A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel

20th Jun 2016
Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel 1/1 by Arnab Sarkar
The Shikaras- Dal Lake

It was a long pending trip. We decided to have a travel photography trip around different parts of The Himalayas. After many permutations and combinations, we decided to begin our first trip from Kashmir. The plan was to visit Leh starting from Srinagar via Kargil. We were not in hurry and hence made the plan in a way so that we can enjoy the scenic beauty instead of just putting a check mark. My friends started from Delhi and I was supposed to meet them directly in Srinagar.

Day 1

The dream trip of my life began from Srinagar. As soon as my Jet Airways flight from Kolkata landed in Srinagar, I was greeted by many smiling faces- faces of common people of Kashmir, faces of innocent people. My stay was booked in Houseboat in Dal Lake. On my way to Dal Lake, I was calmed by the cold breeze of the valley and the fragrance of pollution free air. The city was moving on its own rhythm. My Shikara was waiting at Ghat Number 13. The journey began.. It was my time to know the Heaven on Earth.

Since it was the only day to stay in Srinagar, I quickly got ready to have a local site seeing in Srinagar. Visited the Shankaracharya Temple and the famous Hazratbal Mosque along with famous gardens of Srinagar- Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh and Chashme Sahi Garden. Also took a trip around the market.

The unknown leaves..left behind..

Photo of Nishat Garden, Nishat, Srinagar by Arnab Sarkar

When in Kashmir, dress like Kashmiris.. :)

Photo of Shalimar Bagh, Shalimar, Rainawari, Srinagar by Arnab Sarkar


Photo of Shalimar Bagh, Shalimar, Rainawari, Srinagar by Arnab Sarkar
Day 2

"Hope I am not Late.." - a Kashmiri rushing to the shops..

Photo of Dal Lake, Srinagar by Arnab Sarkar

The second day began quite early. We got ready to enjoy the tea on Shikara while visiting the "Water Market" in Dal Lake. This market opens pretty early in the morning where shop keepers and shoppers both visit in Shikaras. The items available from vegetables to ornaments, from tea to flowers. The people are bargaining but its never becoming harsh or fast as it is common in our regular day to day busy markets. I felt people come to meet everyone here early morning than business. They meet, they smile and then they happily start their day.

A shopkeeper in Shikara..

Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar

Approaching to Sonamarg- On the Way to Kargil

Photo of Sonamarg by Arnab Sarkar

After visiting the "Water Market", we got ready to being our journey to Kargil. As per our plan, next halt will be at Kargil. It is important to begin the journey as early as possible due to the traffic in Zoji La Pass. Also no car is allowed to cross the pass after 5pm IST. Most of the vehicles then are stopped at Sonamarg itself. So typically if someone needs to go to Kargil, needs to leave Srinagar as early in the morning as possible, have food in Sonamarg quickly and rush to Kargil. We also followed the same. We started from Srinagar at around 9am, reached Sonamarg at around 12:30pm. There are many hotels where people can get food as per their choice. We decided to have momos and tea.


Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar

Sonamarg to Zoji La was supposed to be hardly 30mins journey. But the road condition was not good. It took us upto 1 hour to reach the checkpost. Already there was a big queue of vehicles. Our car started moving by the pass slowly with the traffic. It is worth mentioning that the word La itself means pass. The Zoji La is the lifeline between Sonamarg and Ladakh. Zoji La is the 3rd highest pass in this range at 3,528 metres (11,575 ft).

Zoji La

Photo of Zoji La, Forest Block by Arnab Sarkar

The Guard Wall..

Photo of Dras by Arnab Sarkar

It was around 4pm when we were entering to the Dras sector crossing Zoji La. This is the first time the memory of war came in our mind when we saw the strong guard wall adjacent to N1. During the Kargil war, the Pakistani army was targeting the N1. This guard wall was prepared to provide a safe passage to the vehicles travelling via N1. We were able to feel those moments looking at the wall.

