There was a day-left to my last board exam when my mom told me that we had finalized the bookings for our trip to Leh. While talks were going on from over a month, nothing had been was sure until now. Before resuming to trigonometric identities, I updated my status to this wonderful bit of news.
After a week-long of calling acquaintances, friends, looking up blogs we put the last bag in the trunk of the ‘Meru’ on the night of 29th March. Browsing through the inflight magazine on Air India’s 7 O’clock flight to Delhi, I couldn’t help hiding my excitement for the next day.
The next morning we were up in the sky by 0600 hrs. Watching ‘Sarabhai vs. Sarabhai’ on the entertainment system, my eyes unknowingly wavered outside the window and that’s when I was first introduced to the Magnificent Himalayan range. I removed the camera and began taking snaps after snaps until my father warned me that we needed the battery for the whole day.
While we had braced to face any temperatures, all of our preparations were in the checked-in-baggage which proved to be quite a bummer when the air-hostess announced that the temperature outside was -2 Celsius. Luckily the ‘Lama’ seated beside me offered me his jacket. We were received by one of our friends at Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport. My eyes never once wavered from the window as we drove through the town to the Army guest house which was to be our home for the next week. Standing in Leh, which is in the valley and looking around is fabulous. There are snow-capped mountain ranges as far as the eye can see. Closer to town you can see the Indus, uncountable stupas, gompas and hoards of dogs!
FACT: Percentage of Oxygen in air normally is 21%...however due to high altitude; Leh’s Oxygen content is 7% which keeps decreasing as you climb higher. Once the body gets used to the fact that oxygen content is low, it appropriately acclamatises with the surroundings.
This is why you NEED minimum of a day-and-a-half’s rest before continuing action on altitudes. So on the first day we played ‘Uno’ and watched the movie ‘Kahaani’ while taking chances to sit near the kerosene-stove.
On our second day we geared up for Alchi and Likir where some of Ladakh’s most popular monasteries are located. The journey was pretty much straightforward until we came to the ‘Pathar Sahib Gurudwara’ which has many captivating stories to tell. Then came the legendary and mind-blowing phenomenon of the magnetic hill. While some claim it to be an illusion, I believe it to be true, as we checked out the slope with a spirit level. If you happen to be heading there, please carry a compass and spirit level to be sure. Frankly, though the monasteries are very famous and historical, I was disappointed the way they were maintained. On the way back we drove down to the ‘Sangam’ of Indus and Zanskar river, where you can actually witness a picturesque sight of two rivers of different water shades fusing into one.
That night in bed even the sub zero temperatures couldn’t dampen my spirit as I thought about Sunday’s trip to Pangong Tso. Yes, it is the place where the climax of 3-Idiots was shot. Apart from the tranquil mountains and miniature magpies it has a lot more to offer. In the 15 years that I have been around I have seen many serene and beautiful faces of the Earth, but Pangong Lake surely takes the cake. This route also passes through the world’s 2nd highest motorable road –Chang La. It was here that we got to experience the highlight of the trip for the first time – ‘snow fall’!
Monday the roads are closed for clearance so the next day we edited our itinerary and decided to tour the city instead. Some advice – Leh palace isn't such a fruitful us of your time, though you get a bird’s eye view of the city from there, Shanti Stupa is all right, Hall of Fame is a must-see and shopping, well…….
That night we decided that our next stop would be an overnight stay at Thoise. There is a phrase – ‘The Fun Lies in the Journey’….I guess someone driving on this route must have come up with that. If you stop at all the attractions along this route you might never reach your destination. The route passes through the world’s highest pass – ‘Khardung La’, with view of Sanskar and great Himalayan mountain ranges. If you go a little off track…you can witness hot springs on the other side of the Nubra valley at Panamik. I visited Nubra in early April and was still astounded by its beauty. The allure of the route are the sand dunes. It’s like one of nature’s pranks – having a desert surrounded by the world’s highest snowcapped mountain ranges. Being early for the tourist season there were no double-humped ‘Bactrian’ camels on the sand dunes. A local guy agreed to lead us to the double-humped ‘Bactrian’ camels’ shelter. It was quite an enjoyable ride. Upon receiving reminders from our driver about sundown, we decided to place the gompa (a huge Buddha statue whose name I don’t recollect) for the return trip. Having plenty of time on our way back, we even built a snowman on a glacier J
On Thursday we went for shopping (yet again) and tried to get a taste of the local food. We spent the rest of the day planning our campfire while I copied the infinite photos and completed my novel.
All good things come to an end, but inspite of the completing almost everything that the ‘Land of Passes’ had to offer and the extreme temperatures, I didn’t want to return to the Hyderabadi summer so soon. On the way back, I didn’t bother about the entertainment system, but smiled goodbye at the wavering peaks and valleys of the range hoping we would meet again :)
P.S. Don't judge me, I was 15 when I wrote this :/