LADHAK - A RAW BEAUTY !

Tripoto
23rd Jun 2017

@ KHARDUNLA TOP

Photo of LADHAK - A RAW BEAUTY ! by Upasana Venaik
Photo of LADHAK - A RAW BEAUTY ! 1/5 by Upasana Venaik
aerial view
Photo of LADHAK - A RAW BEAUTY ! 2/5 by Upasana Venaik
window seat advantage ;)
Photo of LADHAK - A RAW BEAUTY ! 3/5 by Upasana Venaik
another one
Photo of LADHAK - A RAW BEAUTY ! 4/5 by Upasana Venaik
AERIAL VIEW

The look of the snow capped mountain in McLeod, instilled a dream in me. To reach those snow laden mountains somehow.

To be honest, I was really apprehensive to visit leh, the reason was acclimatization. Staying at a height of 744 ft and suddenly jumping to a height of 11,480 ft, is an issue in itself. Issue why?

Because ladhak isn’t something you can suddenly plan and go, it will test your fitness level.

And I was more worried because I had plan this trip with my mother (who is a tachycardia patient). So after a lot of research and consultation with doctors as well as my friends who have been there, I sealed this trip on. And all this while I kept questioning myself that why did I choose ladhak over Goa, something easy and known.

Thanks to my stars I had the company of my best friend and her mother as well, who agreed to join us.

So our women only trip to ladhak was on!

With this, we took the morning flight to leh airport. Thanks to Goair, for making this flight even more comfortable.

This flight is considered to be the most sensational flights in the world. On a clear sky day from one side of the aircraft can be seen in the distance the peak of Gasherbrum, Nanga parbat and on the other side of the aircraft is Nun Kun Massif, so close that you feel you could reach out and touch it. Driving to leh has its own beauty, but don’t miss the chance to experience this flight as well.

Do check the aerial shots and post your comments.

ACCLIMITAZION CHECK LIST

Advise: - must carry – after a lot of research & experience!

1) Consult your physician and start Diamox 250 mg once daily, preferably two nights before leaving for ladhak along with potassium supplements like coconut water or banana (thanks to my darling dr friend "Rimpi Rana").

2) Diamox helps in acclimatization by preventing or reducing the symptoms of altitude sickness. Especially when you are climbing quickly to high altitudes (generally above 10,000 feet/3,048 meters). Take this medicine as directed by your doctor

3) Keep camphor (Kapoor) handy, minimum 2 packets. Smell it whenever you feel heaviness in ur head, or dizzy

4) purchase beforehand divya dhara from patanjali store, single tube can be used for 4 people, apply it on the mouth mask and wear it when travelling to Khardungla top or chang La pass, oxygen is relatively thin at these places.

5) Oxygen pump, you can buy from the medical stores in ladhak itself, for 600rs. In case unused, they take it back and return you 500 rs.

6) Oxygen cylinder is also an option for asthmatic people especially.

7) Keep disprin, paracetamol, domel, ors, and other first aid stuff handy.

8) Dark chocolate

9) You will definitely get tanned so buy a good sunscreen cream with SPF more than 50.

10) Hat/ cap

11) Goggles

12) Warm clothes

13) Rain coat/umbrella

14) Torch

15) Bsnl post paid no. the only one which works, so buy a no. beforehand, for other post paid network isn't guaranteed.

16) EMERGENCY CONTACT Nos.

Photo of LADHAK - A RAW BEAUTY ! 5/5 by Upasana Venaik
Backyard of nature's residency

From Hemis we left for Thiksey monastery. And once the sight of Thiksey becomes clear, you will start reminding yourself of all the Bollywood movies. Yes a scene from the movie "Highway" resembled to be shot from here in Leh but it was shot in Spiti. Then my mind started working, and I remembered yes the movie 3idiots was also shot here. With this excitement, I asked my driver to take us to Rancho's school, and he happily agreed.

In Thiksey, we didn’t go inside the monastery as it was really sunny that day, so just took some pictures from the outside as a memory token.

We left soon for Rancho's school, as it was about to be 1 pm, the school will get closed for the visitors during lunch time. With a quick pace, we entered Rancho's school, originally known as DRUK PADMA KAPRO SCHOOL or Lotus school, famously known as Rancho's school, located in Shey, Ladhak on Leh Manali highway. BBC declared this school as one the most beautiful school in the world. Education is free for the kids from Ladhak, entirely run by donation, and yes this school is full of innovation. Recently they prepared a wall to prevent it from flash floods like the one happened in 2010.

