Leh – Ladakh
My first morning in Leh I happened to stumble upon Open Hand Cafe – and ended going back every day for the month I stayed in Ladakh! This is a very chilled out place which boasts an extensive breakfast menu, delicious cakes, and fresh salads. There’s an outdoor courtyard which is perfect for soaking up the early morning sun, or for enjoying an afternoon cappuccino in the shade. The cafe also functions as a fair trade shop selling beautiful handmade textiles, cushions, jewelery etc. More than that, what really makes Open Hand such a nice place is the staff – super friendly and always in good spirits. Not to be missed if you’re in Leh! – Traveler From Sweden – tripadvisor.com
Leh-Ladakh, a desert landscape surrounded with snow capped mountains in the heart of the Himalayas
Use this Google Map to help you find our Café
Decimal coordinates: 34.1667 77.5833
Altitude: 3599 m.
Time Zone: Asia/Kolkata.
Population: 37 475
OpenHand Café Leh is open from April to end of September annually
OpenHand Espresso Bar & Bistro Leh-Ladakh
In the centre of Leh, just off the Old Fort Road lies an acre of green tranquility and lush vegetable gardens. Come and find OpenHand for that morning espresso based coffee and hearty breakfast. There is time to laze on one of the recliners or sit on the deck while we pamper you before your next adventure with good home cooked meals of local and international origin. If you need to catch up with friends and family use OpenHand as the place to connect you, if your sweet tooth needs something baked just combine friendship and everything sweet and comforting. For health-nuts too there is enough that is healthy, nourishing and invigorating to make you glow. While you relax in the garden, we will cook from it everything that will make your mouth water. So make OpenHand your must-stop-first-stop!
Situated in the heart of Leh on an acre of agricultural land is OpenHand’s first fully organic bistro and espresso bar. The café offers a wide range of dishes and cuisines, and has been developed in collaboration with South African artist Portchie with the intention of creating an artist retreat with accommodation as part of the facility.
The tourist season for Leh-Ladakh is from April to October after which it is completely snowed in during the off-season winter time. Our café in this region is therefore open during the tourist season only.
Open Hand Espresso Bar & Bistro Leh-Ladakh (open April to Sept)
From Fort Road going towards Leh Palace, turn right at the Hotel Yaktail crossing (Library Road) go past Penguin Restaurant (on your right), 70m down the road, on the right (walking in the direction of Padma Guesthouse)
Leh is one of the 100 places you MUST visit before life ends.
Situated in a desert landscape with very little water resources, Leh is surrounded by snow capped mountains and completely snows in every year cutting it off from the outside world. At an altitude of 3599 m above sea level the air is thin and clean. This oasis is a haven for more advanced hikers and mountaineers. Easier trails are available for those not so experienced and your hike can be accompanied by mules that carry your gear (or even you!).
This all makes finding a REAL cup of decent coffee so much more special and one appreciates the trouble someone took to bring it to a place so far, desolate and well…high, making it possibly one of the highest espressos one can possibly get.
OpenHand is committed to traveling with you wherever you go. So make this a must visit destination during your travels to India. The charm of Leh and its people will certainly capture your heart.
Leh Travel Info
Altitude sickness is a condition with several stages of intensity that affects both young and old, fit and unfit and can be a challenge to anyone visiting places of high altitude. Here is an excerpt from an article by Rick Curtis, Director, Outdoor Action Program “Outdoor Action Guide to High Altitude:Acclimatization and Illnesses”
“…Altitude is defined on the following scale High (8,000 – 12,000 feet [2,438 – 3,658 meters]), Very High (12,000 – 18,000 feet [3,658 – 5,487 meters]), and Extremely High (18,000+ feet [5,500+ meters]). Since few people have been to such altitudes, it is hard to know who may be affected. There are no specific factors such as age, sex, or physical condition that correlate with susceptibility to altitude sickness. Some people get it and some people don’t, and some people are more susceptible than others. Most people can go up to 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) with minimal effect. If you haven’t been to high altitude before, it’s important to be cautious. If you have been at that altitude before with no problem, you can probably return to that altitude without problems as long as you are properly acclimatized.
