It was a month of October and winters were around the corner, as far as I know, the best time to visit the “Land of Monks”, Ladakh! The trip planning was still a little shaky, so I decided to take charge and convince my friends to be a part. I remembered some of my school friends discussing a reunion trip, so I dropped the message in the group. Within a few minutes I got many heads up, some backed out, and some decided to stay and in the end, it was a total of 4 people including me who agreed.
Tickets were done, and hotel rooms were booked, the day was not far now, I gathered everything that was required in this most memorable journey of my life. It was 20th October 2016; we boarded the morning flight to Leh, which landed in approximately two hours while exiting out of the airport I was already fascinated with local faces which were red as apples and smiling bright, that it made me think how sweet it would be to spend time amongst them. The cold deserted land which I saw patiently from the window of my plane, was now surrounding and welcoming me.
We headed towards our hotel in a local cab, the chauffeur was extremely friendly and told us about a couple of must-visit places, which we decided to add in our travel plan. On reaching the hotel, we were welcomed with a garland made of fresh roses along with a fruity welcome drink. After check-in we proceeded to our rooms, on the second floor there was a long corridor, opening into the view of snow clad mountains. As we entered the room, I was amazed by seeing such a high definition picture of white and brown mountains in front of me, that was a view from our balcony which was widely spread and neighboured with only mighty views.
This afternoon we decided to take some rest as there was a lot for us in the coming few days. In the evening we got up to the bright blue sky, it was blue enough to overpower with its vibes. Filled with excitement, we geared up and left the hotel to experience some local touch. The nearby local market was a shoppers delight; we picked up some local stuff that caught our eyes; prayer flags, bells, wind chimes, lamps, souvenirs and traditional things, everything was so colourful that you don’t want to ignore. For dinner we choose a local restaurant, the atmosphere of the place was cosy and warm, accompanied by soothing music to pamper the guests. We ordered Thukpa with the popular butter tea, thukpa is a soupy noodle dish prepared with vegetables and meat, whereas butter tea has no comparison, unlike the regular tea; it is made with butter, salt, milk and tea that has a beautiful pink colour to it. After hogging a full bowl of a delicious meal, we started to walk towards our hotel; the chilly breeze was scattered all over the atmosphere which made our walk even more enjoyable.
On the second day, I woke up at 6 in the morning and as I was calling the room service to order some tea, my eyes stuck to the most majestic sunrise I could ever see. The most beautiful part about hills is that everything is in abundance, there is no shortage of beautiful things, wherever you see, it’s only beauty what you see. This day was a long day, so much to do on the list, we braced up quickly and left the hotel at around 8 in the morning. The local taxi was booked by the hotel where we were staying to take us to the Alchi Monastery situated at a distance of 66 km from the city point. After a ride amid gorgeous mountains, we reached the monastery, which is quaintly located uphill near the banks of river Indus. It is one of the oldest learning centres for the Buddhist in the northern region that houses preserved monuments, each telling a different story. After embracing all the positivity, we left the monastery and started to drive towards the Magnetic Hill. The view of strange Magnetic Hill is worth framing, the long stretch of the road till infinity bordered with big brown hills. I was amused to see such a road at so much height; it was clear, clean and well defined. Magnetic Hill is like no other hill; it is strange and holds many theories within. Some say that due to electromagnetic field presence in the hill it pulls the metallic objects ranging within, on the flip side some states there is no magnetic field present at all, it just an optical illusion that plays around. After clicking a few clicks here, we headed to a small village “Nimu”. Nimu is a land of several monasteries; there are scores of activities to indulge in like trekking and rafting. Apart from monasteries, you can also visit around the embellished orchards to capture some of the prettiest clicks. It was already 6 in the evening when we were satisfied enough to leave; the cab took us back to Leh pretty quick. A little tired we got down, but the magical air manages to astound with the dose of freshness all around.
Interestingly, the two-humped camels used for the safari can only be found in the Nubra Valley. The cold, deserted land and a camel ride made our day which we end with a big smile. The night stay was arranged at the campsite along the melodiously flowing white river. The excitement to stay in a camp for the first time could not let me sleep as I wanted even more from the trip but then I still have a lot to explore was the thought I had.
The next morning was different from the others, I woke up to a sound of chirping birds and golden sunlight, shining bright to illuminate every site. It’s so charismatic to watch sun growing out of glory on the hills; the widely spread orange and yellow light makes everything bright. The spectacular view of the sprawling valley was filled with all the colours. I had the most refreshing tea of my life and commenced my journey to explore more sites. Hemis Monastery was on the list today; we reached there with a short drive. The intricate architecture was so sublime that it could make anyone fall in love with its first site. It is one of the most sought after monasteries in the region that also accommodates a museum inside flooded with numerous ancient structures and statues to reflect the rich and varied culture of the bygone era. The next stop was the Hemis Wildlife Sanctuary, erected at an altitude of 3300 to 6000 m from the sea level; this sprawling national park is a house to rare snow leopard, ibex and many other animals. Driving back via Khardungla Pass, we were back to Leh again. It was already late at night when we reached there, after grabbing a quick meal we took a little stroll in the main city market filled with local handicrafts, traditional wear, pashminas and more; and then headed back to the hotel and surrendered to revive.
I woke up from my sleep with a thought that the trip will end soon! But, then the second thought reminded me of the real picture of Ladakh as seen in number of Bollywood movies and on the facebook wall of friends, this day was planned on itinerary for the ravishing beauty which cannot be described in words; where cottony clouds gather around the giant deserted mountains and the lustrous emerald blue lake merges so well with the landscape. It was Pangong Tso Lake on the way. It is situated at a distance of 135 km from Leh at the height of 4400 meters. On our way to the lake we crossed via Chang la Pass and stopped at the secluded little village “Tangtse” in Durbuk, the village was explicitly pleasing, quietly peaceful, surrounded by rugged mountains. We stayed there for a while to catch a glimpse of local life and acquainted with the people to know more about them. Due to the language barrier and communication gap, we could not talk much, but their hospitality was enough to welcome us. After a small halt, we proceeded to the final destination of the day, and it was a sight of the Pangong Tso Lake from far away; it filled us with excitement and charged us again and there we were at the strikingly fantastic lake bed. I remember taking thousands of pictures as the beauty of the lake was so arresting that every bit of it was worth capturing. Each angle and site better than the last one that it made me believe, what an exclusively un-parallel beauty it is. After thoroughly exploring and enjoying at the lake, we headed to tour around the neighbouring village situated a little away. The stay for the night was arranged in the camps, where there was a cosy setup to surrender for the day.
As they say “all good things come to an end”, so was our trip to incredible Leh. It was the last day of the journey and what else could be better than waking up to the most ravishing view of my life. As I stepped out of the tent, I could see the reflection of cloudy sky in the reflecting lake, same place but so many perceptions; each unique and unendingly serene. We had our breakfast by the lakeside on this day, hair tangling with fresh lake air and cool breeze playing again. With a bag full of zillions of memories we headed on our way back to Leh. On reaching there we still went on a shopping spree to make sure there is nothing unusual left to be taken as the token of memories. Finally, overnight at the same hotel and the next day early morning flight back to where we are supposed to be.
By Ramneek Kaur.