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Monday, April 16, 2012

Baghdad Landing

As part of our India adventure we are trying to cover as much of this diverse country as possible.   Growing up in the Midwest I am used to a pretty flat topography which makes Bangalore feel like normal.   All our friends from California or Europe complain about the lack of mountains.   India, Nepal, Tibet and China have some of the tallest peaks around.  We figured it was time to go check them out.    Unfortunately the season for visiting the northern borders of India is relatively short - April through October as the snow and ice gets to heavy... Again, I am a midwest girl, we think nothing of 18 inches of snow overnight, shoveling and then off to work.   We opted for early April, packing the necessary winter accessories to escape the Bangalore heat.

The five of us boarded our plane in Delhi at 5:55 am to head north to Leh-Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir India.   No breakfast, bleary eyed and cramped on our flight - the kids managed to hold it together until the descent.  Gliding above the infinite plane of snow caps sprawling as far as the eye could see, our descent was slow and steady.   Soon enough the snowcaps were  disappearing and our flight was along the brown mountain sides.   It was spectacular.   I could see the valley ahead but we were still too high to land.  The the excitement started.  The plane started to rumble, bank to the left closely rounding the some lone mountains in the center of the valley...I could see the narrow streets and small air traffic control tower as we passed by...Again medium vibrations and we bank to the right getting lower into the valley.   I could see Nolan's eyes glaze over and the green tint spread across his face.    Stuck in a window seat, bag in the overhead i quickly dug into my pockets looking for tissues, wrappers or anything to manage the pending eruption.   Again we bank to the left, the landing gear drops and the rumblings become progressively more violent.

Nolan loses it.  I will spare you the details but this is when you earn your strips as a Mom.   My other two kids start to heave at the mere sight of their little brother and my husband looked away.  I was ready to throw out his shoes but knowing there would be no options in town - i opted for water and baby wipes hoping he would not inspect my handiwork.   I learned after deplaning this is what you call a Baghdad or spiral landing.  That should have been enough warning for what followed!

having coffee at the Grand Dragon hotel-check out that backdrop!
Off to the hotel which was at 10,000 ft elevation.   A day of rest was planned so we could acclimate to the thinner air.   I climbed in bed with a hat on my head and book in hand to hydrate and rest however a nagging headache got progressively worse.  I checked in with Doug - same headache.  Kids were fine watching the every present Cartoon Network.   It dawned on us around 5pm that we were just suffering from caffeine withdrawal.  Nothing a little Starbucks Via to Go couldn't solve.   New reminder - have 1 cup of coffee no matter the schedule to avoid delusion and hypochondriac notions!   I would like to say that the those were the biggest challenges of the journey but the toilets proved to be the next life lesson for the kids.

As an adult - you have more experience making do with what is present (outhouse, road side, holes in the ground and the like....) as a kid you are still operating under the parental orders of don't touch dirty stuff, wash your hands all the time and don't go down dark or unlit pathways...Well those were exactly the conditions of rural mountain bathrooms.   I tried to be a sport and use what was available so the kids would follow suit but there were just times Emma and Nolan could deal.   I don't have a picture or even have found something as interesting as what we saw in the mountains...picture the scene from Trainspotting - that was our Tibetan kitchen facilities... think back to Slumdog Millionaire and the style where the drop is 30 feet below and finally our favorite, a ceramic basin put in the ground with a rock on top sheltered by burlap wrapped around a stick!

I would say we are all experts at identifying good facilities after enough bad ones found - but in addition to carrying water, tissue and purell make the whole experience tolerable...