The major cause of altitude illnesses is going too high too fast. Given time, your body can adapt to the decrease in oxygen molecules at a specific altitude.
This process is known as acclimatization and generally takes 1-3 days at that altitude. For example, if you hike to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and spend several days at that altitude, your body acclimatizes to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). If you climb to 12,000 feet (3,658 meters), your body has to acclimatize once again. A number of changes take place in the body to allow it to operate with decreased oxygen.
The depth of respiration increases.
Pressure in pulmonary arteries is increased, “forcing” blood into portions of the lung which are normally not used during sea level breathing.
The body produces more red blood cells to carry oxygen.
The body produces more of a particular enzyme that facilitates
the release of oxygen from hemoglobin to the body tissues.”
Some precautions can help with this and include the following:
take it easy the first day you arrive at your high altitude destination. Take naps, lie down and rest putting your feet up while your body adjusts to the high altitude.
have regular meals, drink plenty of fluids (much more than usual) and go to the toilet frequently (more than usual).
if you have a slight headache, nausea, sleeplessness, dizziness, feel tired, or if you struggle to express yourself or remember things and feel a bit disoriented go and lie down, take aspirin or paracetamol (whatever is good for you) and take it easy until you feel better.
if you do not feel better soon (within a few hours) you can go to the hospital where they will give you oxygen to help your body cope with the lack of oxygen experienced at high altitude.
the acclimatization process is inhibited by dehydration, over-exertion, and alcohol and other depressant drugs.
due to the clean air and high altitude it is a good idea to take a cap, hat or visor and sunglasses as the sun is quite bright during the day and a beanie for the night as it can get cool at night. Good and comfortable walking shoes is a must.
Traveling by road to Leh:
Along any of the 2 main roads leading to Leh you can ask at army camps along the road for oxygen if at any time you do not feel well and tablets or the above mentioned advice does not work. In more extreme cases where no help is available or there is no response to medicine or oxygen administered the person affected by altitude should be taken to a lower altitude as fast as possible.
A doctor can also prescribe altitude tablets and it is a good idea to ask your doctor more about those.
Read more about altitude sickness:
High Altitude Trekking
Welcome to Highland Trekking Initiatives, a trekking company specialising in High Altitude Trekking. This is the official Trekking Gear List required for all Highland Trekking Initiatives Clients, who plan on taking one of their tour packages, shared as part of Open Hand’s commitment to our clients:
“Traveling with you wherever you may go…taking you to the end of the world”.
High altitude trekking requires special preparation and planning and needs to be done with good gear and trust worthy company.
The backpack should be divided into two compartments and have good external pockets or side pockets which can all be adjusted for size with compression straps.
You should also ensure that you have extra equipment straps for attaching shovels and or walking poles and any other external equipment that may be needed that is for external use.
Make sure your backpack has Compression straps that run vertically and horizontally across the pack…these help to compress the volume of the pack to suit your load.
Bottom or Lower Compartment should have a front zipper to give easy access to items inside, it should also have a double layered base which helps keep the pack dry when it is standing on the ground.
Outside Pockets should be expandable as they are useful for storing wet, messy or constant-use items.
Belt Pocket is useful for small items that need to be stored and that you wish to keep safe like keys, money etc. enabling you to access these items easily.
Shoulder Harness should be wide, with padded shoulder straps to give maximum comfort.
Back system should provide a ventilation tunnel with breathable mesh material to allow for air to circulate.
At the base usually fitted from the backpack over the centre of the Hip Belt there should be a Lumbar Pad this serve to protect the base of your spine.
The Hip Belt should be thickly padded to protect your hips especially when carrying a heavy load as this is where most of the load should be centred is on your hips.
Vertical Adjustment Strap found near the top in the centre of your shoulder blades on the pack of course this is used to adjust the vertical position of the pack in relation to the overall harness…helps a lot with comfort and stability, I found this to be very useful.
Useful to have on either side of your backpack just above your padded shoulder straps some Load Lifter Tabs or stabilizer straps these can be adjusted to help lift or lower the packs centre of gravity on your back.
Sternum strap this links the shoulder straps across the upper chest and helps for added stability.
