(As written at the Airport, waiting for the flight to Mumbai)Two weeks of crisscrossing with this city at various instants to acclimatize, just rest between journeys, search for travel agents, trip deals and drivers, trying out its various German bakeries, walking down its sinuous gully-ways. By the time we left this place, Leh almost had the familiarity of a city lived in.
One day as we were walking out of Zar-la, our residence in Leh, we noticed a small board which said ‘shortcut to market’. It was a narrow gully leading to the market crossing fields, other houses and gutters. Though we later conceded, that these were really not “shortcuts”, but nevertheless fun exploring them. On our first visit to the Shanthi Stupa, we were once again guided to a narrow gullyway, which on the way back we truly lost. But we still managed to figure our way back.
There was the scarf shop man, who would wave every time I walked past his shop and invite us in over for chai. The day we came back from our trek, we were out hunting for a deal to go to Nubra and Pangong. And we turned around to ask a taxi driver for some directions and there was our Jumma ji. Jumma was the driver who took us for our first couple of road trips. We had had a great time on those trips. His favorite question used to be “trek jaake kya karoge – mein aapko nubrak leke jaathi hoon, whana bahuth kuch hai” (what will you do going on a trek, I’ll take you to Nubra). It was fun listening to his description of tourist, the place and little titbits we gleaned about his life. The first thing he told us when we ran into him was that 'Aapka rishtedaar bi nahi pehachanega' (even your relatives are not going to recognize you now!). It was like running into an old friend.
Then there was the Mero travel agent, another person we kept running into after the trek. He didn’t think we'd make it beyond the second day of the trek (a thought that might have echoed through us to at some point on the trek). And then we'd stand there reminiscing about our trek or he'd tell us some of his experience. And of course, there always seemed to be some of our fellow travellers whom we kept running into. We got to know a few quite well; With others it was just a quick wave.
Yes - I'd say the familiarity we developed and meeting new people was one of the best things about Leh and this vacation.