You can admire the wooden architecture, huge solar panels and yes you will have a sweet guide throughout for the visitors, who will give you information about the school and will also show you the famous idiotic wall. The school premise has rancho’s Café, named after the famous character from the movie 3 idiots. The taste of the food is fine; you can have quick snacks and yummy cold coffee. Please, keep mineral water handy everywhere you travel.

@ thiskey monastery

Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik

inside the school premises

Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik

outside thiskey monastery

Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik

at the iconic 3 idiotic wall

Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Upasana Venaik

From here we left for our tour to Sangam, before reaching below to the rafting point, stop at the top and admire the confluence of Zanskar (light in color) and Sindhu river (darker in color), can easily admire the color difference, they meet yet don’t mingle, that’s the beauty of nature, will need to refer science to understand this now . . lol too lazy, will just keep it natural .

When we reached the rafting point, our mind was at a fix, I had heard about it before that’s it is one of the best rafting experience in India and the wall of the Indus Himalayan explorers read it clearly “world’s highest rafting point”. Rafting is permitted from the month of May till late August.

They give you 3 options:-

1) Simple boating experience for 6 km – 45 min – Rs 600/-

2) A good rafting experience for 14 km – 1hour15 min – Rs 1300/- with GoPro recording

3) And the longest one for 21 km - 2 hours 30 min

It took us actually an hour to decide

1) Due to high Rapids,

2) We weren’t carrying extra clothing with us

Ultimately with the help of mom’s boosting we decided to go for it, driver has to drop you to the rafting point, it takes around 20 minutes to reach there, he will charge 1000rs, which you can share with another rafting companion. Our driver was sweet enough to take our photos and videos throughout our rafting journey. When you decide to do rafting for 14 km or more, they provide you with good rafting swim wear, because 100 percent chance is there that you will get wet.

The initial 40 min of the rafting was amazing, good rapids; follow the instruction of your guide. Our guide Balam Pana helped us to forget our anxiety and enjoy the experience.

Zanskar river in winters get frozen, and the trek is known as Chadar Trek (December to January), one of the most beautiful and difficult trek. You can check the contact details of Indus Himalayan explorers at the end. Contact them in advance, for rafting starts early morning and they close it by 5 pm or so. The best part about rafting in Zanskar River was not only about the Rapids but also about the safety measures they took. We had two kayaking guys following us one ahead and one behind us, to make sure there are no accidents. These people are really well trained and experienced so just relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. I'm sure it will leave you spell bound.

When we returned back to the café we were greeted with complimentary black tea and Maggie, the water was freezing, so surely you can’t miss this treat. You can collect your pictures and rafting video from them for some additional amount and it’s totally worth to keep this video with you forever, for I assure you this kind of rafting experience alongside a beautiful landscape is rare.

Photo of Zanskar River by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Zanskar River by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Zanskar River by Upasana Venaik

zanskar

Photo of Zanskar River by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Zanskar River by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Zanskar River by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Zanskar River by Upasana Venaik

Our next stop was the famous Gurudwara Patthar Sahib. Guru Nanak Dev Ji arrived here in 1571 and meditated on the river bank. There is holy boulder inside the Gurudwara complex. For more information about the famous history of this place, you can refer to the picture I clicked. After seeking the blessings we enjoyed the tea and snacks that were offered. They also have rest room just behind the premises of Gurudwara.

And yes our practically first day was getting over and I still couldn’t stop admiring the sunset and the changing landscape of Leh. We reached our hotel right on time for the dinner.

We had to leave early in the morning for the real adventure and for our stay in Nubra valley via Khardungla top!

By real adventure I meant “Khardung la top”, the real challenge for acclimatization (so far only this had been my main concern).

Day 3 – 25TH JUNE – LEH to NUBRA VALLEY

8:00 am

So we checked everything, cold clothes packed, breakfast ready and packed, remaining bags shifted to the clock room.

And then we left Leh for the Nubra valley, the most unforgettable journey of our lives.

gurudwara pathar sahib ji

Photo of Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Leh by Upasana Venaik

The height and the architecture of this Buddha temple are really admirable. You can relax here, take pictures of the Diskit monastery from the terrace. You can also choose to do rafting in Nubra, but unlike zanskar the water flow wasn’t that good.