Another good strap to have or rather a loop is found usually at the very top of the pack near your head this is the grab handle this is so useful for initially lifting or just temporarily carrying the pack whenever you are climbing into a truck or are at the airport or just needing to lift the pack up onto your own back or someone else’ or even for lifting up onto the back of a pack animal.
DAY HIKER PACK:
For both the Backpack and the Day Hiker Pack there are usually two rules to apply whenever packing them and that is always pack the heavier items at the bottom of your pack in the Backpack your sleeping bag and inner liner should always go in the bottom compartment, and clothing and other items in the second compartment in the Backpack.
Day Hiker your heavier items at the bottom and items that you will need during your hike in a more easily accessible space usually nearer the top. A Day Hiker is usually smaller than a Backpack so in a sense things can be more accessible anyway.
Avoid any sharp objects or objects with hard edges been placed in positions that can possibly dig into your back…wrap these objects up in loose clothing including items that can make jangly noises wrap them in socks or T shirts or just simply place them between your clothing. Sharp objects should be packed carefully and in such a way that they will not cause any injury should you accidentally fall.
For both the backpack and the Day Hiker it is a good idea to have a waterproof cover or splash cover that can be stretched over the entire pack and fastened, this gives added protection against harsh rainy wet conditions. It is also advisable even inside a backpack to make doubly sure that the contents in your backpack or day hiker remain dry by inserting a waterproof pack liner or even a good strong garbage bag inside your backpack and/or day hiker this will ensure your gear stays dry. Even when manufacturers of these backpacks and day hikers state that their backpack’s or day hikers are water resistant it is not absolutely so. I found this even with the very best of this kind of gear so do ensure that you are able to keep your gear dry, nothing worse than having a wet or damp sleeping bag to sleep in I always make sure that my sleeping bag is wrapped up in an extra strong garbage bag the inner liner as well. Trust me it is worth it for a good night’s sleep.
FOR YOUR DAY HIKER:
If you can get a Day Hiker that includes a Hydration System even better this is an insulated bladder sleeve that usually fits either on the back of a Day Hiker or in a specially designed side pocket. For trekking and especially High Altitude Trekking drinking water must be available to you at all times drinking a lot of water helps you to adjust to the altitude also prevent dehydration which at high altitudes can be very prevalent due to the dry cold air…drink enough water! You can also buy these drinking bladders separately make sure when you do that the bladder itself is well made and durable and that the drinking valve should be a lock bite valve of good quality so that no leaking occurs. If no bladder then Squeeze bottles of water can be used and can be fitted into one of the easily accessible side Pockets which you should always have on a Day Hiker.
Heavy items that won’t be continually required should go at the bottom of the pack this includes extra water, food, safety equipment, first aid kit and a second pair of shoes, these shoes can be sandal types with Velcro straps usually used for crossing rivers and then hung on the back of your Day Hiker using the shock cords on the back to dry, they can then be used wearing thick woolen socks to keep warm for around the campsite at night to give your feet a breather from the trekking boots. Good idea to add a small gas stove and small trekking pot for two cups if you plan to have tea or Hot Chocolate at High Altitude stay away from Coffee, Hot Chocolate is very good for High Altitude trekking along the way it gives you the warmth and right energy boost, sweet tea is ok as well but Coffee dehydrates you is not good if you crave a bit of Coffee then have some at the end of the day or else just wait until you have finished your trek as a reward. Extra pair of socks and small towel is always useful to have in your Day Hiker. For high altitude trekking you can also place your Woolen Scarf, Beanie or Woolen Cap, gloves very essential the gloves near the top so that you can get to them quickly as it gets colder. The Woolen Scarf can be wrapped around your face and nose under the hood of your jacket to create a warm pocket of air to flow to your nose as the thinner air can be very harsh cold and dry this way you create a bit more moisture for your breathing and some warmth which is very important for your overall body temperature and will help with altitude adjustment.
On a Day Hiker these should always be easily accessible without the need to take of your Day hiker to reach items. These pockets should be designed with either a mesh or fabric material with elasticized rim bands enabling you to stash your squeeze water bottle and or used to store easily accessible snacks and possibly a compact camera.
This is usually a zipped or Velcro closed pocket use this pocket for items you may need to keep dry but also need to have quick access to.
