Got Leh'd!!! Mumbai-Leh-Mumbai

20th Aug 2015
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Eyes try to capture everything that you let it capture and traveling is best collage that eyes can capture “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – Dalai Lama“Get Lost, be a wanderer enjoy freedom”Thinking of one place that you can get lost easily and wander off in wilderness is Ladakh region. Once of the best places in India which gives you opportunity toØ Explore diverse nature (breathtaking views)Ø Go into wilderness (open traces of land the farther you can see)Ø Slowdown your daily hectic life (spiritual and homely surroundings welcome you)Ø Heal, reduce stress and regain enthusiasm for lifeØ Look for thrill and adventure (superb hilly roads, water rafting, cycling, hiking and trekking)Ø Make new friends, learn new culture and above allØ To see how our Indian armed forces maintain and help people in Ladakh region and how locals reciprocate on their part.Ladakh region is one place that creates unforgettable memories for life time and once you have come, stayed and explored (I won’t use conquered as this word doesn’t seem to be apt for the place, no one can conquer the vast expanse of Ladakh and whoever uses that word in my sense is living a dream), you will want to come back again for more.About Ladakh:-Ladakh region is far and wide and with its wide expanse had predominantly occupied by Indian armed forces outside of Leh and Kargil. Armed forces maintain a very high presence in the region but do not in any way hamper the tourism, in fact they are more than happy to guide tourists the right way. Best part about traveling in Ladakh region for the places I covered was no signage of political parties (no posters, no slogans nothing)About Ladakh: - the travel I found out that the people in Ladakh are very helpful and humble to any outsider and welcome them with their hospitality.Ladakh is land of Monasteries, some really breathtaking landscapes and mountain passes.Note: - Ladakh is a very fragile and sensitive ecosystem. As a traveler try to keep the carbon footprint at the minimum and also do not litter around.How I got Ladakh’ed (may not be the right vocabulary) one afternoon is very interesting, I was too bogged at my work and suddenly I got a message from one of my close friend regarding a trip scheduled for Leh- Ladakh region. This instantly got my attention and I started planning for the same. I had heard somewhere “There are two sets of people, one who do Leh - Manali highway and those who are planning to” and this was going to come true for me next day with another set of people inviting me for a bike trip to Leh via Manali route. I instantly started planning on what to do next as I was supposed to get the itinerary for the trip shortly, but sadly never got that and hence decided on the first option and quickly booked the flight tickets. This was going to be a memorable journey which I had planned for a long time and finally was seeing light of day.Now the planning started andØ We first booked our flight tickets by getting good cheap offers from various airlines and finally decided on booking in Jet (will be the preferred airways going ahead). This was going to be my third flight journey (all have been jet airways, one was absolutely free thanks to my brother who is in some totally different privilege membership with the airline).Ø Once the flight tickets were out of the way for the group we began searching for a tour operator who would help us get the trip done under our budget (15k). Understanding the budget is very important as that will shape up the whole itineraryØ Once itinerary was finalized (which went till the last few days before the trip) “Shopping” was on mind of few. All necessities need to be packed before the tripo Food§ Homemade quickie bites§ Packed food§ Biscuits§ Chocolates§ Tea bags (especially green tea lovers)§ Dates / dry fruits / Fruitso Hygiene§ Toothbrush & paste§ Liquid soap / paper soap / soap§ Face wash / deodorants /§ Sunscreen lotion (SPF50 or above) / cold creamo Accessories§ Camera§ Lenses (fixed, zoom, varying)§ Torch§ Batteries· for Camera· for handy cam· torch§ Memory card· For cam· For mobile§ Tripod stand§ Cell phone & charger§ Pen drive (will be of use only if someone brings a laptop to transfer)§ Power bank (invest in 10400 mah or above)§ Portable water purifier§ Goggles (I personally don’t prefer them)§ Map of Ladakh or places we wanted to visit from Leho MedicinesDiamox AMS i.e. acute mountain sickness Take twice or thrice depending on how quickly one acclimatization.Note One could be allergic to medicines as well so please check before consumption.Combiflam / Voveran Pain killer Take if there is