Driving to Nubra Summer Camp took another 40 minutes to reach. Here they have Swiss deluxe tents which are basically furnished tents with the facility of attached washroom and supply of water round the clock except in winters. It was really hot unlike we expected, so all our warm clothes were of no use. After lunch, we took a nap and then at 6 pm left for the sand dunes in Nubra valley.

Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik

champa gompa

Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik

nubra valley

Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik

swiss tents

Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Upasana Venaik

The three spots where you can halt your vehicle on your way to Pnagong or on your return are:-

1) The Shahrukh Khan shooting point “not shouting point” – jab Tak hai Jaan, they have made up a small café in the middle of nowhere.

2) Wild life photograph area- you can find these adorable looking Himalayan marmots in good numbers and can take their pictures as well.

3) The green pastures – if you want to hold one of those adorable Pashmina goats

The mountains are really rough; you don’t know when they decide to throw pile of stones down on the road and the weather in Ladhak is also very unpredictable

We reached Pangong Lake around 12 or so.

Pangong in Tibetan stands for “long, narrow, enchanted lake”.

The lake is the highest salt water lake in the world, situated at a height of 14,270 ft or more. It is 130 km long and 5-6 km wide. The Chang – chemo range surrounding it from the north provide a spectacular backdrop to the blue and green expanse of its brackish water. Acclimatization isn’t much of a problem here. It’s good if you have a night stay at one of the camps here. You should plan for night camping here. The lake is mesmerizing; a lake at such a height is again a nature’s surprise.

60% of the lake is in China, during winters this lake freezes completely. Pangong will remind you of the last scene from the movie 3idiots and why not you can spot those scooters from far, you can choose to dress up like Kareena in bridal wear and pose with the scooter for just rs.50 /- yes that cheap !

You can also choose to ride on the yak. Or just spend a little time engrossing the beauty of this lake. The clear reflection of the mountains and clouds in the lake is out of heaven. Haven’t seen something so perfect, it is indeed a paradise and I envy Bollywood stars that get a chance to explore such beautiful places out of nowhere. The lake water is really chilly. After a couple of pictures we head to the nearby cafe. The food is really tasty here.

They have only one route to reach to your sightseeing destinations, so always listen to the driver and make it a point to leave early. I know it’s hard to think of doing that when you are on a holiday but remember this is an adventure road trip not a relaxing holiday unlike Kerala. The remaining two groups who left late for pangong had a terrible experience on their way back, don’t want to go into details now. So just keep a rule of thumb to leave early.

If you have time, do check Chagar tso, another beautiful lake on the route to Pangong, generally missed by tourist. This lake has a red sand bed.

We reached back to Leh by 4 pm. Tired, took a nap for sometimes and left for the famous Ladhak main market for shopping. The driver charged us 600 rs/- for 2 to 3 hours as our hotel is away from the main city.

Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik

pangong tso

Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik

At Pangong Tso

Photo of Pangong Tso by Upasana Venaik
Day 1

After a warm welcome at nature’s residency, we headed for some rest. I know the thought of being in leh is exciting enough to step out immediately, but it’s better to take a good amount of rest on your first day so that your body starts acclimatizing to the altitude and oxygen levels present (yes, actually never thought oxygen could be so so important).

We went downstairs in the lobby of our hotel to explore the nearby area, after a good power nap.

Saw some shops across the road, but they were all closed. Don’t know what came in my mind, but I decided to step inside the gate of an adjacent house.

Met this girl, Aru, who is studying in Delhi, she had come home for her summer vacation; her mom was sweet enough to invite us for the tea. They owned the shops and an ice cream factory, yes you read it right. “Ice cream factory run by the name of the dairy food, famous in leh.

Their home is made up in traditional ladhaki wooden style, with their own garden, a beauty of its own.

I requested her mom if she could prepare ladhak traditional tea for us and she happily agreed.

We called over our mom’s and we all sat in traditional ladhaki style and enjoyed Qawah with ladhaki cookies.

Aunty works in the morning at a handloom center and uncle takes care of the factory and the shops.

Nature’s residency is located in the outskirts of Leh in a small yet a very beautiful village choglamsar, away from the noise of the main city. It is around 6 km away from the airport as well. The hotel is made up of traditional wooden architecture, run mostly on solar energy; phone connectivity isn’t a problem here except for the little issue with the free wifi.

The hotel has a really friendly staff, food is also good and they prepare breakfast in advance before your leave for your day tour.