Shock-Cord Carrying System:
These are usually the crisscross elasticized bands that you nowadays often see on the outside of Day Hikers and even some backpacks, they are very useful for carrying a wet raincoat or wet socks that need to dry out or damp towel or any item that is too difficult to fit into your main compartment of your Day Hiker, however make sure that these items carried in this way are secured very well in these Shock-Cords as often you can lose stuff if not properly secured through the Shock-Cord straps.
Pole Pockets or straps can be useful to have available on a Day Hiker or on a Backpack makes it easier to carry your walking poles when not needing to use them, whilst still been easily accessible.
Then of course a waterproof splash cover to pull over your Day Hiker in rainy weather should come with the purchase of your Day Hiker and/or Backpack as an added extra precaution take along with you a Heavy-Duty Garbage Bags as a good stand-by.
SLEEPING BAGS AND INNER LINER:
DO NOT GO CHEAP on your sleeping bag or your inner liner for High Altitude trekking. You need to ensure that at night you will be warm. Even in the summer months High Altitude trekking is always very cold at night even if it felt quite hot during the day while you trekked I can assure you that in the Mountains the temperature drops radically at night.
You must have a sleeping bag that can withstand up to minus 20 degrees Celsius temperatures preferably with an added silk or fleece lining to add to the inside for added extra warmth and woolen or fleece lined socks for your feet.
It should have a double layered foot-bed a shoulder collar and a drawstring hood. Depending on whether you are right-sided or left-sided a zip that can open up on one or other side all the way down to the bottom of the bag the zip should be anti-snag and should have a full baffle to cover it all along the way for added insulation. Go for Hollow fiber and continuous fiber which does not break apart during washing or use. Down sleeping bags are good but if they get damp they can be a real problem trying to get them dry again when on a trek the more new generation synthetic fiber can out-perform down sleeping bags when wet as they will dry much faster and aren’t as heavy to carry.
For added warmth whilst sleeping you can add the inner liner to the sleeping bag this also helps keeping your bag clean as well as wear a woolen hat and thermal underwear and of course socks all this helps you to keep warm do not skimp on any of this in High Altitude trekking!!!
Our Company provides Sleeping mats which are essential to insulate your sleeping bag from the ground inside the tent. We mostly provide folk with a self-inflating air-mattress but should you wish to bring your own sleeping mats then you are welcome to just make sure that they insulate you well from the cold ground.
Tents we provide together with groundsheets to add more protection externally for the tents floor this also adds to the comfort of your overall trekking experience especially in wet rainy weather.
OTHER ITEMS OF USEFULNESS FOR A COMFORTABLE HIGH ALTITUDE TREK TO CONSIDER BRINGING FOR YOUR OWN USE:
Whilst we provide as a company for all your cooking and utensil needs including all the food for the main meals, that is supper and breakfast, that we will cook for you at the campsites each day, we however do not provide for meals during the day whilst we are trekking from one campsite to the next, except of course to stop regularly to rest etc. which is often when one can have a snack etc.
The reason we do not provide a cooked Lunch is because all the gear has been, including the kitchen gear, loaded up on to the back of all our pack animals Donkeys or Yaks for carrying to the next campsite. They together with our Nomad Guides will normally be ahead of us and will reach the next campsite before we do so that they can setup camp before we arrive, making things easier to immediately get settled in and begin the cooking.
As a result of this we realise that some folk then may need some guidance as what else to bring should they want to have means of making a small lunch along the way especially when we stop for a longer break in the middle of the day.
SUGGESTED LIST FOR SUCH ITEMS TO CARRY WITH YOU:
SNACK FOOD ON THE TRAIL:
Nuts and raisins
Fruit especially apples which last better
Any Dried fruit
Dried Meat: This can be bought here in Lhasa.
Bars of Chocolate very good for High Altitude trekking
Glucose sweets great for sucking keeping your mouth wet as well as giving you added energy.
You can make yourself a sandwich at breakfast using our flat breads that we provide for the trek to take with you as a snack later in the day.
Cheese if you can get some also biscuits can be used with the cheese as a snack during the day.
Soup we can provide some packets of that to go with the flat bread provided you have a way of cooking it.
