The Curious Magpie

Curiosity killed the cat! Or in this case the magpie...

...the point of this page is for me to post up all the shiny things I make or do or see...

All posts on here are originally mine unless stated otherwise.

Exploring Ladakh - Day 16

Wednesday 6th August 2014

Midnight. 2a.m. 4a.m. 5a.m. 6a.m. I keep waking up because I can’t get comfortable. There’s a large rock under my bit of the tent and, no matter how I lie, it digs into me. After 6, I have to get up to go to the toilet. Then as I’m up I stay up to help make the breakfast. I get my porridge first and then, realising how little sleep I’ve had, go back to my tent and collapse in a pile on top of the sleeping bags. I’m woken up after half an hour to check I’m alive and then after another half an hour to be told we’ll be leaving soon. I’m given the option of staying behind to have a rest day, but I want to get good science done today!

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 15

Tuesday 5th August 2014

Early to bed, early to rise!  It takes just two hours to get ready to leave; not too shabby, getting better. Our route today will hopefully be our last long walk up the valley with bags. We don’t get off to a great start, with a stop for bag adjustments almost immediately, but then we are away with the small squeaky pikas running around in circles by way of saying goodbye.

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 14

Monday 4th August 2014

The sun shining into the tent and heating it up is our wake-up call today. 8a.m. is a massive lie-in! Slow breakfast and tidy-up takes a good long time, and then I have another sorting job – all the fruit and nuts. Around 10 we wave goodbye to the keen group, who are going to take our food stash further up the valley and then we have time to kill. Even after my 10 hours of sleep last night, I manage an hour’s nap before people start grumbling about being hungry and I get up to feed them on flapjacks.

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 13

Sunday 3rd August 2014

5.30 a.m. start again. Starting to not feel so bad, getting up this early, although it stays cold until about 6.30 when the sun rises over the mountains. Today’s morning routine includes taking down the tents and packing up everything that we will need for the next 6 days. I’m leaving rather a lot behind. I wonder what I have forgotten? Breakfast is eaten, our camp site tidied and tied down and we’re off!

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 12

Saturday 2nd August 2014

Beep. Another 5.30 alarm from the Yellow Brick; at least this time it’s useful!  Up we get, go through the breakfast routine (today with added apricots) and set out on our first major hike – bags full of 6 days’ food and ice kit. We start to plod our way up the valley. It’s a long slow slog, not helped by the long legged boys of the group powering ahead. At least the constantly varying terrain makes it interesting – rock, grass, mud, moss, sand, soil etc. we have some of each. Stopping multiple times along the way for drink and snack-breaks, the journey is long and hard, but do-able! Eventually stopping on a small ridge, we consult the map to work out how far away our destination is. It appears to be only about a kilometre away but this map has a dreadful scale, so we can’t be sure.

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 11

Friday 1st August 2014

Beep! It’s 5.30, why is there an alarm going off? Beep. Why hasn’t anyone turned off the alarm? Beep. Seriously, what is beeping? Several beeps later I actually get up and discover it’s the Yellow Brick (our satellite comms. device) that’s been beeping because we have received a message. Apparently it’s been automatically set to send and receive at 5.30 a.m. and p.m. Not useful when you want to sleep! But we get up and breakfast as usual. The aim was to leave camp at 7a.m. That was optimistic! At 8p.m. we set off up the valley to see how far we can get.

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 10

Thursday 31st July 2014

A small voice calls my name at 4.30am. No, I really don’t want to deal with medical issues at this time of night, but I suppose I must. Once we find the Doctor, it’s all fairly easily sorted out and I can go back to bed. Several more hours of sleep later, it starts to become too hot for my sleeping bag and I gradually wake up as I have to peel off layers of bedding.

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 9

Wednesday 30th July 2014

At something like 2am I find the side of the tent flattened on my face by a howling gale. I turn over and eventually go back to sleep. At 5.30 I wake again to the sound of lashing rain. After half an hour I have to give in and wake up properly. I procrastinate about getting out of bed for as long as possible by trying to pack everything inside and when I get out 20 minutes later the rain has pretty much stopped.

