not to give up. It was crazy. There were probably a number of times where I thought in my head; maybe I do want to give up. But we had walked for so long, and I knew we were getting closer to the summit, so I forced us to drive on. JH stopped frequently to complain but I told him I was not stopping. Dawa was incredibly kind, and offered to take JH’s backpack so he could walk without weight. A few years back, JH was on a different back medicine, and it was hard for him to walk sometimes (this compounded stress did not help his back). Lobay just continued to give us angry stares; he refused to help us with anything. Sadly for them, they both experienced altitude sickness. At one point, Lobay just stopped, keeled over and started throwing up. We were horrified, but he kept on telling us to move on. My stubbornness willed us on for what felt like a few more hours.
At one point we reached kind of flatter ground again and I noticed the sun peeking out over the mountains. I ran ahead and took pictures of how beautiful it looked. JH was in the distance slogging through the snow, but all I could see was the beautiful sunrise.
After this, we reached another series of looping up hills, and finally (I think it was after 6AM – the sun was fully up), Lobay screamed out that we were at the summit. The view from the top looked so scary but beautiful at the same time. You could see the narrow snowy ridges that you just crossed, but all around you were ranges of gorgeous mountains and snow-capped peaks – the Karakoram Range, including K2 in Pakistan, the Zanskar Range, Stok Range. It was quite cloudy (or rather, you were so high, you were in the clouds), but you could still see everything around you. We took lots of pictures and did a number of screams of happiness. I sat there for a second just soaking it in because it was so effing amazing. I never felt a moment like that ever, and I was just so happy to experience it with JH. I was so proud of him and us for not giving up.
The story did not end here though. Lobay was anxious because the sun had come out in full force, and the snowy paths would start to melt from the intensity of the rays. So he told us to hurry up and start gathering ourselves to trek again. With that, and all the hours that we climbed, we rushed to grab our backpacks, gather ourselves and start trekking again. I am glad though that I got the few moments to enjoy everything. The memories are still kind of imprinted in my mind, never mind the photos.
I have never been a fan of the downhill. I need to work on my knees and calves, but a part of it is that I always imagine myself having an aggressive trip and then falling / rolling into rocks and scraping up my face, so I always dig extra hard into my steps downwards. This is partially due to the fact that I fell down an escalator once as a child. The snow was not melting yet, so we kept our crampons on. Walking downhill with crampons is not an easy task. Compounding this was the fact that my throat was starting to close up. We had taken altitude pills, but even with pills, my asthma always starts to kick in at really high altitudes (but I am not actually asthmatic in everyday life so I do not use puffers). With every step I took, I was finding it harder and harder to breathe. And it became that fight – running against the melting snow versus losing more of my breath from moving quickly. At one point, I told them I needed to stop. Every few steps, it got worse, and I needed to stop for real. JH noticed that Lobay was carrying some rope, which was intended for harsher conditions / to get across ice / crevasses etc. He suggested tying the rope around me, and allowing me to sit and slide down the mountain like tobogganing (with the rope and slack for support and safety). Lobay argued with JH for probably 15 minutes about the danger of me sliding into rocks (and his liability), but he finally gave in. I slid down that mountain. And while it was cold on my bottom (and did not help with a bit of hypothermia later), I would have slid down that mountain any day. We made good progress down the brunt of the down-hill, but I had come to the point where I was starting to feel faint and tight-headed. I was basically blacking in and out, and still finding it hard to walk. We had expected to be fairly close to base camp at this point, and were starting to run out of water and food. Lobay and Dawa were also still throwing up. It was just a disaster.
Lobay then threw out the craziest idea for JH to go find help. I used my last bit of energy to yell at him because that was completely dangerous. JH had no idea where he was going; our path going up was completely done in the dark. I thought we should send Dawa back, but he was keeled over throwing up. Lobay was just getting more and more angry and throwing up himself. Despite my protests and subsequent tears, JH said he would go. As he walked off into the valley, I was so afraid I would never see him again. Overwhelming thoughts swarmed my mind – What if he walked the wrong way, what if he met with danger? I remember fighting back tears, just telling JH I loved him so much and that I was sorry over and over for getting us to this place. I truly wondered as he walked away if I would ever see him again. I was that scared. I watched and watched him until he disappeared into the valley…until I could not see him anymore.
