Splendor of vast open barren lands and untouched sand stretches out on both sides of roads only to give way to the majestic array of hills in shades of brown varying as much as the trajectory of sun, with beams of falling light creating symphony of sorts on the slopes. With each facing side of the hill and its rocky surface draped in a degree of glaze that is unique of it and stands testimony of the inclination and intensity of casting sunlight, a cluster of captivating masterpieces dazzles one’s eyes. The sheer grandeur and opulence of the vast landscape is a spectacle that takes one to a state of transcendence, which one only wants to remain in forever. The caution required to not mistakenly end up casting an evil eye follows much after the unflinching love that one falls in at the very first sight.
Knight in shining Armor
It is not for nothing that we call India a land of diverse landscapes, after all!! Hills, beaches, forests, deserts, mangroves, waterfalls – we have one too many. If Meghalaya is our answer to the mighty Amazon Rainforest and Candolim Beach is up against Miami, Leh is our counterclaim pitched alongside the likes of a plethora of world-class destinations – Nevada, Atacama, Morocco etc. India never lags behind…..and after Sunny Leone migrated to India, we’re really even!! Though no less of an exotic vacation, a trip to Leh it being a domestic travel destination, is bound to cost substantially less than any equivalent or even remotely comparable pittal-di international counterpart.
With the all so famous Royal Enfield clubs gaining more popularity nowadays than ever, Manali – Leh Highway is a biker’s delight. The almost hypnotic tranquility of the serene mountains along way offers a mesmerizing and captivating view all throughout the drive that leaves one spellbound. Jutting stones, severed patches, treacherous stretches, road blocks and landslides – these are remarks one shall hardly come across or associate with roads in Ladakh. BRO – Border Roads Organization man most of the corridors in region, with teams deployed for instant and round-the-year maintenance & repair of the All-Weather roads!! And with increasingly often geo-tagging on social media in popular culture, names like Keylong, Tanglang La and Zanskar seem to have invaded our daily lives. With sites in local vicinity like Magnetic Hill, Rancho School, Leh Palace and Sangam, Ladakh is so picturesque that a random click from a regular cybershot or coolpix yields the same result as a D3200. With one of the highest commercial airports in the world at Leh (IXL), the view – right after descent begins, is no less enthralling either. Almost steering its way through the ice-capped hills, the gliding maneuver of aircraft leaves everyone longing for the window seat to capture the breathtaking views.
Okay, so one need not have Teflon or anti-rust coated balls to go to Leh, but then yes – Leh is not for the faint-hearted or people who while travelling feel dizzy & nauseated and take up window seat only to smear the entire outer frame of bus with their grace and fragrant sheen. For the time of year when temperature plunges down beyond general human endurance, Leh is anyways out of bounds. The only window left for tourists is bearable enough with rumor mills creating more fuss about supposedly thin air and lack of oxygen, than is necessary. To acclimatize in order to avoid any syndrome owing to high altitude sickness, a first day’s rest on arrival suffices, moreover it never hurts to pop pills from beforehand as a precautionary measure. Air is somewhat sparse and as compared to sea-level less enriched with oxygen. Air trapped in ears shall pop out the way it usually does with change of atmospheric pressure at any regular hill-station and nothing adverse is to happen to one’s ear-fluids or the drum. The only thing – Do Not Exert Yourself, no irregular breathing – Leh is not a Honeymoon destination, so no doctor-doctor!! It is advisable to ensure nothing else pops out during the stay and all other fluids return to the plains along with you.
Crystal-clear, calm, transparent, turquoise water – that really pretty much sums up Pangong Lake. For as far as vision traverses the terrain, the endless blue canvas lies bare, with only the enchanting reflection of sky breaking the stillness of water. Imposing hills queuing up on the banks whistle frosty gusts of breeze over the enclosed reservoir laminating the turf that only allows sunlight to pierce the entrapped purity of water. With visibility up till the bedrock, the water is in its purest possible form of existence. Nation’s infatuation with this remarkable blue sapphire that began with 3 Idiots has had Bollywood coming back. So what if Pulkit’s career or personal life is in a fix, the fixation for Yami waters of Pangong Lake is timeless!!
Journey in itself is at times the destination – this metaphor describes nothing more aptly than the journey from Leh to Nubra Valley. One really has to make efforts to reassure that it’s physical and not his/her thoughts being ferried to a surreal fantasy world. With highest motorable road – The Khardung La pass leading to the access to this last civilization, the journey is awe-inspiring. With uncanny resemblance to Mars-like topography, the spooky Hills-have-Eyes like countryside just doesn’t seem earthly. The lonely planet, as it is more commonly referred to, is inhabited by these blue eyed, auburn haired and rosy cheeked mongoloid-looking people who are as adorable and courteous as their furry double-humped camels. Sinking their paws in the sand dunes, they just take one’s breath away.
With Hemis, Thikse and Shey leading the popularity charts, Monasteries form excellent places of interest for tourists to visit. In light of cognizance that this is no longevity or rejuvenation retreat, please do not expect that your mere stay here will detox or reduce any toxin/cellulite or will improve your reflexology. A Monastery/Gompa is a place for Buddhist disciples to pray, learn, live and involves years of disciplined lifestyle. The distinctive architecture however is pretty characteristic and a photo-opp shall most likely be once in a life affair.
People & Culture
Ladakh is a place that welcomes you with warm greeting smiles and heart-melting hospitality. With crime close to negligible, to call this place safe and tourist-friendly shall at best be an understatement. Native population consists of people who are no money-making, mean, sleazy, adulterous shrewd hosts. With traditional values rigorously preserved, these are hard-working people who make their simple living largely on the lines of Tibetian culture. They go to their Stupas, weave carpets and dye them, drink their thukpa and live in communal harmony, never to find one smirk at another’s ethnicity.
Hall Of Fame
With close proximity to international borders, Ladakh has both past reminisces and current presence of Army stationed for the obvious. Chinese stepping kilometers inside only to fake ignorance on being reminded, are mostly friendly. They are cute, they build roads and mini outposts, but when questioned are quick to resort to “Oops!! We actually lost our way and strayed, really not knowing we are inside Indian Territory, we’re China’s Sarabjits!!”, and they leave. Pakistan, on the other hand of course is a stark contrast, a stubborn child on denial mode ever since. Even if someday their PM is found entangled in the border fencing and gets a Tapli on head from our army, Pakistan shall continue to be in denial of any intrusion. Hence, the presence of our pride – Indian Army!! The nostalgia one carries back after a visit to Ladakh is incomplete without the romance of uniform!!