Sunday, 3 October 2010

Reliving Ladakh

Ladakh is a dream destination for most travellers, and this July I finally fulfilled mine. But whoever has visited this surreal heaven will agree—once is not enough. So here are five reasons why I want to go back to Ladakh :)

11) Khardung La: The 39km ride up to Khardung La from Leh induces mixed feelings of excitement and fright. One on hand, the vistas of distant snow-clad mountains shrouded in clouds had me gasping in awe, but as we went higher and the roads got narrower with loose rocks and dirt covering the path, I was plunged into prayer mode. Once we reached the coveted 18, 380 ft., the temperature dropped drastically and we were surrounded by snow, dotted with innumerable colourful prayer flags. Be sure to stop here to click pictures and grab a cup of hot coffee with some maggi noodles. There’s a souvenir store here that offers curios like T-shirts and mugs. History states that Khardung La lies on a caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia, and during World War II, a futile attempt was made to transfer war material to China through this route. Today, it’s considered a biker’s ultimate dream.

Bikers heading up to Khardung La.

Some chose cycles instead of bikes!

Khardung La - The world's highest motorable road at 18, 380 feet

22) Pangong Tso (meaning lake in Ladakhi): A five-hour drive over the world’s third highest mountain pass, Chang La, at 17, 586 ft., tumultuous roads and avalanche scares, we finally reached Pangong Tso. Its beauty is inexplicable. As a perfect reflection of the cloudy sky amid barren mountains forms delicately on the water, it changes its colour to display myriad hues of blue, while ducks wade their way through from one side to another. It was like capturing a postcard picture; a photographer’s delight. Situated at a height of about 14,270 ft., the lake is 134km long and extends from India to China. It’s in disputed territory, as the Line of Actual Control passes through the lake and 60% of it lies in China. During winter, the lake freezes completely, despite having saline water.

Words will just dilute the beauty of this place; I'm going to let the pictures speak for themselves.

33) White water rafting: Thrill-seekers like me need a dose of adrenaline-pumping adventure every now and then. And rafting on River Zanskar was definitely on my to-do list. We chose the 25km stretch from Chilling to Nimmu that lasted for two and a half hours. With scenic rock formations in the background and gushing river water in the foreground, I really wished I had carried my camera in the raft. Maddening grade 3+ rapids combined with mini whirlpools made it far more adventurous than I imagined. So even with a tired body and sore arms, I decided to take a dip in the freezing river. The indomitable rush you feel once back on the raft is absolutely worth it. 

Photo courtesy: Pawera Singh

  4)   Diskit Gompa:
A larger than life, intricately-designed statue of the Maitreya Buddha, held atop an elevated rock formation, is a sign that you’ve arrived at Diskit. The 500-year-old Diskit Gompa is the largest and the oldest surviving monastery in the Nubra Valley. Adorned with colorful murals and decked with Tibetan patterned silk, the temple complex displays typical Tibetan architecture and is home to almost100 monks. The view of this fog-drenched valley from the gompa is simply spectacular. According to an intriguing legend, it’s believed that a Mongol demon, who was against Buddism, was slain here. However, his spirit is said to constantly revisit the monastery. It’s also said that his wrinkled head and hand lie somewhere within the monastery. Well, another reason to visit!

The first vision we witnessed as we arrived at Diskit.

The larger than life statue of the Maitreya Buddha. 

5)   Restaurants and bakeries: Following a reference from a friend I made en route, I visited Pumpernickel Bakery at the main bazaar in Leh town. From apple crumble to chocolate coffee cake, this quaint bakery and cafe produces delicious treats that come at a whopping size and measly price of Rs. 50 only. But when it comes to momos, I found the best at Gesmo restaurant; a cute little place with gorgeous green windows, located at Fort Road. I especially liked the useful notice board they put up here that lets you find new places as well join other groups for treks and other expeditions. Restaurants like Summer Harvest and Leh-View are also worth checking out; the former for its Tibetan /Chinese fare with cold beer and the latter for its Kashmiri curries paired with a rooftop terrace.

The yummy momos at Gesmo restaurant.

 Cumin cookies at Gesmo restaurant.

Mint tea at Pumpernickel bakery.

The chicken sandwich at Gesmo restaurant. 

Please note: A permit is required to enter many of the places mentioned above. Ensure to check the details in Leh itself.  

Published in iDiva, September 25, 2010 issue. 


Anonymous said...

Wow!!! These pictures are amazing and the places look spectacular!! I would loveeeee to visit such places sum day....I can imagine that u come away feeling enlightened and at peace :)

Ruchika Vyas said...

:) You know, it's true when people say 'you haven't seen anything until you've been to Ladakh'. I can vouch for it!

Vintage Obsession said...

Our trip to Leh-Ladkh had to be cancelled because of the recent unfortunate event, These pictures are so heavenly .

Ruchika Vyas said...

Oh! Well, I was a bit fortunate as I went just a week before the mud sweep took place. But do go next year, things will be better by then :)

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