BMGS Teacher Bruce Stevenson Enjoys Winter in Ladakh

Once again, a group of Blue Mountains Grammar School students, parents and friends set off to South Asia with adventure operators World Horizons. None of us had been to Ladakh previously and to all of us, it was an exciting mystery. A day in Bangkok with a river cruise and great food made a pleasant break in the long trip to Delhi and finally Leh, the capital city of Ladakh. Ladakh lies in a remarkable valley high in the Himalaya at the point where the sub-continent collides into the great Eurasian continent pushing up the highest mountain range on Earth. The valley was a significant section of the Silk Road trading route, which provided a passage through the Himalaya between China and the West for thousands of years. After a spectacular flight over the Himalaya from Delhi we spent three days acclimatizing to the high altitude by touring around Leh and wandering through the local markets, feasting on the artistry and beauty of the traders’ wares. One highlight was a trip to the annual Spituk Monastery Festival, which was a spectacular display of costume, dance and music telling the story of the birth and development of Buddhism. The Monastery itself needed no enhancement to be a breathtaking visit, but to see the festival in full swing was a great privilege. We also experienced the world’s highest ice hockey tournament – another spectacular we were fortunate to witness.

Following our days of acclimatization while being fed and waited on like Kings at the Lasermo Hotel, we set out on a five day trek along the Ladakhi Valley from Likir to Temisgem. Passing through numerous villages and trekking over a number of high passes showed us the staggering beauty of the country both physically and in the hearts and minds of the Ladakhi people. We were greeted with warmth and hospitality into local homes and we ate as well as we could wish to anywhere in the world. The trek was littered with ancient relics of castles and forts, surrounding the villages that they were built to protect. The timeless essence of these valleys and their inhabitants is an experience we will not forget.

After a few days in Leh to relax and recuperate, we spent a few hours donating well-needed resources and money to a local school and orphanage. The Ladakhi students presented a delightful concert which involved a few items by our own team and created an atmosphere of great appreciation and good humour amongst the locals. Then after fare-welling our beloved trekking team, we all boarded the plane for another spectacular flight over the Himalaya, then down to the Ganges plain and Delhi.

What a remarkable culture shock! The magic and filth of Delhi rolled into a sensory bombardment that was too much for some and irresistible to others. Nobody was indifferent. A few hours’ drive to Agra showed us the stark and often brutal contrasts of India and the following day was a rich feast of sightseeing and historical education. First the Taj Mahal in all its splendor and then the Red Fort with its incomprehensible size, architecture and history.

This adventure far exceeded my expectations and I am already planning a return trip. The group had a marvelous time without exception and we have all come back wiser and grateful for the amazing country we live in. Our appreciation extends largely to World Horizons Matthew Swait for his exceptional leadership and support. He is superbly organised for even the worst case scenario typical of the sub-continent. He also has a great sense of humour and made everyone feel at ease both with his friendly nature and his confidence in all situations.

“Julley” Matthew from all of us.

Bruce Stevenson
Blue Mountains Grammar


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