The best part about the hotel is the view it offers and sight. In the backyard of the hotel you can admire the view of snow capped grey colored mountains and sound of river sindhu flowing next to the hotel.

Our tour operator took the copy of our id’s in advance for the permit to travel to Nubra valley, Pangong. So do carry your id like voter id, driving license etc.

After having tasty Indian food for the dinner, we called it a night and prepared ourself for the next day Leh tour.

Photo of The Nature Residency, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Photo of The Nature Residency, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Photo of The Nature Residency, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Photo of The Nature Residency, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Day 2

We reached beautiful Hemis monastery in an hour, 45 km south of Leh. You will need to climb some 20 stairs (the least no. from what was to be followed).

Ticket entry is Rs. 50 per head. Photography is banned in the museum and in the temples as well, elsewhere you are free to take the pictures.

Hemis Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery (gompa) of the Drukpa Lineage, located in Hemis, Ladakh, India. The monastery was re-established in 1672 by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal. The annual Hemis festival honoring the Lord Padmasambhava is held here in early June. This monastery is known to be the most famous for the rich Buddhist temple in the entire region. The murals and frescos here date back to 17th century.

When you enter the museum you can also buy some souvenirs, and you will also find a lot of books and posters of ladhak.

Monks are really friendly, “selfie” friendly as well.

We saw them practicing dance for the upcoming culture programs.

In 2016, Leh hosted “kumbh mela of the Himalayas”, which is a grand spiritual gathering that happens once in every 12 years. It began in ladhak’s biggest monastery, Hemis. Hemis monastery is one of the most vibrant monasteries I have seen so far, and the view of the adjoining mountains is also amazing.

While you step down from the monastery, on your right you can find some café, you can sit and relax there. The limca doesn’t taste the same as it does in Delhi. You might find the normal drinking water hard to digest so go for mineral water (Rs. 30).

Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Upasana Venaik

After taking a good amount of pictures we left for the Shey palace a.k.a Shey monastery, being the ancient summer capital of ladhak. The Shey Monastery or Gompa is located 15 kilometers to the south of Leh in Ladakh

The palace is mostly in ruins now, was built first in 1655, near Shey village, by the king of Ladakh, Deldan Namgyal. It was used as a summer retreat by the kings of Ladakh.

Here also we climbed a little, took pictures and came back. Opposite to Shey palace is a small Shey palace restaurant running with a market. Here you can enjoy tasty tea and can also shop. A small pond with n no’s of ducks is also there next to the sitting area, where you can simply sit and enjoy the view of snow laden mountains and see a clear reflection of the same in the water.

Photo of Shey Palace, Leh Manali Highway, Shey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Shey Palace, Leh Manali Highway, Shey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Shey Palace, Leh Manali Highway, Shey by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Shey Palace, Leh Manali Highway, Shey by Upasana Venaik

From here we reached to our next destination “magnetic hill”, you must be aware of this place for sure, currently vehicles weren’t allowed but you have the option of sand biking in case you are interested.

Photo of Magnetic Hill, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Magnetic Hill, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Magnetic Hill, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Magnetic Hill, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Magnetic Hill, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Day 3

With each ascent the view only got better, I seriously had no idea I will be witnessing something like this so soon in my life, and then the view of snow next to the road started. The flashback of the bollywood movies again started playing in my mind. The view I have seen only in movies. On both sides you could see inches of snow, thick and strong, must be more than 6 ft in height. The view actually is so mesmerizing. One of the most amazing views I ever came across in my life so far.

You need to experience this to know better. I was just waiting to reach Khardung la top safely, and finally we reached. Why safe, I will answer that later.

Khardungla top “world’s highest motor able pass” { was I setting myself for some sort of world record ?? first rafting at Zanskar and now this, lol.

Whatever it was I was really happy to reach here, we didn’t exert much because oxygen is thin and I didn’t want any of us to rely on oxygen pump, I was challenging myself. By this time in case you feel any issue, you can go to the medical center run by the army at the Khardung La top or just use the camphor. Keep it handy always.

We spent a little time clicking pictures against the yellow board that read “KHARDONGLA PASS (18380 FTS) WORLD HIGHEST MOTORABLE ROAD.

Yes, it was an achievement for us, especially getting our moms with us. :P

Just a few meters ahead of khardung la, you can park your vehicle on the side of the road and can take some really beautiful pictures, can also try playing with the snow, but it is really chilly out there. Do take care of the weather when you stand next to the snow. In our case, snow was still good, melting from within. You could also see the icicles.