For the next torturous while, I slipped in and out of consciousness. Lobay literally tried dragging me by my arms because it was so hard for me to walk. Then at some point, he piggy-backed me, but he was getting too weak himself. Then he and Dawa tried supporting me by walking together in a line of three. This worked for a while and we actually made it to the narrow path. I don’t remember what anything looked like in the light because I kept on drifting in and out, so the path to the summit will always remain a mystery to me. Fast forward through all of this (which felt like days), we finally bumped into people – two German guys doing an acclimatization walk. I don’t remember what they look like, but I remembered hearing the echoing rings of their voices. Their accents sounded German, and JH later validated this. Lobay explained everything in almost a pleading voice. The guys gave us water, and then proceeded to quickly carry me back almost half-way. At some point, I learned that JH did make it back to camp, and thank goodness he was okay. He sent Sidar, and Sidar came running. The German guys transferred me to Sidar, who sprinted me back to camp on his back. JH told me that he was wandering for what he felt was hours. He then bumped into a couple on the trail who gave him water and gave him directions back. The disaster was seemingly over.
After a cup of tea, and a disastrous attempt with the port-a-potty (where I almost fell over into the hole of crap because my legs were literally jello), I tried to fall asleep. But a heavy, rumbly sounding cough started to build up in my chest and in my throat. I could not stop coughing, and it sounded scary. The Germans were camped near us and heard my coughing and loud breathing. We think they were some sort of medical students, because the one German said it sounded like I might have ‘water in the lungs’. A whole bunch of people in the camp said I needed to go to lower altitudes. At one point, a crowd of people were standing around our tent discussing what we should do. At this point Lobay and Dawa had recovered. They asked JH what he wanted to do. JH looked at me and I just felt like crying. Anyhow, after some discussion, we made the decision to ‘evacuate’ me.
Up here in Leh, there are no helicopters or even horses to evacuate people (or if you want an animal, you need to wait for a donkey; we had let ours go at a lower altitude days before). We didn’t have donkeys; there were no donkeys around with other groups. So the guys packed everything up. They had conversations with a bunch of other porters, guides, etc. and a big group of people ran me down the park. Poor JH – after climbing for nearly 10-12 hours, he too had to run down the mountain. And this time around, everyone went fast. JH told me that they went so fast that he was left behind, and at one point he was left alone running in the dark screaming out for someone to come back. He had to look for donkey droppings to find the path. At some point, one of the porters came back for him, and willed him along. Sidar piggy-packed me, and was literally sprinting like it was the last leg of the Olympic marathon. The group was not far behind, taking off their shoes and jumping across streams. It was insane for the moments I remembered. At points, I passed out and then Sidar would slap my cheeks a little bit to wake me up. We stopped at one of the camps for food, but I could barely eat it. I felt like throwing up, so we continued. I think they ran (what was supposed to be a couple days’ distance) in like less than a few hours. This group of men (Sidar especially – my hero) was just so astonishingly amazing. I mean, these are mountain men who walk and run through these parks like they are nothing, but to me, what they did was so heroic. I honestly will never forget the kindness of this day and how incredible these people are. Everyone was running along with us, helping where they could to help us get across the streams. Random people offered us food, and the entire group would not take our money in the end when JH tried to give everyone something for their kindness. According to them, ‘this happened often – it was nothing’. At the bottom, a van was waiting for us to take me to the hospital. In the end, it was not-life-or-death. My asthma had just kicked in really hard with the altitude, dehydration and stress. At the hospital, the doctor calmed down my breathing, and declared me okay. I want to say that it was not all for nothing, but I am so grateful to the group of men that brought me down that night. Who knows what would have happened if I stayed at base camp? We would never know; but in my mind, they saved me; them, JH – they are all my heroes. All I know too is that we met an amazing group of people in Leh, who without question dropped everything to make sure we were okay. These people don’t have much, but they are so selfless and humble, and just are – I can say it over and over again– amazing human beings. That kind of kindness just makes me want to cry all over again thinking of the memory.
I woke up back at Lharimo the next day a bit worn down still. JH and I had lost a substantial amount of weight – I had lost 6 pounds, and I think he lost about 10. But I felt well-rested. We saw Lobay, Dawa, and Sidar later that day to pay them for the rest of the trip and give them a really big tip. I could not resist but give them big hugs. Lobay was still so disgruntled but they (him included) all seemed genuinely concerned about whether or not I was okay. I was so grateful for them; to this day, I will never forget that day and night. It was seriously one of our craziest travel stories ever. As I think about it, it was not from lack of preparation. JH and I had trained as much as we could for people who live in a city without mountains, and we took altitude sickness pills. It was just an unlucky situation. But, for all it is worth, I got to experience kindness like I have never experienced before, and a piece of my heart will always stay with Leh, Stok Kangri and the people there. I hope in all my heart that I can visit and give back. I have always wanted to do volunteering trips, and Leh is one of the places where I would want to travel to if there is that unique opportunity in my life to finally get the hell away from Toronto for good. After the trek, we walked around the city, and visited their monastery. The stories in India do continue (though on a lesser scale), but because this has been long enough, we will continue this conversation another time.