When it comes to traveling to Ladakh, there is a lot of misinformation around. Spread mainly by those, who would like to have you believe, that traveling to Ladakh is an extraordinary feat, one which could only be achieved by them or those as “tough” as them.
From only certain types of motorcycles and cars (read SUVs) being capable of traveling to Ladakh to Ladakh requiring extreme fitness. The more you talk to people, who like bragging, the more such absurd notions you come across.
The reality is, if you are an obese person like me (at 5ft-8inch, my maximum weight at one time was around 140 kg and during my 8 earlier trips to Ladakh, I have always been above 100 kg), you can not only travel to Ladakh but also enjoy your trip as much if not more than a fit person can!
This is due to the fact that, most of the traveling is done in the comfort of a car or on a motorbike, neither of which require any great fitness to operate or travel in. What you do require is stamina, common sense, and a will to go on. Without which, even if you’re the fittest person in the world, you will eventually give up and break down!
Having said this, there is a big difference between being obese/overweight and incapable of walking for a long distance. Because at the end of the day, you’re traveling to a high altitude area, where the amount of oxygen in the air is quite less than what you will find in plains. Couple that with inclines and you will run out of breath faster than you would in your own city.
Being unfit means, you will be running out of breath sooner and trying harder to keep up with those who are used to walking. All this ends up tiring you out even more and thus makes you more susceptible to AMS! (Read Ladakh AMS Survival Guide for information on how to deal with Acute Mountain Sickness, which can prove to be fetal.)
So if you’re someone, who isn’t used to walking on a daily basis. Then start walking daily, before your trip to Ladakh. Not in order to lose weight drastically, rather to become healthier than you’re at the moment and get used to walking.
Because in Ladakh, you do have to walk a lot and in order to visit the beautiful and ancient monasteries, you need to climb a lot of stairs!
Even for a fit person, trying to acclimatize to high altitude, this is a tough task. For someone who isn’t used to walking on a regular basis, it is going be extremely tough and might just cause you to give up en route or worse still, you overexert yourself and get hit by AMS!
While in Ladakh, walk at your own pace and rest in order to catch your breath, before going forward. Don’t try to push yourself too hard, in order to keep up with others, else you will only end up causing discomfort to yourself and eventually, become a liability for others as well when you fall sick!
Eat light and easily digestible food, and if possible, stay away from the processed food while in Ladakh and try the local cuisines and one of the many wonderful cafes in Leh.
Travel light, so that you don’t have to lug a lot of things around while traveling, which can further slow you down.
Finally, if you have any pre-existing medical condition eg. hypertension, diabetes, asthma etc. , then please consult your doctor, before traveling to Ladakh and make sure to take your medications on a regular basis and visit the nearest medical center in case you feel sick.
At the end of the day, even though being obese is neither healthy nor something to look forward to, it isn’t a curse and we can certainly enjoy our lives and travel, as much as others can.