Unfortunately, words have dried up and it was time to Bid adieu to the Land of Happiness. Aapne ladakh nahi dekha toh Janab aapne Kuch Nahi Dekha. As they say, for all the beautiful things; Yes, they have to end one day.
We stayed at The Grand Dragon. It was located about 2km. from the airport. We booked it as it was one of the only few hotels open in Leh during that time and being the only centrally heated hotel open. The Grand Dragon remains open throughout the year. It’s much to our decision of choosing this hotel that our Leh trip was almost hassle free. We hired a cab too through them for all the sightseeing and day trips. The driver was decent, helpful and with good knowledge of the terrain. The cab was in good condition which was extremely critical for the long day trips through desolate rough terrain. Moreover the hotel provided oxygen cylinders in the car and relieved us of arranging them on our own. Otherwise the small sized oxygen canisters available in the medicine shops would have cost us 600 Rupees to 1000 Rupees each. For our day trip to Pangong Tso the hotel rightly advised us to carry packed lunch as there won’t be any provision for lunch available at that time anywhere around Pangong. They provide freshly prepared continental/Indian lunch pack like grilled steaks, steamed veggies or stuffed Indian breads along with fresh fruits, juices, cakes and cookies at a reasonable cost. However the food has to be ordered the night before. The hotel cab keeps arrangements for electric hot food cases as well and serve hot food at freezing temperatures in the middle of nowhere. Their advise proved very useful (almost a life saver) as not only on our way but also around Pangong we didn't find any eatery open when we visited the place.“JULLEY” is the magical word that brings a smile to everyone’s face in that magical land. As we reached the hotel we were welcomed by two Ladakhi ladies clad in their traditional attire.The decor of the hotel was quite interesting. It was a skilful blend of modern architecture and a subtle touch of the age old art and culture of the land. Here and there Tibetan artifacts framed nicely were displayed along with several original paintings made by the owner of the hotel himself, who was a renowned artist of Ladakh- Mr. Gulam Mustafa.While the formalities and paper works of check-in were being completed we were offered welcome drink – Kashmiri" Kahwa" – a traditional hot beverage with saffron and almond. The cozy warm interior was so comfortable that we felt relaxed and assured within no time. Still as advised we kept the first day for acclimatizing and let it be an easy going one. It was almost time for lunch.The hotel houses two restaurants –The Tsurab serves traditional Ladakhi and Tibetan cuisine along with Chinese and other oriental cuisine, whereas the colourful and brightly decorated in traditional Ladakhi woodwork,Zasgyath offered multicusine menu.An amazing view of the Stok Kangri range bewildered us as we entered the later one. Besides the ordered menu we were also offered a specially made garlic soup. The staff were extremely polite and helpful. They advised us to take the soup which is believed to be a natural remedy to altitude sickness.We spent the rest of the day lazily strolling around the hotel, gazing at the mountains and exploring the unique architectural uniqueness, such as the traditional Ladakhi pine wood curving and hand painted dragon faces and other ancient motifs used in the decoration of the hotel. With sunset the outside temperature dropped drastically to 3 degree celcius. We finished a light dinner and called it a day a bit earlier than we usually do to take ample rest before setting off to explore Ladakh with full enthusiasm.
Based on our detailed study of several articles on AMS (Acute mountain sickness), several blogs on Ladakh travel we were well aware of AMS and how to avoid it, what to do and what not to. As per a friend doctor's advise we had already taken our first preventive dose of Diamox at Delhi airport almost 3 hours prior to landing at Leh. Still we were cautioned so many times during the flight and all the do’s and don’ts were so meticulously mentioned before landing that the fear of getting AMS formed a thumping impression in our minds. We started measuring every step after we landed at the Kushok Bakula Rimpoche Airport. Even the cab driver waiting at the airport readily lent his hand in hauling our luggage into the car and advised us to avoid exertion and to be calm and comfortable on the day of arrival.
Next morning we started for the airport at 9:00 am.Our flight was at 11:30 am. At the airport we came to know that no hand luggage other than ladies handbags are allowed. Leh being a military airport with immense military importance has very strict and exclusive rules. We had to check-in our backpacks which we intended to carry as cabin luggage. Thankfully an additional 5kg. is allowed in the check- in luggage for this. After security check we were asked to identify our check- in luggage and prove the ownership of the luggage on the basis of the baggage stickers that are pasted on the rear of the boarding passes. Only the identified pieces of luggage will be allowed inside the aircraft.There are also repeated reminders to the passengers not to take any photograph of the airport.As our flight attained some height, the barren landscape of Ladakh appeared beneath once again .It seemed more familiar now. We could even recognize some of the locations that we had visited in the past few days.We flew over the Confluence. The two rivers seemed like two serpents travelling through two different mountains and meeting middle way. The rivers resembled living souls flowing down cracks and crevices of life being unknown of their destined union. Once we gained height, it looked exactly like a physical map with brown colouring for hills and blue colouring for rivers. Silently we paid our homage to the Indus for one last time before the flight took a turn towards white snowcapped mountains to take us towards south and said "Good Bye"to Ladakh.