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 8

Tuesday 29th July 2014 

Not quite 6 a.m. and we are woken by the sound of scrabbling outside. Opening the tent we find it’s just a couple of magpies. Up, breakfast, tents down, bags packed, bus loaded, water collected – the morning routine we’’ follow for the rest of the trip. All loaded up, the buses trundle onwards. The first stop has big ‘No Entry’ signs painted on random rocks; I’m not sure what or why we are not supposed to enter. The second stop, next to the river, is mostly interesting because I find the remains of a dzo (yak) by the side of the road. Only the skull and a leathery bit of skin remain. WE pass a few small villages offering camping and food – this is obviously a reasonable touristy road. Another stop, outside a village next to a grassy plain, shows how much the landscape has changed. We’ve been steadily gaining height over the past three days (~300m/day) but it’s not the altitude that changes the scenery, it’s the rock type – everything is much softer now. (And more easily eroded).

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 7

Monday 28th July 2014

6am alarm, time to get up again. Pack tents, make porridge, pack everything, get ready, collect all the water containers and set off to the village. Again! Collecting water seems to be a village spectacle, although there are fewer people this morning, just a few women washing various things in the stream. We are also mooed at by a small curious calf. Back in camp, one final sweep and we are all packed. Start up the bus and off we go… for all of about 10 minutes until there is a thump and a yell from the back of the bus as one of our water bags falls off the top rack and explodes in the middle of the bus. Some quick thinking – throwing it out of the window – saves a lake forming. A quick clear up and we are really on the way now.

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 6

Sunday 27th July 2014

I’m woken up by the sun shining down on my head and the cackling of the magpies outside. Breakfast is an effort – trying to boil water at altitude – followed by plastering on sun-scream as it starts to heat up. First task of the day is First Aid – a refresher for most with added info on how to combat the unbearable heat. Then, for something different, it’s time for Geology and investigation of the amazing rock structure around us - lots of bands of different rock types at weird angles and there are random erratics. Then the last lesson is how to make the temperamental stoves work. I escape from this lesson (as I already know how useful and useless they are), but I soon get captured to help make the lunch.

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 5

Saturday 26th July 2014

Breakfast is cardamom bread and local apricot jam, followed by trying to organise everyone and everything into a variety of trucks. First job personal kit – is everyone’s kit packed and in the right pile? Second organise who is going in which van/bus? THIRD - change of plan when the buses that arrive are not what we expected. Finally everything is packed away onto the bus (a.k.a. precariously perched on the roof racks). Everyone is on board (sitting on very uncomfortable plastic covered seats) and we are away. Waving goodbye to the last civilised beds for the month.

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 4

Friday 25th July 2014

I’m woken, not by a beeping watch alarm, but by the beeping of my room-mates watch as she fiddles with it! (Half an hour before alarm time!) But soon it’s time to get up anyway and investigate breakfast. Today we have a big thick chapatti with a boiled egg. I also try the sweet local tea – cha – but it just tastes like sugary dirty water (as opposed to clean dirty water, which is what I think most tea tastes of!)

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 3

Thursday 24th July 2014

My body no longer has any idea what time it is when watches start beeping at the ridiculous time of 02.10. Into clothes, pack bag, downstairs, bags on bus, people on bus, off to airport. It’s still too hot at this time of night and although there is less traffic, there are still people and stray dogs wandering around. Apart from a few horn honks it is a peaceful journey to the airport before we unload, find bags, security, check-in, more security, a stop in W.H. Smiths (where we clear out all their change). The gate notification suddenly changes from ‘gate open’ to ‘final call’ and we rush across the airport and fill up the plane. Then it’s up and away, not much of a view of Delhi unfortunately as there is a thick layer of mist.

... Read more

Exploring Ladakh - Day 2

Wednesday 23rd July 2014

Well, without interruption until breakfast, which is only a few hours later. There’s time for a further short nap, before we bump down onto the tarmac.

Out of the plane, collect bags, headcount, load everything onto a coach, and then out of clean tidy Indira Gandhi Airport into India. Armed guards watch us leave; the infamous Indian traffic begins, stray dogs wander round, ladies in beautiful saris, holy men walking barefoot in the dust. We pass worksites where everything is being done by hand, markets with piles of vegetables, tuk-tuks and temples. AND NOISE. Heat and noise and people everywhere!

... Read more