Dras is the scecond coldest inhabited place in the World. At times, it reaches to as low as -50 degree Celsius. Dras is in the Kargil district and is the Gateway to Ladakh.

Kargil War Memorial

Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar

One should visit to Kargil War Memorial in Dras to pay respect to the Martyr who never thought about themselves while fighting for the Nation. War brings only sorrow and not happiness- we learn from here looking at the stones erected in their memories. We also feel proud about our soldiers who ensure safety of our lives.

Finally we reached Kargil at around 9pm. Our night halt was arranged at Tourism Bungalow. The building was made of stone walls and every room was having an attached common verandah. The suru river was flowing just next to the road. We quickly had our dinner with chicken curry and rice. Don't remember when we slept listening the sound of waves of the river.

Day 3

It was around 5am. I came to the balcony. The Sun was already on duty however The Moon can still be seen. Suleman, our caretaker brought tea for us. I sat on the balcony. The dancing river suru, the songs of the birds, the aroma of the forests made it a place which words can't explain. I can spend an entire day sitting there. I came back to the real world with the bells of the adjacent school. At the same time, our Driver also came. Our destination today is Drang Drung Glacier. As per local policy, another vehicle will take us there. Our driver made all the arrangements. He started putting our camera and other equipment in the car. I was not feeling like getting ready too early but no option. So time to get going. But before that, Suleman showed us the bunkers typically used during the war. It was first time, I have seen any bunker. It is like an apartment below ground level. During Kargil war, the local people had to spend several days in those bunkers.

Bunker Entry

Photo of Forest Block, Kargil by Arnab Sarkar

with our friends ..

Photo of Forest Block, Kargil by Arnab Sarkar

We took left and started journey towards our destination of the day bidding temporary good bye to Suru river. Our first halt is Sankoo- a beautiful village in the lap of greens and mountains. It just makes us to wait and watch the beauty of the village. We quickly had breakfast there and got busy in taking snaps. It is important to highlight that we were travelling during the Ramadan time. So foods will be available in selected shops and it is necessary one should have his food wherever it is available instead of waiting for better option.

The early morning in Sankoo..

Photo of Sankoo by Arnab Sarkar

After crossing Sankoo, we met the Nun (7135 mtr)-Kun (7077 mtr) peaks for the first time. These are the highest peaks in Jammu and Kashmir at Indian side of Line of Control.

Nun-Kun range from Sankoo

Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar

How students can concentrate in boring subjects when the Nature is too beautiful?

Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar

We reached at Drang Drung glacier at around 2:00pm via Pensi La. We tried to reach the place in the first half itself but got caught on the scenic beauty on the way and we had to stop so many times. This delayed our journey. In this range traveler should try to reach the attraction point possibly at the first half of the day as weather condition keeps changing. Drang Drung is the highest mountain glacier in Ladakh region in The Himalayas. It is the origin of river Zanskar. This river plays an important role in the economy of Ladakh. People of Padum travels to Leh via the frozen river Zanskar during winter as other roads get closed due to heavy snowfall. Pensi La is at an altitude of 14,436 ft. So it is quite common that people will face high altitude sickness a bit here due to low Oxygen density. So if you find any of your team member is getting angry or laughing too much, don't be surprised. :)

Drang Drung Glacier

Photo of Pensi La by Arnab Sarkar
Day 4

Today our journey began to Leh via NH1. We were slowly moving to the other side of The Himalayas. Here the scenic beauty adjacent to road was changed- it was no more the long green trees, rather a bit deserted mountain with different colors of sands and stones. On our way, we visited Mulbekh Chamba and Lamayuru monastery. Mulbekh Chamba is famous for the Buddha statue erected in stone. This Buddha is dressed in ornaments indicating the myth that in future Budhha will be coming back when everywhere happiness and wealth prevails. After crossing Kargil, slowly the impact of Buddhist religion became more prominent. Till Kargil, it is more Islamic faith whereas post Kargil, it is more Buddhist faith is dominating.

