After another great sleep and leisurely 7 am wake-up, I ate a satisfying breakfast of omelette and freshly baked khambir (Ladakhi bread) with butter and apricot jam (apricots grow well in this region) and milky coffee, followed by a sample of salt-butter tea (namkinchai).
It tastes exactly how it sounds and is traditionally made with yak butter (this one wasn't). I think it's an acquired taste, but if you imagine it as more of a soup than tea, it might hit the spot with a stretch of the imagination.
I then set out to check in with my trekking company, The Ladahki Women's Travel Company, about my upcoming 6-day trek beginning on Sunday, and then to explore the town on foot. Again, it seems that I've evaded altitude sickness. Walking up a hill is only slightly more effort and my eyes are a little more dry than usual, but otherwise, no symptoms.
I mainly browsed through the Main Bazaar and Nowshera Bazaar running along the alleyways behind it. With the colorful prayer flags weaved in between the buildings and slow-moving cows meandering the streets, the town is charming—not a Starbucks or McDonalds to be found. When you gaze upwards and take in the sheer immensity of the surroundings, you feel microscopic. Each little shop is equipped with a mind-boggling array of pashmina and Kashmiri wool scarves and shawls (not all are what they claim to be).
After speaking with a few of the Ladakhis, it became apparent that they are a genuine, warm, and gracious people. Karma, a lovely shop owner and also a refugee, told me about Buddhist practices and celebrations over hot lemon-ginger tea in her shop. The Dalai Lama visits Leh for a month or so each year, and she enthusiastically described his birthday celebration last year, which he was in attendance for, making it extra-special (and also included a giant birthday cake). A few friendly Indian tourists from Mumbai wandered into the shop and even snapped a selfie with me.
Minor celebrity moment.