LADAKH…DON’T MISS IT FOR THE WORLD
Ever thought of having a quiet, spiritual and physical renaissance, in a serene environment, surrounded by such majesty of nature as one could only dream about in mythological stories where the cool mountain breeze would soothe our inflamed souls and the tranquil waters flowing effortlessly from below the snow-clad peaks would fill the expanse of our mundane vision? …… I think your answer is yes but you are not sure whether such a place exists, come, I am going to show you that such a place does exist and can be reached. why don’t you take a flight with me to Ladakh….
Though Ladakh can be reached by roads through Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh highways, route recommended for the adventure seekers and for others who are not constraint by the shortage of time. For others, a flight from Delhi, in an hour and a half, will fly them. over the tops of a bunch of endless, brute, snow-covered mountain ranges, as if guarding the paradise against evil incursions, to reach Leh.
You will be left amazed by the soft comfortable landing in a brusque valley that appears from nowhere and one in which the lonely runway resembles a mere black line in an otherwise colourless painting.
On June 27th when my feet landed for the second time in my life, the first was thirty years ago on a school project, on the savage looking soil of Ladakh, nostalgia met excitement. Thirty years is a long time, a lot of waters has flown under the bridge since then, the rough unrelenting terrain of the years bygone is now studded with tourists, the mushrooming of hotels and restaurants, the smoky load of traffic, all bearing the indentations of the civilized world. However what has changed is only human, nature remains as splendid as it was. The clear blue skyline underlined by rough rocky mountains and the expansive barren fields with only patches of vegetations sidelining a thin stream of Indus, creates the same nostalgic impression.
After letting yourself relax in a bid to acclimatize and having imbibed the essence of hilly atmosphere, I suggest you take a dip into spiritual Ladakh, before continuing your journey further upwards in a quest to discover the real paradise..the Pangong.
Ladakh….. the land of Lama’s
Most of the Ladakh’s human architecture and lifestyle has an overly influence of Buddhism and Tibet, the markets are flooded with handicrafts, souvenirs, and artefacts of Tibet. Buddha is an integral part of Ladakhi life and the place where one meditates, learns and seeks to attain unity with Him are the monasteries. Hemis and Thicksey are the two of the biggest monasteries. You will need a little insight into Buddhism to appreciate the beauty and subtle differences of the manner in which the two school of thought will lead you to conduct.
While Hemis, which undoubtedly is the biggest and the richest, belongs to the Kagyu sect of Buddhism, hiding behind the tall mountains, will demand a complete surrender in its pristine tranquility Thicksey, on the other hand, is the more picturesque abode of the future Buddha, standing on tall cliff allowing a broader vision. Don’t forget to notice the glistening, magnificent crown of future Buddha both in Thicksey and later in Diskit when you move to Nubra Valley, both of them belonging to Geluk sect. Admire the beauty of the huge sculptures, the meaning of different postures the Lord has taken at different stages, imbibe the essence of the positive energy emanating from the Deity and above all… surrender.
The Natural Ladakh…
Once you are through with this spiritual inclination and adaptation you are ready to discover new frontiers, beyond high mountain passes of Khardug La and Chang La….the Nubra and the Pangong
NUBRA VALLEY…LAND OF WHITE SAND DESERT AND CAMEL SAFARI
Nubra Valley is uncovered once you cross the world’s highest (un)motorable road at 18060 ft, however, with GPS tracking and use of other newer technologies this claim is now under challenge and I believe the highest motorable road is somewhere in Bolivia, as, for the claim of motorability your own instinct and experience will challenge that. For bikers, this challenge itself is the true spirit of adventure and overshoots every defined boundary of the claim for others the ride could prove to be tough and tiring but then beauty was never a cheap commodity to be acquired and experienced without any price.
Nubra is situated almost at the same height as Leh or probably lower, so it will be as hot as Leh, but the valley itself affords beautiful views of the world’s highest white sand desert where the double hump camels will await to welcome you. Not the bumpy-humpy ride but the magnificence of the locale, the vast silky valley flanked on either side by the robust rocky mountains, cool windy breeze carrying the white sand against the dark cliffs, perfecting the painting, will surely mesmerize you as if you are traveling a long journey to the destination unknown, leaving everything behind, all worries and physicality of suffering for the purpose of discovery of a new beginning.
Nubra may possess its silky charm to awe its guests but the real beauty lies at around 14000ft beyond the Chang La pass…the Pangong lake, amidst such scenic impressions as one would have never imagined. I believe that travel is an important part of every journey, what one sees and experiences during its travel may at times be more fulfilling than the actual discovery.
PANGONG: WORLD’S HIGHEST SALT WATER LAKE…I BET YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE
My journey to Pangong was one such experience, first, the ascent to the top of the mountain under sub zero visibility where one could never be sure of its path whether he was driving on the road or walking down straight into the deep valley …death waiting for you at every turn disguised in the form of black misty cloud everywhere, then the snowfall at the top with white snow enduring your vision for as far as it could go, like a plunge into a white Abyss… an experience to love, cherish and behold, but the last thirty kilometres of the road to Pangong was exceptionally beautiful, a long lonely road flanked by the occasional patches of green meadows taking you directly into the den of naked mountains as if a beloved baring it all in act of welcome. If you are lucky, like me, you could spot a herd of wild ass and the lovely Marmots peeping out of their burrows. and then, while you are still relishing the flavor of the unmatched valley, beyond the turn of the hill you could have your first glimpse of the pristine lake….weather as chilly as it could get, cool breeze caressing your cheeks, tranquil blue waters flowing gently from below the serene mountains…go and unwind yourself, relax, gaze at clear sky….just submit yourself and let go…for there’s no one but only you and mother nature for a dialogue.
Things to do……writer’s choice
- Surrender yourself to the beauty of the Pangong lake, assimilate the magnificence of the sky especially the early morning sky, absorb as much as you can for no other feeling will ever be able to surpass this.
- Take a bike ride negotiating the curves of the hill or through the deserted road, as you may please.
- Don’t forget to sip the rejuvenating cup of Kahva on a roadside refreshment joint on your way to the high altitude mountain passes.
- Capture as much as you wish in your camera for every nook and corner of the region will lure you.
Other things you may love
- Atv bike ride either in Leh or in Nubra
- Double hump camel ride in the white sand desert of Nubra
- Rafting at Zanskar
Thing you can give a miss
Susu point and a visit to Rancho school…….it is amazing what a three-hour Bollywood click could do to boost Ladakh’s tourism that years of government functioning could never dream of.