Cold, tired and high in Ladakh

India 16-03-11

It wasn’t that cold. Or rather it didn’t feel that cold. It was dry, drier than many deserts apparently, and it felt that as long as you had plenty of layers on you’d be fine. I’d go so far as to say that in the sun it was almost hot.

It was Time and its two allies that got you in the end, that allowed the cold to win. Obviously as Time passed, the day grew old and the shadows would increase in size and depth until you noticed you were shivering when out of the sun. Obviously the passage of Time meant the sun dropped behind the mountains and with it the temperatures plummeted.

But it was in a less obvious way that Time really knifed you in the back.

There was just no getting away from the cold. Sitting in the hotel eating dinner, you had to wear your coat. Getting into bed you were fully clothed. Waking up (despite the radiators feebly trying to take the chill out of the air) you battled with your common sense as you ran into the bathroom and pathetically splashed yourself with tiny amounts of nearly frozen water. Time transferred the chill from the atmosphere into your very bones. By day two the air was no colder than the previous day, but your core body temperature seemed colder. Jackets and layers were redundant. Time had done what it does best. It had passed, and in doing so had allowed the cold to infiltrate your very essence.

And with the passage of Time came the realization that you were also outnumbered. There were allies involved.

Altitude.

Another one that snuck up on you. Within an hour or two of landing in Leh we started to feel it, but it was quite fun, a novelty and something we could play with, a new sensation, a new drug. “Look at me, I can run ten steps and feel all out of breath” and “Look we’ve only walked twenty metres and we are having to sit down and rest” and worst of all “well at least as we acclimatize things will get better rather than worse – we’ll be fine tomorrow “.

No chance. For three days we woke up feeling worse than we had the previous day. Our vision would swim, our thoughts would drown in a sea of treacle as they tried to surface and ooze their way out of our mouths and we felt constantly slightly hung over and queasy. In fact we may as well have been hung over. Although that would have implied partying, and staying up all night.

And that was exactly what we were doing – the staying up all night part of it, that is. I mean, we were going to bed extremely early because we couldn’t keep our eyes open, but then we were just lying there, waiting for sleep to finally come for us. Tossing and turning in our layers of clothes, trying not to ruin the carefully positioned layers of blankets before finally getting too hot. Yes, we were finally hot and we couldn’t take any clothes off. To take clothes off would have meant getting out of bed, into the cold, acknowledging to ourselves that we were awake and that we were not going to go to sleep any time soon. It would have meant handing victory over to Time and its allies, Altitude and Jet Lag.

Jet Lag.

Slipping in there as the third of the trio, it worked tirelessly in the background, compounding the effects of the other two, adding to the flu like sensations. The tiredness made worse by the fact that no matter how much you wanted to, you couldn’t sleep. The knowledge that you would be lying there, eyes open like saucers, staring into the blackness all night. Again.

The effect of the three allies, together increasing the feeling of a come down, giving you the suspicion that you were experiencing cold turkey, because it was all a come down, a hangover. All the shivering and queasiness, all the suffering, it felt as if it was all as a result of some mysterious drug we were indulging in. The flip side of the coin of pleasure, of the roller coaster of enjoyment, of the party we were at. We were being exposed and introduced to the dark side of happiness, the evil twin of pleasure, the come down from the most beautiful, wondrous and momentous of highs.

And this mystery drug that provided such a high?

Well, that’s easy.

Being there, the location, the Himalayas, the freedom and the wind through my hair as we rode through the wilderness. I was doing what I felt I was born to do, I was taking photographs, living life, reveling in the beauty of mother nature and turning my back on Time and all it could throw at me. It meant nothing to me, I was invincible, and I was laughing in the face of the cold, the altitude and the jetlag.

Well…

For a while, anyway.

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