Instant noodles are great for a quick warm snack and easy to prepare.
Hot Chocolate or you can also buy here in Lhasa in powder form instant powdered fruit juices which are good for energy and are quite tasty nice to mix with your water. Or tea one can also buy these in little packets with everything in it sugar and milk all instant.
OTHER ITEMS: For Your Day Pack:
A small butane gas stove with a small trekking kettle enough at least for two cups.
Matches make sure they are waterproofed or keep them in a waterproof container.
A small camping mug for drinking or using for some instant package soup or noodles
Or we can let you carry the utensils we have for you for your main meals with us, you can borrow these during the day as long as you carry them in your Day Hiker and keep them clean.
Multi-tool or pocket knife always useful
Some bio-degradable soap for washing your Day Pack items with before stowing them back in your Day Hiker.
Flashlight or Head Torch, I prefer a Head Torch because it frees your hands to do things.
Small personal First Aid Kit we do provide a bigger one but cannot be responsible for your personal medication needs. Include some Aspirin or Ibuprofen in your personal medications we will have these two items as well but it is always useful for each person to have these as well, these two medications are very helpful for High Altitude trekking better than paracetamol because they help thin your blood hereby helping oxygen to flow more easily around your body. Also if you like some water purification tablets can be useful however we do always boil all the water we use on the trek.
Space Blanket good if everyone has one they are very light and easy to carry.
Sunscreen very strong one for good UVA protection as well as a very good UVA protective lip salve one’s lips can burn horribly at altitude not just because of the sun but the wind is a big factor as well so do look after your lips nothing worse than having painful lips to deal with.
Personal Toiletries and small towel
Toilet Paper and folding spade or small trowel
Some garbage disposal bags small and big, the big one’s for extra water proofing small for carrying out any refuse you may cause we do always at our campsites have a big refuse bag that travels with us to each campsite and gets carried out to be delivered to the local refuse dump in Lhasa, but it is nice if people especially Ladies to deal with your own personal refuse as this is simply not pleasant for us to have to deal with so please bring small bags or zip-lock bags to dispose of these items safely and properly once the items concerned have been dealt with hygienically and properly closed within a small garbage bag or a zip-lock bag then you can place those items in the bigger refuse bag for the campsite without us having to handle it.
Waterproof rain cover for your day hiker including one for your backpack which will be carried by the pack animals we also further cover your backpacks with an added waterproof sack like bag which is then tied on to the animals backs for carrying.
Good idea to have a good whistle with you this is just a safety precaution because really everybody trekking must keep in sight of one another but sometimes a mishap may happen and the front person may not know or you may lag behind for whatever reason and suddenly lose your way a whistle good policeman’s whistle can then be very useful to get one’s attention.
A Length of rope can come in handy
Needle and cotton for quick repairs to a shirt or trouser
Duck-Tape or any rip-stop tape can be very handy even for shoes and a tent problem which needs immediate attention but cannot be sewn shut because of bad weather conditions.
CLOTHING FOR HIGH ALTITUDE TREKKING:
2 pairs of Long Pants that can be multifunctional, these days you get long trekking pants that are both wind resistant and water proof and can be zipped of at the knee to become shorts. This is very useful for when you feel really hot but still need the pants to become longer when the weather or the height that you are later walking at requires more warmth.
These pants can come with nice deep pockets which can be very useful.
You will definitely need good warm Long Johns or fleece like track suit pants, the Long Johns can be worn under your trekking trousers as well as be used to sleep in at night, depending on how long the trek is and on how many days you are prepared as a person to wear them almost continuously which at higher altitudes you definitely will especially if the weather becomes really cold then either bring along 1 or 2 pairs of these, what could work is a fleece like track suit pair for sleeping in and wearing around the campsite and the Long Johns to put them on under your Trekking Trousers every morning.
A few T shirts, one long sleeved and one short sleeved.
2 warm long sleeved undershirts for very cold conditions this acts in the same way as long johns do so make sure that both these items are thermal.
