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17,000 ft. in the Himalayas and Strengthening Educational Systems

We left Manali early in the morning, loading the minibus with our bags and packing extra water and snacks for the long journey ahead.

The exhilarating ride to Leh is an epic 18-hour adventure that tackles the precarious Rohtang Pass just outside of Manali, then crosses four mountain passes that reach over 4,900 metres in altitude.

On the way to Leh

On the way to Leh

The landscape seems to change at every turn, from arid to snowcapped mountains to lush greenery, which left everyone with a sense of awe and appreciation for this region of India.

To break up the duration of the trip, we stopped overnight in a small village named Jispa. We explored the nearby river, piled in one of the tents for a massive cuddle puddle and bundled up at sundown for a traditional Indian dinner of rice and dal. We slept in two’s in tents and huts, waking at 4 a.m. to get an early start on the remainder of the ride.

Bus to Leh, India

More bus times!

Over the course of the two days, the group managed to overcome the challenges of motion and altitude sickness to still enjoy the beauty that the magnificent Himalayas have to offer.

The beautiful view of Leh, India

Ain’t that a beauty!?

We finally arrived in Leh and the 14 of us practically filled up our guesthouse, Zom. Owned by a kind Ladakhi family, it was more of an oasis than a hotel with a comfortable patio, beautiful garden, and spacious rooftop. The group enjoyed a few relaxing days of acclimatization, checking out the handicrafts of local merchants, climbing over 400 steps to the Shanti Stupa, lunching on Tibetan momos in the main market and practicing meditation at The Mahabodhi Centre.

Dinner in Leh, India

A family dinner in Leh. Look at that love!

We spent one afternoon at our partner 17,000 ft Foundation’s office, meeting with the awesome co-founder Sahu and his friendly staff. 17,000 ft is a multi-disciplinary team of corporate professionals turned social entrepreneurs with a focus on transforming lives at the most remote and most inaccessible regions of Ladakh. In short, their mission is to strengthen rural schools and communities, drive attention to remote villages and provide opportunities for learning through enriching exchanges with visiting travelers. They visited 366 schools in their first year as an organization, and recorded information and data about each school. 17,000 ft eventually chose 100 schools to work with based on their demographics, longevity and lack of previous support from other NGOs. We were introduced to the reading program that we will be implementing while at the remote Skidmang monastery village, and we split into small groups of three to start preparing our lessons.

Leaving the office, we felt excited and eager to start our main volunteering project at Skidmang Village.

Til next time,
Natalie Gilbert, India High Altitude Adventure trip leader

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