We stopped at an army check point; there are a number of cafes with the facility of restrooms. We thought we are at a lesser height now, maybe we got over enthusiastic, we walked a little away from the washroom to the river that was flowing behind, took some picture and when we were walking back to the parking area, we were literally gasping, it didn’t occur to us that we have to still fight for the oxygen, luckily the camphor and the dark chocolate worked.

The snow laden mountains started to diminish as we were approaching our next destination that was “Nubra valley”. The drive to Nubra valley can take 6 hours or more from Leh depending upon the condition of the roads. And yes this is the only way to Nubra valley and you have to travel back all the way up to khardung la top again to reach back to Leh.

We had a night stay in Nubra, you can also choose to travel until khardung la top and then back to leh.

The driver takes around 3000rs up to Khardung la, to and fro.

Nubra Valley:-

Nubra is a tri-armed valley located to the north east of Ladakh valley. Diskit the capital of Nubra is about 150 km north of Leh town,

Its original name was Ldumra (the valley of flowers). The Shyok River meets the Nubra or Siachan River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and Karakoram Ranges. The Shyok River is a tributary of the Indus River. The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 ft. i.e. 3048 meters above the sea level. The common way to access this valley is to travel over the Khardung La pass from Leh town. Foreign nationals are required to get a protected area permit to visit the Nubra Valley. Since 1 April 2017 Indian citizens are also required to get an Inner Line Permit to visit the valley.

Nubra is a high altitude cold desert with rare precipitation and scant vegetation except along river beds. On the Shyok (pronounced Shayok) River, the main village, Diskit, is home to the dramatically positioned Diskit Monastery which is built in 1420 AD. Hundar was the capital of the Nubra kingdom in the 17th century and is home to the Chamba Gompa. Between Hundar and Diskit lie several kilometres of sand dunes, and (two humps) Bactrian camels graze in the neighboring "forests" of sea buckthorn.

We went first to see the 110 ft (35 meter) Maitreya Buddha gold painted statue facing the Shyok River, near Diskit Monastery towards Pakistan as a symbol of world peace.

Nubra shares its border with Pakistan.

Photo of Khardung La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Khardung La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Khardung La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Khardung La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Khardung La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Khardung La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Khardung La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Khardung La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Khardung La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Khardung La by Upasana Venaik

khardungla 

Photo of Khardung La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Khardung La by Upasana Venaik

The sand dune area was vibrant; it was good to see so many tourists for a change. A river was flowing right adjacent to the parking area adding some freshness to the dry air here. This place is famous for Bactrian camels (camel with two humps on its back), native to the steppes of central Asia. These animals served as a pack animal in inner Asia since ancient times. With its tolerance for cold, drought, and high altitudes, it enabled the travel of caravans on the Silk Road. These animals looked really weak and shabby, gray in color unlike the camels of Rajasthan, which are far well maintained.

After some apprehension, we four decided to go for camel riding which was for Rs 200 per person for 15 minutes for one round of the sand dunes.

You have to have a good grip on the hump for there is no foot rest, so chances of falling are there in case you don’t try to keep a balance.

Safely we returned from the round, happy!

We spent a little more time in the sand dunes admiring the huge height of the barren mountains, that’s what Ladhak is made of, barren mountains at the low altitude and snow laden mountains in the high altitude, hardly any vegetation except in the plain areas.

The beauty of barren mountains is of its own kind, the color changes with the passing day.

Sometimes brown, sometimes mixture of brown and rusty pink, and sometimes totally rusty pink in color. The valley looked beautiful, and the sound and sight of the Shyok River flowing alongside the Might Mountains made it a point to register itself in our mind forever. This place is around 100 km away from Siachen Glacier. Nubra is a base of army hospital, so you could spot many helicopters flying across the valley.

After dinner, we simply sat outside the tents to enjoy the silence around and to get the feel of the clear starry sky.

Nubra summer camp has good wifi connectivity; so finally we got connected to the outside world. The workers had put on some nice hindi music. For bon fire one has to pay and that was funny. Anyway, the sky was so clear and it was a moon less night so you could see stars so clearly. Felt like as if you could touch them, I wonder how it looked from the Mt. Everest at night. The sight must be truly breathtaking. We listened to some music; I tried taking a photograph of the starry sky, but failed. May be next time ;)

DAY 4: NUBRA to LEH

Next morning we again had to leave on time, because for going back to Leh from Nubra again one has to cross Khardung La top, I didn’t understand the time fuss until we reached their. So we left around 8 am.