Outer shirt as you begin this trek the first day or two you may be at a lower altitude where it is much warmer a light cooler shirt will do but keep the sleeves long for sun protection. The higher you go the colder it will get and you will definitely need a warm thicker outer shirt with long sleeves to go over your warm thermal undershirt. Two of these warmer shirts should be ok I always think more in terms of two each because you never know what may go wrong with your clothing and terrible if you are then suddenly without an extra shirt especially in high altitude cold conditions.
Must have either a really good quality fleece or pile wind-proof or storm-proof jacket with a hood. You must not skimp on your need for warmth at High Altitudes.
As an added extra precaution you can add in one pair of Water-proof outer layer trousers that can fit over your other trousers even if they are water-proof as well, one can buy these type of long pants which are easy to put on over your other trousers and are lightweight to carry.
Socks for High Altitude conditions must be either a good Heavy Synthetic type or a good Wool-Blended sock that is well padded in the foot area such as your heel and toes the socks should be long/calf length (you can have a few shorter versions for the lower altitudes where it is warmer but as you go higher you should change to the longer socks) as this adds to your warmth and over all comfort on the trail. Also keep a good pair for you to sleep in at night. At least 3 pairs of good long socks and maybe 2 short pairs for the lower areas and one pair for sleeping in. look after your feet as you are going to be walking on them and they will get tired which is why it is also nice to put your feet into the sleeping pair at night separating that out from your trekking socks it gives your feet a chance to rest.
An absolute must for High Altitude trekking is a good warm scarf long enough and warm enough to tuck around your head, nose and mouth with just your eyes showing, good warm thermal pair of gloves and I have found a Balaclava even better than a Beanie because it covers the neck as well so together with the scarf you are really warm, but some folk do ok just with a woolen Beanie with the hood of their jackets up and a scarf.
You must also have a wide brimmed hat for during the day not peak caps they do not protect the side of your face or the back of your head against the sun. In High Altitude during the day on sunny days you can burn ferociously because you are so much higher and so much closer to the sun even if it is cold don’t whatever you do neglect having a wide brimmed hat on your head it is very important, you can get those nice Bush hats that are made out of very durable and washable material and are easy to just fold away when not in use.
Wrap-around sunglasses for High Altitude Trekking absolutely essential the glare of the sun and in areas of possible snow and ice can be fierce and you simply must protect your eyes and face…if you do not you can actually experience snow blindness and your face can burn horribly so do protect your face with a good wide brimmed hat and wrap-around sunglasses with excellent UV protection.
Camera don’t forget the camera!
Trekking Poles which I would suggest especially if one has had any injury to one’s feet, ankles, legs, knees or hips…..trekking in these mountains is very rocky terrain and often one will need to cross rivers and ravines etc. this is when a good set of trekking poles can come in very useful.
Ideally for this type of trekking you will need a good set of all terrain boots preferably covering your ankles and make sure you do not save on these, get only the best you can afford, and walk them in well before trekking with us so that your feet and the shape of the boots can become molded and comfortable with your feet. Make sure the boots are waterproof (not just water resistant!) and treat leather boots with some Dubbin to make sure they are in a good condition and will keep water out.
Always pack in a pair of lightweight footwear that is also suitable for crossing a river should you not be able to cross over on a bridge or on rocks but actually need to wade through a river on rocky ground over to the other side. They should be the kind of footwear that can dry relatively quickly and you should be able to carry them with you in your Day Hiker easily. This type of footwear can also be worn around the campsite at night hereby giving your feet a much needed rest and breather from the trekking boots.
Highland Trekking Initiatives
Angie Breytenbach, originally from South Africa, has been studying & living in Tibet for more than 14 years. She is a Nature Conservator by profession with a passion for wild places and the people who inhabit them. In 2004 she developed her company Highland Trekking Initiatives which is about goodwill towards all people in Lhasa and to those they encounter along the beautiful trekking routes of Tibet.
Highland Trekking Initiatives is an Eco-tourism Company specializing in High Altitude Trekking who offers tourists the unique opportunity to see & experience Tibet in all the beauty, grandeur and mystery of this unique land, its people and culture.
By traveling on foot for 3- 10 days, visitors experience this fragile, unspoiled and boundless land and are introduced to the Nomadic People who live there.
Their ultimate goal is to become a wholly Tibetan owned and operated Company, creating and sustaining business opportunities for Tibetan Nomads.