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Published: September 27th 2011
The trip to Ladakh was a rather sudden one. I was between switching jobs and got about a month or so to travel. Grabbed the opportunity and realized that I couldn't go to the many places I wanted to as the monsoon was playing havoc in the Indian subcontinent. Ladakh was one of those few places that were shielded from rains. It was the perfect season to be there as the temperatures were tolerable and the road connecting Manali and Leh was open only during this season.
If you have time in your hands the best way to get to Ladakh is by road, from Delhi to Manali and then to Leh. It is said that this is one of the best routes to ride on. But as I did not have that much time on my hands and nor can I ride a bike, I decided to take the easier route – by air. Out of the three carriers that fly to Leh, that is Air India, Indigo and Kingfisher, connecting from Delhi, we took the Indigo flight early morning.
The flight by itself was quite adventurous. After about an hour of flying, we were right above the
snowcapped Himalayas. The bird’s eye view of the peaks and the great mountain range was truly a visual treat. We could see the rugged edges of the mountains and the patches of green in-between the brown and white. Then came the descent into Leh, which was right out of a movie. Flying over barren untouched mountains with sudden burts of lush green valleys spotted with tiny mud houses. As we were about to touch down, I could see the small airport with one humungous Air force plane at the hangar. The airport at Leh known as “Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport” is one of the highest airports in the world, run and maintained by the Indian Air force. After disembarking the plane we had to wait for twenty minutes to collect our luggage from the tiniest baggage claim section I have seen. Collected our luggage and got onto the cab that was waiting for us.
The first sights of Leh were not too promising. There were plenty of buildings that were torn down, dirty shops and hoards of people on the road. Every building had many multi-coloured prayer flags tied from end to end. Once we left this side of
the village and entered the touristy side, things were different. Beautifully constructed houses and hotels amidst greenery and foreigners everywhere. We stayed at “La Rhi Mo”.it was a small, clean, quiet ,red and white building with the bare minimum in the guests rooms with buffet breakfast and dinner served there. We were welcomed with hot “chai” and biscuits on the lawn. Though the sun was out, there was this chillness in the air that was piercing through the clothes.
Acclimatization is a must on the first day at Leh. Though we did not feel any difficulty breathing or discomfort, we were recommended to rest for the whole day and that was precisely what we did. It was only after we woke up at dusk that we were thankful for the rest. Post evening tea we explored the local markets and got back to our hotel for dinner.
After the much required rest the previous day we were all pumped up to have fun. The first half of the day included local sightseeing. We visited the Shey Palace, and the Thikse Monastery and the Stock Palace and Museum. Each of these monasteries and palaces were constructed uniquely atop a
hillock. The Thikse Monastery is known for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. After a lot of climbing and revisiting the history of Leh, we needed something that gave us an adrenaline rush. What’s better than white water rafting to give exactly that? A must do for all the travelers to Leh. White-water rafting
It was a clear one hour journey from Leh to Nimmu where we could see the confluence of the Zanskar River with the Indus. There is a clear demarcation where the two rivers join into one. The water of the Zanskar is quite turbid and brown whereas the water of the Indus is rather green. From the confluence it is a good half hour drive to the point where we take the raft down. Watching the water gushing down with its many whirlpools and waterspouts did bring a cold shiver down our spines. Nonetheless we had to go rafting in these feisty waters.
Upon reaching the starting point of the course we were instructed the Dos and Don’ts. After wearing our rafting gear and helmets on, got into our raft and set forth for the ride of a lifetime. Having
a very efficient guide and one canoe before us we had nothing to worry. The journey down the Zanskar was two hours with many rapids and whirlpools. It was quite an intense two hours, working every muscle in our body and feeling the adrenaline rush. We got off the raft with a feeling of accomplishment. The memories of the ride back home are quite hazy due to the fatigue. The rest of the evening went by shopping in the local markets followed by dinner. Leh- Pengong -Leh
The drive to the blue and beautiful Pangong Lake is about 150 km from Leh. Having a very experienced driver we covered that distance in no time passing the Chang La pass, which is the second highest motorable road in the world. The journey to Pangong exposed us to the myriad of topography along the Ladakh Mountains. Ranging from sandy hillsides to pink rocky mountains, to rugged sharp edges, the sight was truly a mesmerizing.
The first view of the Pangong Lake was breathtaking. The sparkling blue water against the brown snowcapped hills was implausible. We drove further along the lake where the crowd was less and went running straight for
the water. Little did we realize that the water not only freezing cold but very salty too. It was very strange to see a salt water lake at such high altitudes. The crystal clear water was so still and with the reflection of the mountains, it was like a painting indeed. Spent about an hour or so at the lake and headed back stopping on the way to watch herds of Pashmina sheep and Yak grazing.
Overall it was day well spent. Not too tiring and left our hearts wanting more of Ladakh. Next stop : Nubra Valley.
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