On our way from Nubra, we stopped at a spot from where a scene from the movie Bhag Milkha Bhag was shot. You remember the scene of training where Farhan Akhtar is seen pulling a tyre and running, yes this scene was shot here and also this point has been named after the movie Milkha Point A.T.V Ride Nubra, so you have an option of sand biking, which is for Rs 800 per person.

I wonder how these directors find such exotic places.

We collected some gray pebbles from the same point and left.

Nubra valley has so much of barren area around; we kept discussing what if they start conducted sun burn festival here. Amongst the mountains, crazy music, dance in the valley, and a tan you are bound to get.

Photo of Nubra Valley by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Nubra Valley by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Nubra Valley by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Nubra Valley by Upasana Venaik
Day 4

After a stop at a café as our driver didn’t have his breakfast, we left for Khardung la top. All seemed fine; I was just looking for icicles, as I had miss taking a picture with it. My driver was reluctant to stop and I really couldn’t understand, but I made him stop. So I took a picture and I came back, we drove a little and then he stopped 400mts away from the khardung La top, and said now take as many pictures you want, now we are stuck. I couldn’t understand initially but then when I saw snow on the road, my fear started coming alive. The whole area read avalanche prone.

But I couldn’t understand, avalanche now, why?

And then I saw one right in front of my eyes. I was afraid, I have seen the videos, heard from many that avalanche is really strong, can take away the whole vehicle down. And getting a dozer to clear these huge rocks of snow was a task. Because already two dozers were at work, and there were no more. People from the other side got down from their cars and started hitting the snow on the road hoping to settle it down.

But it was just the beginning, I asked my driver when they will get it cleared, he said don’t know sometimes takes a whole day. We were near the Khardung la top just 400mts away from it, the road ahead were all clear so far.

Imagine our luck. My biggest fear was as the time will pass, it shouldn’t get difficult to breathe because we were at 18350 ft and on top of that anxiety started ruining our boastful acclimatization. My biggest concern was for my mother.

I asked my driver lets return to Nubra for today and as I said so, another avalanche happened just a few steps behind our car. Luck was running out, we all were so afraid, all of us started reciting God's name. People from the other side started walking towards our side, taking shelter underneath a huge rock.

It was only getting worse, another avalanche happened next to the people who were trying hard to clear the road. There was no news of the dozer till then; the only news was that two more avalanches took place behind us. Avalanche makes the ground beneath your feet to shake, I could feel it time and again, I was just praying and hoping that it’s not an earthquake. It was post 2 pm. No sound of dozer was there. Roads were only getting blocked, with more vehicles coming from the both side.

It’s always said go easy on the mountains, now I could understand it was not only the scorching heat which was melting the snow since past two days but it was also the burden of the trucks and vehicles the poor road and the mountains had to face. Then how couldn’t you expect such a thing to happen, wasn’t it obvious.

The army personnel came and gave us an option to walk down those 400mts to the Khardung la spot and rest. But he said medical centre at the top was not fully equipped, we thought we should walk, what if we walk at least we all will be safe, and can take a taxi from there for the other half and go. But it seemed impossible to get a driver who could adjust four of us till Leh.

Then we thought to walk till the spot. But our driver insisted, that you all safe inside this vehicle, he had parked it underneath a rock, so even if snow melt and comes over, it will get hurdle and might not fall. Now this was little logical but how sure one could be.

The people adjacent to our cars recommended not walking; if any one of us gets over exerted, then it would lead to another trouble.

So we decided to stay back in the car and we kept tossing, sometimes we stood out, sometimes we sat in the car.

My anger had no limits, on the fail system of our government or BRO “BORDER ROAD ORGANIZATION”. Why only two dozers, when they know these incidents are so common here. The tour guide next to our car told us that they have spent the whole night on this road waiting for the road to get cleared and fortunately this happened during day time (should I be thankful?).

Already 5 hours went by, our plan for the day ahead of visiting Shanti Stupa and Leh main market now were only farfetched dreams. Now the main concern was to reach our hotel back in health. To be stuck for 5 hours at a height of 18,350 ft. when you know how fit you are physically left me with no room for the doubt that why I was so apprehensive about this trip.

