Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why Ladakh and not the Maldives (or how I convinced Mathilde to go to Ladakh instead of the Maldives...)

Let’s not fool ourselves. Of course, you can go to Ladakh and visit the Buddhist gompas and stupas. Of course, you can go to Ladakh and spend 3 to 10 days on a yoga and meditation course. And of course, you can go to Ladakh to be massaged and rubbed as much as you want - and even attend courses to learn massage, chakra manipulation and acupuncture. But in truth, if you decide to go to Ladakh, it’s to trek.

Ladakh is the paradise of trekking: it offers almost endless possibilities of trekking, from one/two days, to twenty days and even more - at any level of difficulty and in every season. All in a terrific landscape.

Now, for those that know us a bit better, you may remember that in order to convince Mathilde to come to Alaska in Summer 2008 (particularly after having spent our Summer 2007 in Iceland) I had to promise her that we would have spent our next three vacations in warm and sunny places, and that we would have slept in proper beds.

Now, Summer 2009 was at the Aeolian Islands*, so the criteria set by Mathilde for our vacations were fully met. Our vacations during Christmas 2009 were in Kerala**, so Mathilde’s criteria were met in this case as well. But we haven’t had yet the ‘3-vacations-in-a-row-in-a-warm-and-sunny-place-sleeping-in-proper-beds’ as our pre-Alaska agreement required. When we moved to India Mathilde was already dreaming the Maldives, or Thailand, or Bali as destination for our Summer 2010 vacations.

How thus I managed to convince Mathilde to come trekking to Ladakh instead of going to the Maldives (and actually having her enjoying it)?

Convincing argument number one: Ladakh is actually a warm place. The argument which I used to convince Mathilde that Ladakh is actually a warm place is that the feeling of cold does not depend on the absolute temperature, but on the relative humidity. In other words, 10-15 degrees under the rain (all references to Iceland and Alaska are purely accidental) are much worse than 4-5 degrees in a dry place. And Ladakh, it’s true, is on the Himalayas at 3,500 m asl and above - but it is also possibly the driest region in India. It’s true, temperatures can drop close to zero overnight (depending on the altitude), but Ladakh in summer is ‘monsoon-free’.

Convincing argument number two: you won’t have the burden of carrying your backpack. Those that know me well know that I belong to the ‘bring-only-what-you-can-carry and carry-only-what-you-need’ school of thought. Which basically means two t-shirts, two pairs of socks, and two underpants (independently from the length of the trek), a sleeping bag, a tent, dry food and nothing more - as I well know that every additional gram in the bag will eventually end up on my shoulders.

Now, even those who know little about women psychology (well, is there anyone who know much about women psychology?) can easily understand that the principles of this school of thought do not fulfil women’s needs - who basically could not care less about playing Indiana Jones during their vacations.

So, during my negotiations with Mathilde about Ladakh I agreed to rent donkeys to carry our backpacks. And this has drastically changed the comfort of our trip. Because one thing is to sweat under your 10-12 kilos backpack at 4,000 m asl for 6-8 hours/day. And another thing is to comfortably walk with your day-backpack only.

Convincing argument number three: I promise you we’ll have a minimum of comfort. Nothing against the dry food (actually the one we bought for Iceland and Alaska was pretty good) and sleeping in a tent (you know how much I am attached to my little high-altitude super-technical yellow tent) - but I agree: if you walk 6-8 hours/day for three, four, five days, and at the end of each day, when you are tired and hungry, you have to pitch your tent (perhaps when it is cold or under the rain - all references to Iceland and Alaska are purely accidental), cook your own dry food, etc. ... well, I understand that starting from the third day, if not earlier, your tolerance drastically decreases, and the risks of accusing your boyfriend/husband of all the troubles in the world exponentially increases.

Well then, together with the donkeys we also hired a cook!***.

Under these conditions, not only it can be argued that trekking in the Himalayas and sleeping in a tent can meet Mathilde’s criteria, but it can actually be a very pleasant experience!