Buddha statue at Mulbekh Chamba

Photo of Mulbekh Chamba, Mulbekh by Arnab Sarkar

Birds eye view- Kargil from Lamayuru

Photo of The Lamayuru Monastery, Leh by Arnab Sarkar

lamayuru monastery

Photo of The Lamayuru Monastery, Leh by Arnab Sarkar

Lamayuru Monastery is the oldest surviving building in the region. It is also worth mentioning that the area of Lamayuru is also known as Moonland due to its peculiar land surface which closely resembles the surface seen on moon.


Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar

Young Lamas at Lamayuru

Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar

Confluence of Indus and Zanskar

Photo of Leh by Arnab Sarkar

The confluence of Zanskar and Indus welcomed us to Leh at around 5pm. It was a long journey today and we were waiting to reach the hotel in Leh town. After checking in, I went to the Leh market, tried new food- Chicken Egg Thenthuk, witnessed local dance and roamed around. I also wanted to purchase Diamox tablet to avoid any altitude sickness. Leh is at an altitude of 3,524 metres (11,562 ft). So the same high altitude sickness is expected here too. Typically people take one or two days rest in Leh and roam around in nearby areas to acclimatize. Please don't get angry if you have to mention same thing multiple times to anyone here- it is not their fault; the high altitude sickness sometime makes them pron to forget quickly. I would like to describe a small incident here. In our hotel, there was a young caretaker- Raju. One day morning, he brought tea to without putting tea leaves, When we asked him to bring tea bags, he went away and came back after 10mins with sugar again. It was not something he did intentionally rather he basically forgot what we asked him. He was new in the Leh and it was taking time for him to adjust the climate.

Day 5

Hemis Monastery

Photo of Leh by Arnab Sarkar
Photo of Leh by Arnab Sarkar

maitreya buddha

Photo of Leh by Arnab Sarkar

Next day was for local site seeing and we visited Hemis and Thiksey Monastery. Hemis Monastery is also famous for The Himalayan Kumbh. The great thanka is put on for display during those days. It is organized once in every 12 years. There is also a myth of Jesus visiting India. The same is mentioned in a book written by Budhhist monks long long ago however these days people are not allowed to view the book. The Thiksey Monastery is famous for 15 metres (49 ft) high statue of Maitreya Buddha, the largest such statue in Ladakh. Lots of chorten are visible next to the Monasteries. There are two types of Chorten- one to welcome and another to keep evil powers away. We also visited Shanti Stupa and recently famous, "Ranchos School" of movie, "3 Idiots".

Typically Lamaji decides the name of a new born baby as per Buddhist culture. Till then, they are called, "Nono" (The small kid). In Ladakh, there are villages far away and Lamaji visits there once in several years. So there are many people awaiting to get names and they all are called "Nono" till then. It is quite common there people getting a real name post their marriage.

Thiksey Monastery

Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar

Leh vegetable market

Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar
Day 6

Highest Motor-able road (Civic)

Photo of Khardung La by Arnab Sarkar

Road to Nubra Valley

Photo of Shyok River Valley Road by Arnab Sarkar

Petrol pump at Hunder

Photo of Nubra Valley, Hunder by Arnab Sarkar

We started early in the morning for Nubra valley. The journey was via Khardung La, Shayok River valley road, Hunder. Khardung La is known as highest motorable road in the World. Actually it is the highest one for civilian as Indian Army has built roads for them in much higher altitude as well. For the first time, we got snow fall as well here. The beauty of the entire road via Shayok river valley is mesmerizing. We should appreciate the effort of BRO as well to make such wonderful roads.

Nubra Valley is famous as cold desert. The white sand, the Himalayan range will take you away. This is the home of Bactrian camels as well. One can enjoy ride on them. There are small, beautiful home stays in Nubra. Our caretaker-cook was from Indore. He didn't give any scope to complain. The much needed rest was calling us.