So now should I thank the BRO official who was coming from the other side or should I express my anger for the shortcomings?

Two dozer were finally in sight, we were so happy. The moment the road ahead of us got cleared, our driver yelled in joy, now the dozer behind can go back, we don’t need you, haha was the fate, so to our horror another avalanche happened just one car ahead of us could see the fear in our mom’s eyes, they both held each other’s hand and were literally about to jump out of the car, I somehow held them back.

Now what? Wait for more time.

So once all the roads got cleared, the traffic from other side was allowed first to move and there were around 20 vehicles or more and why because one of the BRO official was coming from this side. Imagine our 5 vehicles had to wait for another one hour before we could finally move, alas any more miss happening.

In one of the car which was behind ours had a lady patient with breathing difficulty, and that also didn’t deter the cars from the other side to wait. Finally I saw the jeep of BRO official, all the locals had the same expression, what to do ma’am, its same story every day. I was really upset and angry and could not hold myself back from stopping his jeep and shouting at the official, if only you could care more about the public instead.

And finally it was our turn to leave, with a happy heart; we left as soon as we could have.

As we kept descending we could see that the same roads that we had seen yesterday were all in a bad shape, most of the roads were broken, and big pile of rocks were lying on the road which might have fallen from the mountain above. The water from the melting snow only made the roads worse. You could see people struggling to cross the barriers and it didn’t deter their determination to reach khardungla at all. The way back to leh from the same road was nothing like yesterday, it only became more muddy and dusty as we approached Leh. Wonder what nature can do in a couple of hour’s time. I really want to thank one of my friends for suggesting camphor; it really helped us to tackle our anxiety at least.

We reached back to our hotel by 8 pm or so, physically and mentally exhausted, sharing our tales amongst other guests in the hotel. My mind kept worrying whether we should go to Pangong tomorrow or not.

Going to Pangong also meant facing the same kind of roads, as per the other guests. Our driver gave us a call and told us to be ready by 6 am for the roads to Pangong also got damaged due to the water and probably mud. The taste of adventure today already made me vigilant to check for an avalanche or anything falling from the top of the mountain. Imagine gazing continuously at the top of the adjacent slope throughout the drive, yes I was doing that till we reached to plane area.

One of the guests who were traveling with us via same tour operator had a lucky escape today so our driver and even I wanted to make sure that at least two cars move together just in case of any emergency and they happily agreed to move with us. Their driver insisted on leaving at 5 am instead, and I was in no mood to take a risk, so I had to agree and inform the rest of my gang.

The altitude even in Leh, has an effect on your appetite, I hardly ate during these four days, may be this is a part of your body acclimatizing process.

So we called it a night and prepared ourselves for the next day adventure. And I was glad and thankful that we all reached back to the hotel safely, and none of us call it a quit for the next day tour. That’s why they say moms are the strongest being on earth. The way they always support you, despite of your silly choices.

Day 5: PANGONG Tso via Changla (world’s third highest pass).

It was 5 am and we all were ready to leave for our day tour to one of the most beautiful lake “Pangong tso”. This was also 6-hour drive.

Initial roads looked fine, most of the roads were muddy and you could see that the whole mountains are made up of big rocks, no vegetation to support them practically, only held by mud. So again you have to be extra careful.

The current melting snow had a toll on these roads, the driver has to cross the turns filled with running water extra carefully else your car can get stuck. Unlike Khardung la, you can spot labor quite often, trying hard to make the roads as better as they could.

It’s a surprise and don’t know the exact reason, why BRO have employed the common people of ladhak as labor, you could hardly spot any BRO officer or for that matter any in charge in officer dress and these poor people work for almost full day with least amount of machinery. The best thing about Ladhak people is that, they greet each other with so much affection which reflects in their tone and eyes. You will hear this word “julley” so often; they greet each other even if they don’t know the other person. The local people are always on their toes to help the each other in case of any need. No driver was driving in a hurry; they made sure everyone crosses the hurdle after that only they drove ahead.

Our driver was of super nice nature, not only he was caring but I really loved his idea of thanking the labor for their help and hard work. Later he told me, since on this road you can see the labor really working hard, we make it a point to give some amount of money from our earnings every year. Wasn’t obvious? These are the people who were actually making the road safer to drive unlike the road sign of BRO guiding you to be gentle everywhere.

