I visited Leh-Ladakh in July 2017 – a trip that has been etched in my memory permanently for various reasons. I had planned to write this post right after the trip, and it has been two years (almost) I have procrastinated to put it down. But the memories are still so vivid that I can remember each day like it happened yesterday.
It is quite impossible to put down the Leh experience into words. The beauty and serenity of Leh just cannot be frozen into mere adjectives and photographs. The real depth and magnificence can be (and should be) experienced only with the naked eye.
I had been planning to visit this quaint little town located amidst the Himalayas for quite some time. So, when my friends and I boarded an early morning flight here, I couldn’t be more excited. It was heavenly to watch the golden rays of the rising sun bounce off of the snow-clad peaks of Himalayas.
Looking at such exquisite landscapes even before reaching Leh, was purely a divine feeling. As our flight receded down, we circled around the magnanimous Himalayas and the excitement doubled.
We landed in front of a tiny airport and were taken to Hotel Shambhala for accommodation.
We dropped our bags and couldn’t help but adore the artsy decor of our cozy wooden rooms. When we asked the significance of all the art in this place, the hotel staff informed us that it symbolized myths and stories from the Tibetan culture. The ambience of Shambhala was pure and fascinating. It was so much more than just comfortable rooms. It felt like I was at home, a home that had been waiting for our arrival.
After we freshened up, we were welcomed to the town in the true-Ladakhi style by the locals as they performed a beautiful song and dance. Not only did we enjoy their performance to the folk songs but even shook a leg with them. “Julley!” – the local word for Hello became the only way greeted each other thereon.
Then, we left for an acclimatization hike to Shanti Stupa. As the name suggests, it was an extremely peaceful place located on top of a hill and was frequented by monks for meditation. The purpose of our hike, although, was acclimatization. We simply wanted our bodies to get adjusted to the altitude of 11500 feet and the clean pollution free air.
When we reached the top, it was almost sunset and in the golden hour, we saw the bird’s eye view of the entire town flushed in green, nestled in the valley of the mighty mountains.
We strolled around the Shanti Stupa for a while, inhaling as much oxygen as we could and absorbing the purity. It was a peaceful day one.
Next up on our journey was the Indus-Zanskar Rafting. On Day two, we left for white water rafting from Scorpoche to Nimu Sangam – a stretch of about 16 kms. Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to do rafting on the Ganges many times. It is probably the only river in India with the highest grade of rapids. But the Zanskar has a charm of its own. Its fresh and icy cold water,(it literally is a glacier) is nothing less than thrilling. We were asked to wear bodysuits and they were.. well, here it is..different.
Rafting is probably one of my favorite adventure activities. I have some really special memories attached to this adventure. It is the rush of the adrenaline in the middle of a cold and ferocious river. Its something like a paradox, if I may. The Zanskar experience has been a truly special one!
Post rafting, we visited the Thicksey Monastery and saw the Future Buddha- a huge Buddha, sitting calmly amidst the rocky mountains. It was somewhat symbolic – if you are content from within, you can rise above the rocky patches surrounding your in life.
Next day, we proceeded towards the famous Pangong Lake. A six-hour road trip through the gorgeous Himalayan valleys and plains was worth it all. On the way, we took a stop at the Changla Pass (altitude 17688 ft) and at Khardongla Pass (18380 ft) where we also experienced our first snow fall. Our road trip also included multiple dance sessions on the road every time we took a break. Our journey was beautiful beyond expression so I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves here on.
It was almost dinner time when we reached our campsite beside the Pangong. It was the highest altitude I had ever been to. At night, we had a delicious dinner made by some locals and had a little dance party to warm ourselves. With our tents beside the lake, we were freezing all night despite 3 blankets each. But with our tents beside the lake, we were freezing all night despite 3 blankets each. Next morning, when we woke up, the sight of the deep blue water on the backdrop of the brown snow capped mountains and a a sky full of cotton ball like clouds left us at a loss of words. We were awestruck, spellbound. Describing it in any amount of words felt like an understatement.
(…to be continued)
All photos by my friends Apoorva, Rishabh, Sammy and I.