How Ladakh Journey Changed My Life !!

17th Jun 2017

I travelled to Ladakh with my friends in almost mid of June, 2017 and I must say it was a life changing trip for me. I was going through a very tough phase of life and was not able to make any decision. I was the only reason of mess in my life and then luckily Ladakh happened to me, which completely changed my life and made me a better person.

It was a 9 days private trip from Srinagar to Manali by road, which was carried out by Non A/C Qualis/ Tavera, Royal Enfield 350CC & Scorpio/Xylo. I travelled with 5 others on this trip, among which 3 were completely unknown to me initially. But on the very first interaction with them, we became very good friends. Someone truly said that “Good things happen when you meet strangers”.

Before Ladakh trip, I used to think I love beaches more than anything, but it got completely changed after visiting Leh Ladakh. My love for Mountains is unconditional. So now without wasting your time, I am going to share my day to day journey experience and how it taught me a new lesson every day.

Day 1

Day 1: 17th June, 2017

We all reached at Srinagar Airport which is the capital of Jammu & Kashmir, from different cities in the afternoon. Interesting part was no one had network in their phones, but somehow we managed to find out the guide who was waiting for our arrival with the placard named as ‘Mr. Ankush Goyal’ on it. I was very happy to see it, as earlier I saw this only in movies. We then loaded our luggage in the car and started our journey to the restaurant first, as we were starving.

After having delicious lunch, we went to Pari Mahal, also known as The Angels' Abode. The Pari Mahal was built by Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh in the mid-1600s. It is a seven terraced Garden and is located at the top of Zabarwan mountain range over-looking city of Srinagar and south-west of Dal Lake.

We clicked some pictures there and then we went towards our next destination which was ‘Nishat Garden’, also known as ‘Garden of pleasure’. The Bagh was designed and built in 1633 by Asif Khan, elder brother of Nur Jehan. Nishat Bagh is a terraced Mughal garden built on the eastern side of the Dal Lake, close to Srinagar in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India. It is the largest Mughal garden in the Kashmir Valley.

The last garden we visited that day was ‘Shalimar Garden’ known as ‘Garden of love’. The Bagh was built by Mughal Emperor Jahangir for his wife Nur Jahan, in 1619. We went there in the evening and enjoyed the sunset. It was less crowded at that time and we thoroughly enjoyed the silence and the serenity of the place.

Later Evening we went on a relaxing Shikara ride in famous Dal Lake, towards our Overnight stay in Houseboat. We reached to our houseboat, changed our clothes and enjoyed the mesmerizing view. Then we had our yummy dinner in the houseboat and went for a good sleep, as it was a very tiring day.

Photo of Srinagar by Ankush Goyal
Day 2

Day 2: 18th June, 2017

We woke up early morning with a beautiful view of Dal Lake after a good sleep. After waking up, it was a different story altogether. The early mornings calm and peaceful Dal Lake had transformed into a busy colony. Then we freshened up, had our mouth watering breakfast, loaded our luggage back to the car and started our journey to Kargil through Sonmarg.

To experience the snow, we reached to Zero Point beyond Zozilla pass along the NH. Zero point is located around 35-40 km from sonmarg. Route to zero point is very scenic and some of the views are spectacular. We learnt about Zero point from the car driver who drove us to Sonmarg from Srinagar and opted to go there instead of visiting the glacier as we did not like the idea of horse / pony riding for a couple of hours to see the glaciers.

After spending a quality time at the Zero point, we started our journey towards Kargil War Memorial. This war memorial is built by the Indian Army, located in Dras, in the foothills of the Tololing Hill. As soon as we entered the complex patriotism filled the atmosphere. The round trip is well organised - army men are there to guide and help in a very polite manner. Story of Kargil war was narrated in a very dramatic way such that one can actually visualise the enemy in the hills behind. I felt so proud of our soldiers while reading all the sacrifices they had made.

Then we drove along the Drass River till one arrives at Kargil & then Check in at ‘Hotel Green Land’ Hotel in Kargil. Interestingly on the same day, India vs Pakistan was match was going on. We enjoyed the match, had our dinner in the mess and then went to our rooms for a good sleep, so that we can wake up on the next day with the same energy.

Photo of Kargil by Ankush Goyal
Day 3

Day 3: 19th June, 2017

We wake up on the 3rd day with full enthusiasm and a new hope. We freshened up, had our breakfast and started our journey to most awaited destination Leh. It was 7 to 8 hours long drive from Kargil to Leh, and during this mind blowing journey we covered the below places:

1) Monastery of Mulbekh: Mulbekh Monastery or Mulbekh Gompa is said to consist of two gompas, which belong to the Drukpa and Gelugpa sects respectively. This monastery is on the Kargil - Leh highway, about 45 Km from Kargil. It is famous for 1st century Statue of Maitrya Buddha, carved out of a huge rock.

2) Namikala Pass: ‘Land of the Passes’ as it is said - Ladakh is blessed with a number of beautiful and attractive passes. Namikala pass, located at the Zanskar range that connects Srinagar- Leh highway. This pass located at the height of 12,139 feet above the sea level is also known as the pillar of the sky passes.

3) Fotula Top: Fotu La / Fatu La / Fatula are different names that this point is referred as. At an elevation of 4,108 metres (13,478 ft), it is the highest point on the Srinagar-Leh highway. It’s a beautiful view point from where you can view the Zaskar range of Himalayan Mountains. Also, most of the tourists stop here to enjoy the scenic view and click pictures.

4) Magnetic Hill: Enroute to Magnetic Hill, we had our lunch at ‘Millen Vaishno Punjabi Dhaba’. Then we reached at Magnetic Hill, a "Cyclops hill" located near Leh in Ladakh, India. This place creates a nice illusion and you shall feel as if the car is moving uphill rather than down when not powered and kept in neutral. The scenery is great and we got some amazing opportunity to click photographs.

5) Gurudwara Sri Pathar Sahib: Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, is a beautiful Gurudwara sahib constructed in the memory of Guru Nanak, about 25 miles away from Leh, on the Leh-Kargil road, 12000 ft above sea level. We had our snacks there. This Gurudwara is well maintained by army. We were blessed to be here.

Then finally we reached to our Hotel in Leh ‘Hotel Serthi’. We rested for some time, freshened up and became ready for our next adventure. I think these guys were not in the mood of staying and resting in the hotel room. We changed our clothes to new one and in the late evening, we went to explore the Leh Market.

Let me tell you something about this market, the main market of Leh is a Street market with many lanes and bylanes, all of which have small shops selling a variety of products. One can find everything here from shoes to clothes and woolen wear as well as jewelry. Also, carpets, shawls, and souvenirs are available here.

We came back from the Market tour, had our buffet dinner, had some good conversations and then directly went for sleep to our rooms.

Photo of Leh by Ankush Goyal
Day 4

Day 4: 20th June, 2017

This was the day we all were eagerly waiting for. We had our breakfast in the hotel and got ready to conquer the world. We were our own guide that day, as we had to explore the Leh city ourselves on 3 rented Royal Enfield 350CC bikes. It was our first experience to ride Royal Enfield and that too on Leh roads. We were too excited to start the journey, so all the boys wore their knee pads, elbow pads and helmets.

My friend’s bike ran out of petrol in the starting few Kms, then a localite helped us to get the petrol in bottle and we started our journey for the day. I learnt more about myself, while on the road than anywhere else. It’s given me the ‘I can make it happen’ attitude. We covered the below places on this journey:

1) Shey Palace: The palace and Monastery of Shey are in the vicinity of the village by the same name. Shey used to be the capital of ancient Ladakh. It is located in the upper Indus Valley, just 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) east of the modern capital of Ladakh, Leh. The Palace is built up in a very beautiful way and is extended up to 3 floors. The shey is located at an intentional location overlooking the entire heartland of Ladakh and is the famous tourist destination in leh ladakh.

2) Rancho’s School: This school became famous after the Aamir Khan's movie Three Idiots. The name of this school is Druk Padma Karpo School, this is also known as Druk White Lotus School. This school is on the way to Shey Palace and Thikse monastery. On arrival here you will be taken, inside the campus with a guide and can visit different parts of the school. You are not allowed to disturb students or take any photographs of them. There is a café and one souvenir shop available inside the campus. The wall with painting about the three Idiots movie is the most popular spot for the tourist. You can pose for photographs keeping these pictures in the background.

3) Thiksay Monastery: Thiksay Gompa or Thiksay Monastery is a gompa of Tibetan Buddhism religion. It is located on top of a hill in Thiksey approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) east of Leh in Ladakh, India. The monastery is located at an altitude of 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) in the Indus Valley. This monastery is famous for pilgrim activities, architectural elements, sightseeing and exploration. The entry cost is 20 INR for both locals and foreigners. It would take around 2-3 hours to scale the whole place. We had our lunch in the restaurant located in Thiksay Monastery.

4) Stok Monastery: Stok Monastery or Stok Gompa is a Buddhist monastery in Stok, Leh district, Ladakh, northern India, 15 kilometres south of Leh. There are plenty of attractions that you can enjoy while you are visiting the Stok Monastery, including the Gautama Buddha statue, which stands some 71 feet and in the nearby temple.

5) Shanti Stupa: Late in the evening, we went to our last destination for the day. Shanti Stupa is one of the magnificent Tibetan structures that have ever been built. It is a Buddhist white-domed stupa (chorten) on a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh district, Ladakh. The architecture and the beauty of this place are unexplainable. This brilliant structure stands atop a steep hilltop at a dizzying height of 11,841 feet above sea level. The stupa has become a tourist attraction not only due to its religious significance but also due to its location which provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

After a wonderful day, we came back to our Hotel in Leh. We rested for some time in our rooms, had some good conversations, freshened up, had our buffet dinner and then went for a good sleep in the excitement of what will happen tomorrow.

Photo of Leh by Ankush Goyal
Day 5

Day 5: 21st June, 2017

We wake up in the next morning and danced in a room on Bollywood music after getting ready. We packed our luggage, had our breakfast and then started our adventurous journey to next destination Nubra valley via Khardungla pass. After facing a heavy traffic, we finally reached to Khardung La pass.

Khardung La pass (17,982 feet) – World’s highest Motorable pass is located about an hour and a half away from Leh on the way to Nubra Valley. It is a wonderful drive with great views of the valley and mountains around and the roads cut into the mountain below. Once you reach the top at 17,982 feet you realize how cold and windy it is. It offers a breathtaking view around. There is a little dhaba service tea and maggi and a temple on the hill. It is recommended not to stay long at the top (30 mins) as one may get altitude sickness. It’s just about everyone takes pictures with the boards showing the altitude and claiming it to be the highest motor able road in the world.

We were lucky to experience snowfall at that time. I cannot express that feeling in words; it was a dream come true moment for me. Though the road wasn't in its best condition, Indian Army and Border Road Organization were doing a great job to maintain this road. It’s such a great feeling to stop at this point and appreciate the beauty of nature, the snow clad mountains, the Soldiers all around.

Then we started our journey towards ‘Hunder Sand dunes’ our next destination. Hunder Sand Dunes is 2 h 13 min (79.3 km) far from Khardung La pass.

Like an oasis amidst the cold desert, Hunder Sand Dunes are beautiful beyond imagination. Located at an altitude of 4,000 meters, the desert is cut across by a gentle stream and the beautiful countryside. With such stunning landscapes against the backdrop of the snow-clad mountains, the Hunder Sand Dunes looks nothing less than a fairy world. Beyond its beauty, the dunes are home to the (two-humped) Bactrian Camels, the major key players during the ancient silk route, and Pashmina Goats.

Then we reached to our hotel ‘Sand Dune Guest House’ in Nubra Valley. We had our buffet dinner in the hotel and enjoyed some quality time in the balcony of our floor. After spending some good time there and counting stars, went to our rooms for having a good sleep.

Photo of Nubra Valley by Ankush Goyal
Day 6

Day 6: 22nd June, 2017

We wake up with a beautiful Mountains view. We freshened up, had our breakfast and then started a new journey from Nubra Valley to our next adventure. We reached to our first destination for the day ‘Diskit Monastery’ on the way to Pangong Lake.

Diskit Monastery also known as Deskit Gompa or Diskit Gompa is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery (gompa) in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh, northern India. The main and unique attraction of Diskit monastery is a gigantic statue of Lord Buddha on the top of it. The Maitrayi Buddha statue of 106 feet height facing the Shyok River impresses the tourist across the globe and is considered as the key attraction of Diskit monastery. Travellers love to experience the magnificent view of Nubra valley from the top of the monastery where the statue is installed.

Then we reached to Pangong Tso also referred to as Pangong Lake. The famous and sparkling blue Pangong Lake is situated near Leh-Ladakh in the Himalayas, approximately at the height of 4350 meters. This endorheic lake is 12 kilometres long and extends from India to Tibet, with two-thirds of it lying in the latter.

An Inner Line Permit is required to visit the lake as it lies on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control. While Indian nationals can obtain individual permits, foreigners must have group permits (with a minimum of three persons) accompanied by an accredited guide; the tourist office in Leh issues the permits for a small fee.

Reaching to this place itself is an adventurous activity and finally when you reach the place, the beauty of nature you get to see is beyond description. It has been a tourist attraction for a very long time and has gained further popularity after being a 'hot-spot' for many film shoots. The sublime beauty, crystal waters and gentle hills of Pangong Lake are an exceptional example of the beautiful landscape of the region.

This day was not similar to previous days, there was something, which was continuously poking me and I was struggling to deal with the situation. I wanted to spend some time with myself, so I went away from my friends for some time and sat on rocks near to Lake in a corner. I closed my eyes for 10 to 15 minutes. I felt inner peace which I really needed at that time and I was only able to hear the sounds of chirping birds, waves and blowing wind. I spent almost half an hour there, due to which I don’t have much pictures of Pangong Lake.

But I don’t regret that, because I only know what I found and how it made an impact in my life. Wayne W. Dyer said that “Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.”

Then after driving for few more Kms, we reached to our Hotel in Pangong ‘Hotel Pangong Residency’, where we spent the night that day. We went to our rooms, had buffet dinner and then went for a good sleep.

Photo of Pangong Lake by Ankush Goyal
Day 7

Day 7: 23rd June, 2017

We wake up on the next day with sparkling energy, had shower and got ready for breakfast. After breakfast, we started our journey to Tso-moriri via Tsokar Lake. Tso-moriri is almost 220 Kms far from Pangong.

We stopped car at few places in between to click the pictures and to experience the stunning beauty of nature. After driving for few Kms, we spotted an old lady from a very far distance on the deserted road, who’s dressed like a spirit. Luckily we were in car, as we crossed her we got to know that she is a lady and not a ghost.

After that we spot Shahrukh Khan Movie ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ shooting point on the way to Tso-moriri. As I am a big Srk fan, we spent some good time there and clicked many pictures with the board. Then we started our journey towards Tso-Kar Lake.

The Tso-Kar Lake also known as 'White Lake' is one of the three high altitude salt water lakes in Ladakh. The Tso-Kar Lake is known as 'White Lake' because the white salt of the water deposits all over the lake shores. Tso-kar Lake is located at an altitude of 4660m/15280ft in the Changthang region of South Eastern Ladakh. Tso-kar Lake is at a distance of around 50 kms from the Tso-moriri Lake.

After that, we reached to our Hotel ‘Namkila Guest House’ in Tsomoriri, which was only few Kms far from Tso Moriri Lake. We rested for some time in our rooms, as everyone was exhausted from the Journey. After resting for some time, we all decided to go for a small walk till Tso-moriri Lake in the late evening. As one of my friend was not feeling well, so few opted to stay back in a room and the one who were not in rest mood including me went for their next adventure. So, I went to Tso Moriri Lake with 2 others.

The lake is at an altitude of 4,522 m (14,836 ft). It is the largest of the high altitude lakes entirely within India and entirely within Ladakh. This is a very beautiful lake and it has its own beauty. There are camps situated near by this lake, it becomes very chilled and windy in the night. We spent some good time there and clicked few pictures.

While coming back we forgot the way to our Hotel and it was another adventure of that day, as we only know how we came back to our hotel. One of the localite helped us, and the funny part was we were running away from him, as he was looking little crack.

After reaching back to the hotel, we all laughed together about it. Then, after some time we had our buffet dinner and went to sleep in our rooms.

Photo of Tso Moriri by Ankush Goyal
Day 8

Day 8: 24th June, 2017

We wake up in Tsomoriri next day. This day taught me an important life lesson and brought a good change in me. I woke up and went to the terrace, where a child was transferring the cold water with the help of bucket in Storage tank of Solar water heater and then collecting the hot water in another bucket from Outlet water tab, so that we can freshen up with hot water.

This scene made me feel very bad. Most of us have, whoever is reading this, almost everything which is required to live a basic life such as running water hot and cold, good food to eat, good clothes to wear, a good job, but still we complaint about it. We are not happy with whatever we have, we always expect more. I was complaining with my life for more such things.

I learnt to be happy from these people in every condition, who try to find happiness in small things. They have a lot of basic problems in their life, like electricity, food, water etc. But they are not giving up on this, they will greet you with happy faces, they will wave you with a lovely smile, whenever someone from outside city/ country crosses them. Okay, let me get back to my journey for that day.

We had our breakfast at ‘Namkila Guest House’ and started to our next destination Sarchu via Tanglang La Pass 17,585ft world second highest motorable road. On the way to Sarchu, we took a halt at Lachung La Pass.

Lachung La is a high mountain pass set at an elevation of 5,059 m (16,598 ft) above the sea level. The pass is located in Himalaya, on the boundaries of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. Lachulung La pass is traversed by the Leh-Manali highway. It is one of the favourite passes amongst the hikers as well as trekkers and visited by a number of people.

After getting clicked there, we continued our journey towards Sarchu. We were going to stay in Camps instead of a guest house or hotel in Sarchu, so we were pretty excited about that. By evening we reached to ‘Dorje Camps’ in Sarchu, our overnight stay for that day.

We had a lot of fun there, as it was my first experience of staying in tents. After having buffet dinner, we sat together in a tent and started sharing some ghost stories, consequences of which all 6 people slept in a single tent.

Photo of Sarchu, Himachal Pradesh by Ankush Goyal
Day 9

Day 9: 25th June, 2018

It was our last day of the trip. We wake up early morning, with a beautiful view of mountains, tents all around, highway. We freshened up, clicked some pictures and got ready to make our last day memorable as well. We had our breakfast and started our journey to Manali via Baralacha Pass, Keylong, & Rohtang Pass.

After driving for few hours we reached to first destination for that day Baralacha Pass.

Bara-lacha Pass is also known as Bara-lacha la or Bārā Lācha La. Situated at an altitude of 16,040 feet, Baralacha La Pass is a high mountain pass in the Zanskar range in Jammu and Kashmir. The wind was chilly, landscape was enchanting and we didn’t miss a chance to discover a nature photographer within us, every picture was breathtaking as the scenery was stunning. Then we moved towards our next destination Rohtang Pass.

Rohtang Pass is located around 51 kms away from Manali, at a height of 3980 meters, on Manali Keylong highway. This the same road, which connects to Leh Ladakh (State of Jammu & Kashmir) from Manali This mountain slope is so beautiful that people from every corner of the country visit this place to take part in adventure sports such as skiing, ice-skating, paragliding, etc. The Rohtang Pass is open for tourist from April to October and the permission to travel on this highway is given by the Indian Army, once they clear the snow.

We experienced the light snowfall there as well. After spending a quality time there we started towards Manali where our trip ended.

We reached Manali in evening, as we had to catch our bus to Delhi from there. As we had enough time, we went to famous Manali Mall Road, where we tasted some delicious snacks. Mall Road is the main street in Manali, city of Himachal Pradesh, India. Then we came back from the market, we said Goodbye to our driver and loaded our luggage to the Volvo bus.

After an overnight journey in the bus, we reached to some restaurant ‘Hotel Sizzlers Restaurant’ in morning, where we had our breakfast. After travelling from there we reached to Delhi in afternoon. We greeted to each other and said Goodbye which was not at all easy, as we spent almost 10 days together. But this is Life. I never felt it long, because no journey is too long with the right company.

This journey taught me a new lesson every day. Pop Francis said that “Life is a Journey. When we stop, things don’t go right. I learnt to stay happy with what I have and not regret on things which was never mine. It taught me to stay strong and believe in self, even if the things are not going according to you. I learnt that only I am responsible for my happiness; I am the only one who can make me feel better. Its okay to cry or feel little sad sometimes. Do right. Do your best.

I am happy to share this life changing journey of mine with you guys, by doing this I lived every moment of my journey again. Hopefully you will like it.

Photo of Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Ankush Goyal