In Ladhak, you are not allowed to feed the wild animals, nor allowed to do fishing as well. They really take good measures to protect the environment and its endangered species.

Day 5

Changla is again avalanche prone area and it was really cold, probably because it was early morning. They have a decent shop there, you can use the restroom and the tea is really nice. You can also purchase woolen gloves for Rs 300/- made up of pure wool and really warm.

After few minutes we left from changla and drove ahead. Your driver will halt at one of the check post to show your permit, here there are some pretty café’s, you can spend some time here as well or use the restroom for 10rs.

Nubra valley is connected to Pangong through a road used by army officials mainly. This road isn’t for tourist and not maintained well also. But some people directly go to Pangong from Nubra for it will not only save time, but also you won’t have to travel all the way to leh and come back for pangong on a different day.

This road doesn’t have any check post and is really rough so our driver didn’t take a chance.

The drive after Changla to Pangong is spectacular, amazing scenery with breathtaking views of the barren mountains which keeps on changing colors with every turn. You could see the frozen grassland, green pastures, the lovely Pashmina goats a.k.a Changthangi (is a breed of goats inhabiting the plateaus), himalayan marmots (so adorable), himalyan hybrid cattle as well.

If you have an option, go for camping in Pangong instead in Nubra. I wish I could do so in the future. Zero mobile networks again.

The roads will further get narrow and you have to cross through the roads with huge pile of stones on both the sides. You will feel lost in the valley if you are traveling alone. It will be hard to spot any human or shop for long distances.

Photo of Chang La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Chang La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Chang La by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Chang La by Upasana Venaik

We left for the market. You can find a lot of Tibetan stuff here, ranging from prayer flags, small cute monk’s showpieces, funky jewelry, pashmina shawls. This market is really vibrant, the atmosphere will surely make you happy, probably Leh comes alive here, makes you forget your adventure experience. We soaked ourselves in the charm of the market and why not, for it was our last evening in Leh. Do Check the cute cafes, the food served taste well. You can purchase the king qawah from one of the grocery shops, just in case you also fell in love with the taste and aroma of black tea.

The market closes early by around 8 pm.

We returned back to our hotel, had a nice Chinese cuisine for the dinner. Said bye to the Aru’s parents and the driver, thanked the waiters around us, for their guidance.

Day 6: Back to Delhi

We had a flight at 10 am for Delhi and to our delight Dalai Lama was coming to Leh for 10 days function from the same flight as ours. He is a form of God in Buddhism culture, we so wanted to get a glimpse of him, but due to clash of timings, we missed the opportunity, probably for the next time.

It was so nice to see the whole city dressed up in traditional clothes with flowers in their hands for the welcome of their lord. It was a beautiful morning, and we already started to miss this beautiful place Leh.

Dear Leh,

you are indeed very beautiful. I really want to thank my stars, my parents, my family, and friends for their guidance and support throughout. This trip would have been incomplete without my super cool girl's gang by my side.

Will cherish you forever :*

CONTACT DETAILS:-

1)Nature’s residency – www.natureresidencyladhak.com

2)Driver Trindup no – 9419477634, you can contact him directly and her daughter runs a homestay in Ladhak, if you want stay in a tradition ladhaki style.

3) Indus Himalyan explorers (Ladhak) – www.expeditionsladhak.com

+91- 9419177668

4)Nubra summer camp

Photo of Leh Main Bazaar, Leh by Upasana Venaik

leh market

Photo of Leh Main Bazaar, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Leh Main Bazaar, Leh by Upasana Venaik
Photo of Leh Main Bazaar, Leh by Upasana Venaik

Day 2: 24th June “Leh day tour”

Julley (hello/ namaskar/ greeting in the language of common ladhaki people) said our driver, Trindub. He was not only charming but also had patience to handle the blah blah of our lady gang.

The driver gets appointed by the tour operators, generally, they bring their own car, so we had the company of his car innova and him for the following next 4 days.

I took a brief detail of our day tour and played on the music, we left for Leh tour day.

After crossing through the main market of leh, we came across an area which holds a Guinness world record for the maximum no. of plantation in a day, this area is being maintained by the monks themselves.

1 Comment(s)
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one of the best posts I've read. elaborate and dotted with enough pictures. great style of writing. keep posting.
Wed 08 02 17, 10:19 · Reply (1) · Report
hey .... thanks a ton ..so glad that you read and liked it. thankyou so much
Thu 08 03 17, 02:52 · Report