body acheCrocin Headache Take if one has a mild headacheAvomine Vomiting / Dizziness Take if one feels sensation of vomiting or feels dizzinessDigital Thermometer Measure temperature § Scissors & Tweezers§ Crepe bandage§ Bandage§ Dettol§ Voveran / Relispray§ Vaseline / lip balm / moisturizers§ Vickso Clothing§ Thermals§ Monkey cap§ Ear plugs§ Gloves§ Normal use clothes§ Laundry bag (to dispose of soiled clothes)Ladakh region has been recently flocked by Indian tourists a lot owing to many travel web portals sharing stories about the trips accomplished. The true nature of back packing is still something that the Indian sub-continent is still to adapt to.I was suggested sometime back that if I wanted to enjoy peace and serene nature up close and personal and understand the nuances of how nature manages such beautiful things with such simplicity I should spend time in Ladakh region. This is unarguably the finest and safest places in India where a tourist (Indian or Foreigner) can be just themselves.The journey began on 20th August, 2015 from Mumbai and we were off to Leh. We preferred to travel all the way to Leh via flight. For all the flights whether direct or multiple airlines, all have to make their mandatory stopover in Delhi / Jammu. A stopover in Delhi meant it was time to “Kill” time till we got our connecting flight from Delhi to Leh early in the morning. Delhi airport as we realized was jam packed and there was hardly any space to sit and try to relax. In case of a connecting flight the best place one can relax in Delhi airport is once you security check-in for your flight. The waiting lounge is good with really nice shops (if one is a shopaholic) and area one can relax as compared to security area. Make sure you are not in terminal 1D by any chance as there is minimal options one can enjoy.We were left awestruck the moment we started approaching Leh airport and one thing I can assure you is the view from the sky is just awesome and this is something that one can’t experience in the road trip (though road trip does have its own plus points)The beauty is so breathtaking that it brings out the child in youAnd first glimpse of Leh airport we got. The airport is managed by armed forces completely and there are lot of restrictions for this airport. However to our luck we were allowed to click pictures near the airportGetting all geared up on arrival (prepared at all the times this girl is)We were first to arrive at Leh airport with other group following in a different airliner. Waiting can be so much fun (posing for the paparazzi)Day-0 – Day of arrival @ LehFirst day in Leh was all dedicated to complete body rest and acclimatization to Leh weather. Superb weather greeted us and it felt as Leh was welcoming us with a blanket of cool and clean air to make us feel refreshed and lovely sound of birds chirping around. My eyes were just glued to the view that unfoldedPost breakfast and early morning sightseeing asked myself a question on what should I do next for the whole day and voila I knew instantly it’s time to warm up the machine i.e. my Canon DSLR 450D more than 5 years old but still provides with much needed punch for any trip I go to and carry it along.The rest of the day went on smoothly for 6 of us. Two of our colleagues faced breathing problem and it was so severe that we had to make a quick visit to the local dispensary / hospital / first aid clinicClinic we thought was really good and the way they catered to everyone who came in was commendable. No patient was left unnoticed and proper treatment was provided. When we asked for fees, it was to our amazement that the fees for visit was only INR 5/- (yes you have read it correctly, the visit charges are only mere 5 rupees and the treatment is way above the charges). It doesn’t end here, the medicines as available in hospital were free of cost. Both our team members had to stay back for a day at the hospital to recover completely and hence the first day of our tour in Leh was without them.Note: - Please make sure that you get acclimatized in Leh and don’t over exert yourself on arrival. Please take proper rest and drink lot of water.Day-1 First day of tour in LehFirst day of the trip was spent in local sightseeing and places close by to Leh city. It was time to get our lazy arses out of the bed and hit the road.After a quick early morning tea everyone was ready to leave the place by 09:00 IST (time was well managed by the way from day 1 on this trip). Bunch of joyous people were going to have a nice time for sure at one of the best places untouched by city life. It was time to start exploring and to begin the trip on bright cool morning with sky soaked in blue (my favorite color). How could we leave without a group picture being taken as it would put all the morning time spent on getting ready for a toss?We got ourselves a neat tempo traveler with an awesomely nice driver. The tempo traveler served our purpose and made the trip a pleasure. We could enjoy ourselves completely with enough space for our baggage.And we were on the way to Hemis Monastery our first stop in the trip. As soon as one leaves Leh city, you will be invited into the wide open arms of nature which gives you the best of the views The ITBP makes sure that the Tri color stays flying high. The area on the way to Hemis is managed by ITBP personals. A nice prayer bell (you will see one everywhere in Leh Ladakh) on the way greets you. It’s time for a quick meditation class (off course with a RAYBAN)During the session on meditation a new name was incarnated for the trip as "Funky Baba"And yes some photo session too for the group as i could not take all the limelight And finally got a new student on the trip who i somehow felt will turn into a good photographer once basics are taught. Keen listener. It was a nice challenge to teach someone basics quickly and during a trip at a place which is full of landscapes one can't miss.Small villages on the way This is the meditation camp near Leh cityCarvings one can find on rocks outside Leh city at many placesBrick house left abandoned mid way with such beautiful backgroundOn the way across beautiful roads and small villages. One has to admire the cleanliness you see across these roads maintained by BROThe place is some 30Kms from Leh city and is deserted. The area is flat out land. Amazing natureTried hard to understand what this piece was doing besides the road parked at its own comfort, but to discomfort of the drivers on this road. Then someone whispered that it's just a "rock" and its time to move onJust before approaching the Hemis Monastery this is what will welcome you You can just think on how nature manages to keep all things in complete sync. Beauty of the place will just amaze youBuddha statue at a very good height besides the Hemis Monastery. The prayer bells Built in 11th century supposedlyA lama willing to pose for us. He was praying and rotating the prayer bell in his hand. It is supposed to be rotated every time you prayA view from top of the MonasteryGroup starting to explore the monasteryGrand Hemis MonasteryIt started to drizzle and the climate was so much cooler. We headed to our next stopover and it was Thiksey Monastery There is a nice G+1 floor high statute of Buddha in the monastery. It simply looks fabulous and its so peaceful when you are inside the monastery and looking at the statue and the carvings around it.Meanwhile the group was busy inNext en route was Shey PalaceNext in line was Leh PalaceLast on the list was Shanti Stupa for the dayBaba ramdev was supposed to come the next day for some international yoga divas. The place is really nice and the view of the Leh city is awesome.In the evening on the way back we also visited the Leh city market.On the way back from Leh market to the hotel our own south indian super star just did something that was unbelievable and out of this world. Below is the conversation he had with the traffic policemanBrief description:- He was to find taxi in a busy market place in Leh which thrives on touristsGroup - Talking among themselves to understand from where they can find the taxi to get back to the hotel Mr. Sudheer - Confirms to the group that he will find all a taxi to reach to the hotel in middle of Leh marketGives us a confident look and heads towards finding all a taxiKeeps looking for a taxiBut instead finds a traffic policemenMr. Sudheer - (remember in the middle of Leh market) Uncle where can i find a taxi?Policeman - Somehow understood Mr. Sudheer's intentions and replied promptly "At the Taxi Stand"Mr. Sudheer - Felt dejected as if someone put over a 1000 volts (Kya pakka ra hai mamu)Mr. Sudheer - Thanking him walks away dejectedMr. Ahemad couldn't understand what just transpired and was left stunned himself (in a state of shock)Three musketeers enjoyed a lot once everything settled down and it felt like GOD wanted this to happen and us to enjoy thoroughly at Sudheer's expense"Taxi Kahaan MIlegi""Taxi aapko Taxi Stand pey hi Milegi"Super lolAnd on this note we left for the hotelTotal distance covered on day one was = 90kmsTraveled by = Tempo TravelerTotal places covered = 4Number of people = 6 + 1 (driver)Temperature = 15-20 deg celciusRains = Light drizzleDay-2 Trip to Likir, Lamayuru, AlchiAlchi is a very famous and one of the oldest monasteries in Leh-Ladakh region. This is a must visit for tourist who come here.For this excursion we had the other two members of the team now join us as they were discharged from hospital on our way back from local sightseeing trip.We left early in the morning again at around 09:00 thanks to everyone in the group getting ready on time.It was time to leave and this is how enthusiastic the group wasAnd also few clicks of the flowers, they just remind us how beautiful the world is if one chooses to think that way.And the day began. We drove out of Leh city in an opposite direction to where we went on day one. The roads again are maintained by BRO and are in top condition till the time you hit the real rocky patches.Sight of Indian flag just pushes the adrenaline to the next level. Especially its good to see the flag flying high among our brave armed forces who really understand the importance of the tricolorOur guide for the day managed everything to perfection. Kudos to her for managing this group Took a time please from the long drive from Leh city to get clicked off course and also feel the warmth of the place. Ladakh region still remains one of the rare places in India which is still untouched by majority of urban population and this is what keeps the beauty intact for explorers like us who find complete peace and are lost the instant we are let lose.Its such a great feeling when your pupil starts picking up the nuances of photography quickly. Magnetic hill is one of the main attractions in Leh and a must see. As far as i am concerned i tried to understand what magnetic force one can feel here, sadly i couldn't. Maybe i was at a wrong time at the place or maybe the phenomenon occurs due to some other natural forceThe only thing i could feel is the vast expanse of beauty around me. I just sat there and clicked pictures of clear blue sky and dark mountains.From ground zero when you look up and ahead you only see mountain ranges opening their arms and welcoming you to your comfort.And then we had our moment of the day. Painting the whole Ladakh region blue was talk of the day and my god it turned out to be a long day where we discussed everything that is blue.Competition tried but couldn't come closer to the color blue and lost by 0 votes.South ka hero aayaNext stopr from Magnetic hill was Zanskar Indus river confluence. From the confluence the river flows only by the name Indus.Adjusting myself to get a better view of the confluence.Lady power was on display as well, how can i be left behindOn the way to Likir Monastery, greeted by a table top mountainand left alone on the NH1Finally we reached Likir Monastery (11th century monastery) Has superb museum with real valuables showcasing Tibetan history. Apologies i couldn't click the whole monastery from below besides the road. The central school and rooms that the little lama's utilize. This is where you will also get black teaI wanted to click picture of one of the little lama's and i chose the one sitting behind us near the school entrance. The moment i walked to wards the lama (off course with a smile) the lil lama ran away (shy away) and yelled "No Photo" "No Photo". That was so sweet. He hid behind the school wall and the moment i followed he slip behind the water tank and still yelled "No photo" with a smile. His pink cheeks were all glowing and he went inside the school to have lunch.IN the mean time my team lead started a conversation with a Lama. The conversation was very intense and about the future Buddha. I felt so undressed in front of them without any knowledge of what they were talking, but i was trying to gather some sense.Post the discussion got over the Lama invited two lil ones to come and have a photo clicked. And to my amazement the two lil lama's came forward and sat next to the lady. View from the MonasteryLama at the monastery gave us a good detailed understanding of what the Likir Monastery is all about and how they help preserve the old culture and teaching. How the future Lama's are taught and guided. Also we were directed to visit Alchi Monastery as it is one of the oldest Monasteries in Ladakh region and its specialty being of over 1000 painters were called upon to paint the walls of the monastery at the time. The paintings even today look as if they are talking to the visitors who come inFrom there we headed to Lamayuru Monastery on NH 1 towards Srinagar. The road is very twisty and uneven at many places. This again is maintained by the BRO and they have done a splendid job for the most of the roads. The roads are in condition to drive on.Enjoying the fresh lease of life.... Fresh air from NH 1And we are at Lamayuru Monastery View from the top at the Monastery Nice rock formation near the Monastery.The photo doesn't do justice to the dare devil stunt just being performed in the below series of pictures.Step-1 Walk to the nearest edgeStep-2 Look once down the edge and test your vertical limitsStep-3 Stand still while the paparazzi click your picturesStep-4 Strike a confident smileStep-5 Dont look down and only concentrate on the cameraStep-6 Request to come off the edgeStep-7 On a simple request from camera men strike another pose with thought of valley behind you and slope in front. This picture defines where our dare devil is standing on and striking for a poseStep-8 Come down and feel relaxed and realize what just happenedStep-9 Receive congratulations from whole group for the feet as on closer look one will realize that even the shoes were not meant for the stunt that just took placeOnce we finished the Monastery tour and geared up to head towards Alchi. Alchi was going to be our halt for the day and we were going to return only the next day to our hotel in Leh. The only place in the entire trip where i saw a political party flag ruining the beauty of the place. This is what you call high society people gathering in front of a religious guru. My followers here are wearing RayBan's by the way and all three are PUMA supportersOn the entrance of Alchi villageHotel where we were staying in Alchi for a dayTotal distance covered on day two was = 185kmsTraveled by = Tempo TravelerTotal places covered =5Number of people = 8 + 1 (driver)Temperature = 15-20 deg celciusRains = No rain Day-3 Trip from Alchi to LehAlchi monastery is one of the oldest monasteries around. A must visit for tourists. Additionally the monastery also shows you the path for a better view of river that flows behind it which you can get up close and personal.One of the best rangoli i have seen in my memory. The colors used is just awesome. This is covered in a glass enclosure to keep away dust. Prayer bell at the monastery A lil friend who just got glue to my camera. Guess the blue color followed us here as well and liking for blue was just too much for the kitten. For a person who is afraid of feeline this was a touchy moment Resting under the shadowRear view of Alchi Monastery (i think many people don't explore this bit of the monastery) Close up with the mighty Indus river.This is all the way down from the monastery. There is no easy route down and one has to walk through the rocky patch to get down. Please note you may tend to fracture your ankle...Strike a pose and enjoy the landscape!!!Best thing to do if you are near cold water... get your feet relaxedOnce your are done with that you could try "Dancing on the rocks"After leaving Alchi we were on our way to Leh city and back to hotel. n the way back we planned to visit the famous Gurudwara Pathir saheb and Kaali mata mandir (Spituk Gompa)Gurudwara's have a special place in my heart post my visit to Golden temple a year back. One of the finest places one can go and feel relaxed mentally and physically. The way Gurudwara's welcome all caste and religion is just something everyone should learn.Gurudwara pathir saheb is managed completely by the armed forces along the route. Langar was amazing as usualView from top @ 1100ft and 450+ stepsIts said that the devil moved a heavy boulder from top of this mountain towards the guru to kill him. Also its said that when our armed forces wanted to build a road and the place of guru was coming in between, however many times the forces tried they couldn't build the straight road, but eventually had to curve around the final resting place of the guru.After the gurdwara stint we headed to our next stop over i.e. Spituk Gompa (Kaali Matta Mandir) which is near to Leh airport and first glimpse can be got from flight when we are landing in LehOn closer look you can see the air strip of Leh airportPost Spituk it was time to head towards Hall of Fame (near Leh airport again).This is a place again managed by armed forces.Total distance covered on day three was = 70kmsTraveled by = Tempo TravelerTotal places covered = 4Number of people = 8 + 1 (driver)Temperature = 15-20 deg celciusRains = No rainDay-4 Trip from Leh to NubraThe day started early n the morning yet again and we left the hotel from Leh at around 08:30 in the morning and headed towards Nubra valley.Early morning before leaving for Nubra. All packing was done for the day and now it was time for a quick paparazzi momentsI really felt weird at the top approaching Khardungla and had to mask myself completelyView approaching towards Khardungla from LehOnce at top you will feel oxygen really low Please do take this warning seriously. It starts getting heavy at the top One can still dance at the highest motorable roadOn the other side of the pass was road which was all the way down 4000 ft to Khardungla villageFrom here it was non stop till Diskit in Nubra valley our place to stay for night or that's what we had thought for. Eventually we stopped en-route this nice place which was worth spending some time atFrom this place on wards it was definitely going to be non stop til DiskitThis was our place to stay in Diskit. A nice quite place to stay. The only problem that we faced was off lot of flies as the place was next to a cow shed.Post we took some rest, we went out to Hunder sand dunes to see the dunes and also take camel rides for which Hunder is famous for. Again the area is managed by armed forcesEnd to a wonderful evening of camel ride and gazing at the sand dunes. Note:- For Mumbaikars who are used to dosa and idli for evening snacks can stop over at a counter near Hunder dunes which serves dosa and idli for nominal costOnce back at the hotel night photography was on the cards. And it was time to say good night to all the living beings out there and hit to bed.Total distance covered on day four was = 125kmsTraveled by = Tempo TravelerTotal places covered = 3Number of people = 8 + 1 (driver)Temperature = 0-15 deg celciusRains = No rainDay-5 Trip from Nubra to Leh Day again started early and we planned to leave Diskit at around 08:30 to head to sand dunes first and then towards the Deskit monastery on the way to LehSince the team was getting ready i decided to walk all the way to the sand dunes which is neat 7km from the hotel where we were staying. Had a early breakfast and by the time team would get ready i headed towards the dunes. Took my necessary things i.e. my camera and bottle of water. This one is really funny if you read the whole board slowly Local Deksit market Me and my shadow listening to awesomely crazy songs. Walking felt awesome early in the morning.Locals always have a smile on their face wherever you go in Ladakh region Hunder sand dunesDone here we headed to the Diksit Monastery or Diksit Gompa as one may wish to call the place. It has one of the tallest Budhha statues. On the way back to hotel from sand dunes we met this bunch of kids who were all looking so sweet and charming. We gave them perk and one of the kids (who definitely will become something big) took two and kept one in his pocket and was showing off the other to the group. The kids energized the group Student at work makes teacher proud And the road aheadOn the top at the highest Motor-able road and enjoying fresh lease of life (and if you ask the group it really was a fresh lease of life)Total distance covered on day five was = 135kmsTraveled by = Tempo TravelerTotal places covered = 3Number of people = 8 + 1 (driver)Temperature = 0-15 deg celciusRains = No rainDay-6 Trip from Leh to Pangong and backChemrey Monastery On the way to Pangong lake. The monastery is in village Chemne. This monastery lies approximately 35-40 kms from Leh city. The monastery was founded in 1664. One look at the monastery and you will fall in love with the location it is situated at.Twisty and rough road towards changla pass (third highest motorable road)Changla pass - The temperature when we reached at around 12:00 IST was approximately 0-3 deg Celsius. The place is even more cold than Khardungla. As soon as we neared the pass we could see frozen water which nature had requested to pause in its flow. The air was dusty but cooler. Huge amount of trucks traverse through Changla pass to go towards Manali.Note:- Avoid excessive honking as the truck drivers themselves give you way to overtake at the right time. The road is very dangerous on one side is mountain and on other it is valley.Yak yak!!!!Beaver - On the way to Pangong. This is a reserved place and no littering is allowed. These beavers come out to soak sun light and also are very camera friendlyFirst glimpse of the lake. Pangong lake starts in India and through disputed area flows through Tibet and enters China. The drive to lake from Leh is treacherous for your back and neck (as was clearly visible on many in our group) but enjoyable. It took us approximately 6.5hours to reach Pangong from Leh city.Everyone posts the pictures of Pangong lake, but on closer look around one will notice the canyon like features near the lake. These really invite you to be clicked and gives you a totally different view of area around Pangong lake. The rock formation near this area is absolutely mind blowing.Our guide cum driver uncleMe was finally allowed to drive the tempo travelerAnd to sum it up final image that shows you Ladakh and people of Ladakh from a child's lovely eyesThis picture was taken at Changla top. The eyes just tell you the complete story. There is happiness all around Leh and adjoining area.Day-7 Back to Mumbai by early morning flight from LehStopover Delhi

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