"Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast", translates to "if there is ever a heaven on earth, its here, its here, its here"as Jahangir said.
As a child, I had heard this saying about Jammu and Kashmir and wondered how true could this be. It was proven unswerving, a while before we landed at Kushok Bakula Rimpochhe Airport. All the passengers gasped with awe as we hovered over the snow-covered Himalayan peaks. Of all my travel escapades until then, Ladakh had already won me over and turned into my favourite travel destination. As Day 1 progressed, we started off at our accommodation near Zorawar Fort.
We started with Shey Palace, Shanti Stupa,Leh Palace, Thiksey Monastery and Rancho's School. Old and beautiful architecture, all marked by a typical wooden carved window frame. Most of these structures are Buddhist inspired and can be spotted as they are surrounded by stupas. These are all spots to be covered on the Leh-Manali Highway.
The day was a little tiring as we shifted levels from sea level to 11,000ft swiftly. It took us a day to get acclimatised to the air and weather. Climbing a few flight of stairs got us loosing our breaths. Although this wouldn't be a problem if you have a slower rise i.e a road trip to reach Leh via Srinagar/Manali routes.
Yes! This is the famous 3-Idiots lake. And, no doubt it's even more beautiful than what the film showed us. A click of the lake is enough description for how mesmerizing it is. The 150km road trip to Pangong is equally rewarding as the destination. There is no such thing as "tourist spots" or places where you can stop by and click pictures. We literally played a game of point and click - i.e click a picture at any angle where you just pointed to with your eyes closed. haha.. It really is that photogenic.
At dusk, we headed to Hall of Fame- a museum maintained by the Indian army in memory of those who lost their lives in Indo-Pak and Indo-China war. We get a glimpse of their sacrifice in the chilly siachen glaciers and barren lands of the borders.
A 3-hour road trip through narrow roads and hairpin curves to reach the pass at 18000 feet. HIMANK has maintained the roads all over Ladakh very well except around Khardungla is just rock and mud. Although when we passed through road constructions were going on so you may expect good roads soon. Surprisingly, the water in our bottles froze when we reached there. The Indian Army has been of great help throughout the journey. They offered us hot black tea and checked our body's oxygen levels on the way.
A place out of an fairy tale! We observed more of vegetation here than in Leh. Although the place doesn't really have any natural vegetation. It is the locals who plant oxygen-rich trees to help them breathe at those heights. So, whenever you see a patch of forestation in the barren laps of the mountains, be sure that there is a village settled in there. A night stay at Nubra valley is must. The sky is so clear that we could spot every constellation we knew of and the milky way.
The trek around the modern-village of Turtuk is a pleasure on its own. There's a stream of fresh water running around each and every street of the village. This water is used to cool century old refrigeration units and even run turbines to grind wheat. They grow two full seasons of crops and are dependable on nothing outside the village. The mild lavender in the air is as mesmerizing as being in a perfumery. As you walk, you can pluck organically grown sweet Apricots, Apples and Mulberries - life just out of any fairy tale.