From a homestay in Ulley at 4,500m altitude overlooking the Zankar Ridge – a mountain range of more than 6,000m adorned in eternal snow – I will look for the mystical ‘mountain ghost’, the snow leopard. A predator that lives in harsh conditions of the highest peaks of the Himalayas and is so rare and little spotted that it is on the bucket list of every wildlife enthusiast.
Arriving in Delhi you come into another world, a world of herbs, hectic and the unknown. India, a continent at the foot of the Himalayas, with hundreds of languages and customs. I’ll meet the far north, Ladakh.
From Delhi it’s an hour’s flight to ladakh’s capital, Leh. I come into a world of mountain peoples, jackals, Dhzo and beautiful stupas and monasteries with centuries-old traditions. Leh is a ‘melting pot’ of Kashmiri, Tibetan, Afghan and Passmankist cultures and traditions surrounded by huge army bases and the beautiful Himalayas. In the valley, the Indus makes its way through the Himalayas to Pakistan.
After a wonderful ride of about three hours from Leh I arrive in Ulley. Warm-hearted people. Immediately good news; A snow leopard killed a jakkalf 15 minutes from our stay. Chances are we’ll be able to spot this one after lunch this afternoon. Arriving, I catch a first glimpse of the mythical beast.
I’m braving the cold. In the morning at sunrise I stand in a temperature of minus 8 pictures. A childhood dream has become a reality. For the next three days, we’ll continue to spot the snow leopard. She defends her prey against any intruder. Even the magpies have to believe in it.
I can barely fathom it, snow leopard. The evenings are filled with emotional conversations, the wind guurt around us and we eat Ladakhi dishes, Thukpa, pakthuk and for breakfast khambir.
The last day we spot – as icing on the cake – another Tibetan wolf, oerial (wild sheep with huge horns), ibex and the beautiful Lammergier.
Of course I can recommend everyone to experience this adventure. Not for everyone, homestay is ‘basic’ but the experience is overwhelming.
I end with a Ladakhs saying: