Ladakh-On every bucket list!

18th Dec 2016
Photo of Ladakh-On every bucket list! 1/5 by Akshunya Jugran
Photo of Ladakh-On every bucket list! 2/5 by Akshunya Jugran
Photo of Ladakh-On every bucket list! 3/5 by Akshunya Jugran
Photo of Ladakh-On every bucket list! 4/5 by Akshunya Jugran
Photo of Ladakh-On every bucket list! 5/5 by Akshunya Jugran

I am sure it is a desire for people in India and also across the Globe to visit Ladakh at least once in a lifetime. A place known for its remarkable landscape which makes every amateur , a skilled photographer; when a person owns a bike, the first place which strikes the mind and a place known for Rancho school from Three Idiots! Like every other person, who loves to travel, Ladakh was on my list. I wanted to go, so desperately that the thought to travel alone always crossed my mind. Luckily, I got the company of the most wonderful people. So tickets are booked! Now waiting for the day to come, wishing the time pass by soon. 13 August, 2015. Flashed my Google reminder, Flight to Leh, departs 6:25 AM. I woke up at 3:30 AM with all the excitement, finally the day has come. The adventure of the trip kicked off when we reached the airport after the Check-In window was closed! Now, what will we do? The question popped. What if we miss our flight? So the new plan is, we go by road or book the next flight, but Ladakh is ON! Fortunately, the Air India staff allowed us to check-In but with the condition, it is our responsibility to catch the flight on our own. So just like any Bollywood movie, we ran. Ran through the security gates, jumping over the security ribbons and towards our flight. And we did it! We are ready to take off. One and a half hour journey and we are getting Leh'ed! When I came out of the plane, my first reaction to place was not so happy. I was disappointed to see the barren mountains, which looked like a huge pile of mud. With a little setback in my heart, I hoped to see the better places in the next six days.

When a traveler reaches Ladakh, especially by air, it is recommended to take rest on the day of arrival and acclimatise. As the level of Oxygen is low in Ladakh, the body needs time to get used to the new environment. But was it possible for the 'fantastic four' to stay in a room for rest of the day? Nah! Car booked, bags packed and out on the roads of Leh. Covering various places like monasteries, forts, Wall of fame and Rancho school, the beauty of the clean black roads and the huge mountains, was marvelous. Leh turned out to be the happening place more than I expected. The street full of people, shopping areas, cafes playing music, souvenirs and of course, Buddhist prayer flags all around. Spreading happiness.

The next day, starting early, we left for Leh to Srinagar highway. The beauty of the barren mountains was indulging. Beyond my imagination, the bare mountains come in so many different color and sizes. The pure blue sky and the cotton white clouds complementing the landscape. The Moon land is a small mountain, along the way, which looks similar to the surface of the moon. It has craters like depressions all over the mountain. Surrounded by nothing, but the mountains brings in the feeling 'How great it would have been if I could fly!'

Tso Moriri Lake, at an altitude of 4,522 m, was our next destination. To reach Tso Moriri Lake, we have to go through Taglang La pass, which is a high motor able pass at an altitude of 5,328 m. Though roads to the lake are not in the good condition, but this is an exceptionally magnificent journey I have ever experienced. Vibrant mountains, flaunting colours of red, green, brown, purple and white, clear dark blue sky and a thrilling Royal Enfield ride! What else can I ask for? Moving towards the lake, there was a small village Purga, first glimpse of this village was very dramatic. It looked haunted, abandoned and scary. No traces of life. Are we on the right track? Okay, let me tell you, while travelling in Ladakh, you will often get this feeling that you have lost your way, as whole place is deserted and very less people are seen. You usually find solo bikers or the groups who are your angels and guide the way. And so, we were on the right track. There is a small and very beautiful lake on the way to the Tso Moriri lake, this is Tso Kar lake. When we saw this lake, we just wanted to forget about the Tso Moriri lake and stay just there, but the greed, 'If this lake is so beautiful, what about the Tso Moriri lake?' To find the answer for this noble question we went further. By the time we reached Tso Moriri lake it was 4 PM, the lake was exceptionally scenic. Lake with huge mountains on the other side, clouds touching the mountains and you could see this view till the horizon. The beauty was flawless and no lens could capture all of it. How could god create such a heavenly place? Words cannot express that amazing feeling. We spent the chilly winter night at Tso Moriri lake, camping under the sky full of twinkling stars and shining Moon, making memories which will be cherished forever

Next day, we left from the lake, planning for our next destination Nubra Valley all along the way to Leh. Nubra valley is approximately 150 Kilometres from Leh and it takes around 4-5 hours to reach the paradise. On the way is Khardungla Pass which is at the height of 18380 feet and comes with the specific instruction of not to halt for more than 30 minutes as there are the chances of health related issues. The place is so cold, snow on some areas of the pass and extremely reckless wind freezing your face. It was magical. You can spot Indian army flags fluttering and our brave soldiers; the feeling of patriotism fills the heart. Moving on, towards the valley, the roads are narrow, uneven and covered with snow on some of the patches. There was the major cloud burst in this area just ten days earlier to when we arrived, the place was destructed and completely washed out. Homes flooded away and only desert all around. It is petrifying how nature takes the toll of the injustice done by man.

Photo of Ladakh-On every bucket list! by Akshunya Jugran
Photo of Ladakh-On every bucket list! by Akshunya Jugran
Photo of Ladakh-On every bucket list! by Akshunya Jugran
Photo of Ladakh-On every bucket list! by Akshunya Jugran

Huge sand dunes can be seen everywhere and all you wish, secretly, is to climb them! Well, we did climb them and it was thrilling. Camel ride is offered to the tourists and one can easily relish the exquisiteness of the white dunes. On the way to Nubra valley, there is a huge glorious statue of 'Future Buddha', so colourful and magnetic. From this place you can sight the spectacular landscape of the valley. Just perfect!

We spent the night in the Nubra Valley, in a home stay.The family was very welcoming and prepared us a delicious dinner using the fresh vegetables from their kitchen garden. The home stays generally have very nominal prices for a decent place. We sat on the terrace, looking at the sky and describing the shapes of the clouds we could imagine, guessing the constellations, listening to the soothing music and not realising that it was that moment which we might not be able to recreate ever again. These impressions will always stay crisp and unaltered in our hearts.

19 August, 2015, while flying back to New Delhi, each and every moment was recalling itself in my head. Though the journey to various places of Ladakh was tiring and unpleasant, but every bit of it was worth it. And not all the credit goes to the place alone, my gang, absolutely owns a huge share in making this expedition a wonderful and most cherished experience of my life. The best thing about travelling is not just getting exposed to the new places but also getting exposed to your deepest fears and feelings. To find the courage and open up your soul to your fellow travelers and breathing with freedom for at least once in your life. Fortunately, I experienced all that in those six days of Ladakh!

Photo of Ladakh-On every bucket list! by Akshunya Jugran
Photo of Ladakh-On every bucket list! by Akshunya Jugran
Photo of Ladakh-On every bucket list! by Akshunya Jugran
Photo of Taglang La by Akshunya Jugran

This blog was originally published on 'Alive or Just Breathing?'