(*) and

(**) and following posts.

(***) More on the cook and the rest of our team in one of the next posts.

Monday, July 19, 2010


It is difficult to condense two weeks of dramatic landscapes, breathtaking views and strong emotions in just a few lines. But one thing is sure: I have never seen a place like Ladakh.

Arid plains surrounded by sand-like mountains which contrast a crystal-blue sky. Basically Ladakh is a high-altitude desert (rarely below 3,500 and often above 4,000 m) where the Himalayan peaks and the gorges caved over the centuries by the glaciers and the rivers produce a surreal landscape.

But within this dramatic and apparently inhospitable environment, patches of an intense, almost phosphorescent green suddenly appear - almost by a miracle. That’s where the Ladakhi farmers after centuries of struggles against the harsh environment managed to laboriously channel the water from the mountain streams, and make some small plots of land fertile. And the visual impact is terrific.

And while writing these lines, one regret: that none of our pictures, clips, or descriptions could even closely reproduce the beauty of this incredible land...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Back from Ladakh

Les M&M’s are back from Ladakh.

We’ll post our stories and pictures in the coming days.

Please, be patient! J

Friday, July 16, 2010

Les M&M’s move to “.org”

Dear followers,

our Blog moves to (and not ‘.com’ anymore). The previous URL address is not valid anymore: do update your ‘favourites’ J.

To our great regret, we lost all your comments to our previous posts in the transfer.

But please, don't give up - do keep on following us and sending us your comments: you make us feel ‘close’, even from faraway.

Les M&M’s

(PS: does anyone know how to get an URL address back?)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Out of the Blog automatic reply

This is an automatic message.
Les M&M’s are out into the wild, in the remote mountains of Ladakh.
Don’t look for them, you won’t find them.
They will be back to civilization (perhaps) around July 17.
Au revoir.
The Management of the Blog

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Indian experiences...

Things to be done before leaving India:

- Visiting the Taj Mahal (done)

- Visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar (done)

- Being hospitalized in an Indian hospital for a stomach infection...

Well, I was missing the latter (quite a significant shortcoming having already spent nine months here), but managed to adequately make up for it in the past couple of days, and can now thick this box as well. Now I can proudly say I fully experienced India...

Sudden high fever, vomit, diarrhoea; I was rushed to hospital and, after a rapid consultation, attached to a phlebo, pierced by dozens of needles for blood samples and injections, and - above all - deprived of the World Cup for two entire days, as the TV in hospital (which had no less than ten sport channels) only broadcasted cricket matches.

But all is well that ends well, and after two days of seclusion, I have finally been realised - a bit thinner than before, but overall ok.

Now - everybody agrees that I should eat to recover my strengths. Everybody also agrees that, having had a stomach infection, I should be careful to what I eat. And, finally, everybody agrees that there are certain foods that are more appropriate for a convalescent than others. What nobody seems to agree about is what exactly I should eat.

‘Apples are good’.

‘Do avoid apples’.

‘Don’t drink milk’.

‘Eat yogurt’ (isn’t yogurt made of milk?).

‘If you are hungry, have as many eggs as you want’.

‘If I were you, I would avoid eggs for a week’...

Toshi and Kaz, my two Japanese friends here in Delhi, seem to have the magic bullet: noodle soup (at least, this was what their mums used to cook them during their childhood when they were sick).

But the sneer has come from Pansigh, our factotum. After having cheerfully welcomed me back home, he told me without beating about the bush that the reason why I got sick is simply because I do not eat Indian food (!). ‘Enrico-boss’ (that’s the way Pansigh calls the previous tenant, Enrico*) ‘always Indian food for dinner and never sick. You always pasta for dinner and you always sick. Pasta do not give energy’.

And offered to cook dahl and rice for the night.

(*) while I am ‘Matteo-boss’. Mathilde is ‘Madame’.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Gaulish miracle

After months of heat, the first rains have suddenly come.
The monsoon is approaching…