Our guest house at Nubra Valley

Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar
Day 7

Innocent child at Turtuk

Photo of Turtuk by Arnab Sarkar

The K2 from Turtuk

Photo of Turtuk by Arnab Sarkar

We planned to visit Turtuk the next day. Turtuk is the last village of India in this region. One can also get a chance to see K2- The Second Highest Peak from there. But the day was covered with cloud. When we reached Turtuk it was raining a bit. We continued our visit around the village, interacted with local communities - they were so innocent and beautiful. One will immediately fall in love with the local people and I was not an exception to the same. The luck was not so bad for us as we got to see K2 for a moment in between the clouds. Please keep in mind that no movie camera should be fitted outside of the car as this area is under strict army control.

Turtuk Landscape

Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar
Day 8

Camel Ride at Nubra Valley- Cold Desert

Photo of Nubra Valley by Arnab Sarkar

Next day again to return to Leh. In the morning we made sure that we enjoy the camel ride in Nubra Valley. Camel ride is always a matter of thrilling to me specially the way the Camel stands up. We reached Leh late evening.

Day 9

On the way to Pangong Tso

Photo of Pangong Lake by Arnab Sarkar
Photo of Pangong Lake by Arnab Sarkar

Pangong Tso

Photo of Pangong Lake by Arnab Sarkar
Photo of Pangong Lake by Arnab Sarkar

It was the day to visit Pangong Tso. The road journey began from Leh. For the first time, I saw Marmot on my way. They were awesome. I wish I could get them with me. The beauty of Pangong Tso can't be explained in words. Every moment one can see a different color. It's said that only one third is in India and I was amazed to see the long lake. One must visit this lake or else his Ladakh trip is not complete. We stayed there for few hours, did BBQ as well. :) The water is really freezing in the lake and one must not try swimming in the same. However, we played in the water for long time. The beauty of the weather is it is so dry that one will not get caught with humidity and hence less chance to fall sick. This place is very windy too. So if anyone is planning to stay at night, should be well prepared.


Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar

It was the end of the trip. We wished this trip would have never come to and end, but what could have been done. One last visit at Leh market concluded our trip. We decided to be back by local semi delux bus.

Day 10

As the decision to come by bus was too late, we managed to get two proper seats and two in driver's cabin. Me and my Guru come friend decided to take the seat in Driver's cabin. The journey started in high spirit. The driver was very friendly. He started playing Kishore Kumar's songs and we also started singing in chorus. It was like a journey from a movie. Even when a herd of sheeps blocked our way, I didn't feel bad. It was much better than the polluting traffic in our civilized society.

In front of our Semi Delux Bus

Photo of Leh by Arnab Sarkar

Herd of sheep blocking the road...

Photo of Leh by Arnab Sarkar

Our driver

Photo of Leh by Arnab Sarkar

An evening in The Himalayas...

Photo of Leh by Arnab Sarkar

We reached Dras at around 9:30pm. As said earlier, vehicles are not allowed to cross the pass at this time. So we have to spend the night there. The shops nearby the highway provide beds for sleeping but got to know about the free bed bugs too. So decided to stay in the bus. The driver sahab gave one of his blanket for two of us. Obviously that was not enough. It was beginning of July and still it was so cold at night. We spent the night having tea and watching movies in nearby stalls. My friend spelt early in the morning. I was awake. The bus started again at 5am next day. It was raining. The Zoji La was ready with a different beauty this time and it was like a young lady freshly took her bath.

Photo of A Journey in The Himalayas.. ##BestOfTravel by Arnab Sarkar
Day 11

It was time to say Good Bye from Srinagar with a heavy heart. We left Srinagar but the memories are with us. Memories of beautiful people and nature staying together. Its really The Heaven on Earth.

Photo of Srinagar International Airport, Srinagar by Arnab Sarkar
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