How Leh is the finest desert mountain region I have ever visited
When my friends, or shall I say my colleagues, first murmured the words ‘Leh’ and ‘Ladakh’ in the 4 by 4 office cabin that we sat in, my ears and eyes sparkled in joy. I did not take a minute to quickly check the tickets for the month of September, rather considered to be an off-season for that place. But the excitement to visit it, was enough to bear the chill and rain. Therefore, we all wrapped up on closing the tickets within a week.
It was 5 of us, and the most exciting lot, who carried the same spirit for travelling. Our itinerary was simple, covering Leh City, Nubra Valley and Pangong lake. We had booked ourselves a small resort, with an authentic ladakhish family.
Day 1: We reached the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport
Around afternoon, when the heat was rather scorching, we reached the smallest airport I have ever seen. There were several announcements and cautionary posters, across the airport, on how to take ones breath quite seriously, because that’s the most priceless thing in the world and also the most ‘taken for granted’. It took us a petty INR 200 to reach the city, where we checked in and freshened up for sometime.
Later in the evening we visited the very popular market of Leh city, where we already started reaping the noteworthy offerings of the splendid mountains. The streets were full of fruit vendors, travel agencies and clothing shops selling ladhaki hand made pieces. We enjoyed some delicious local eateries and then headed to rent a car for the rest of the trip. After several minutes of negotiations, we hired both a car and a bike for the 5 of us. The bike lovers had to try their luck at off-roading to make the trip a memorable one.
Day 2: Leh to Nubra Valley
Our journey to Nubra Valley started off early next morning. Our luggage was packed and we all jumped onto our respective bandwagons. In the first few minutes of our departure, there was a heavy downpour, drenching the bikers completely. Still managing the rain, they continued the journey forward. Our first stop was Khardungla, which is the highest motorable road in the world. It is advised not to stay at this place beyond 15 minutes, because of the reduced air pressure. We were in no mood to succumb to it either, therefore rushed from there after a short stop only.
Leaving from Khardungla, we set further on our way to Nubra. There were several check posts that we encountered on the way, and each stop was a delight for us, only for the fact that we had a chance to grab the tastiest maggi, momos (steamed round dough stuffed with vegetables), topped with a hot cup of tea.
On the way to Nubra, the views were magnificent, stretching far across our vision. There was rarely any plantations, just plain and raw desert. The roads were extremely crippled for good amount of our journey, but the spectacular views were the driving force that kept us rolling throughout.
The valley offered various activities like camel riding on the unique double humped camels, a Buddhist temple and picturesque rivers to name a few. We enjoyed the night back in Nubra, when one of our friends became hungry on oxygen. He had to be rushed to the hospital late in the night when his supply had dropped below normal. Luckily, with a drip of oxygen coupled with spanks of needles, brought him back to life. This was the first wicket we lost in the oxygen deprived land of Ladakh.
Day 3: Nubra to Pangong Lake
After a good sumptuous breakfast, we set on our journey to the most popular and beautiful location of Leh. For reaching Pangong, we had to cross the Changla Pass, claimed to be the second highest motorable road in the world. We were all betting on the possibilities of experiencing a snowfall when we reach the pass, but the quotient of the winning amount, was as low as our hopes to encounter one.
But when God’s grace is with you, nothing in this bewildering world can stop you from experiencing the impossible.
After an hour, when we reached the pass, it started snowing and much to my surprise, it was the first snow that dropped on my mesmerized face. The bunch of us were so excited that we spent a good amount of time there, basking the chilly winds with welcoming arms.
Further on our journey we met some marmots, who live inside tiny dug holes, love biscuits and are scared of humans. We were successful in shaking hands with them, in return for a row of Parle Gs.
When we first saw the Pangong Lake, it was a bright turquoise patch of water, visibly encapsulated between the rocks. Upon moving closer, the expanse of this patch stretched beyond our imagination. Pangong Lake is 134 kms long, extending from India to China. There was not one, nor two, nor even three….there were multitude of rainbows crowning the beauty of this Lake. It was breathtaking in every way, in every corner.
Crimson blue colored water, whipped frequently against the clear sands. The water was gorgeously transparent, causing heavenly illusions. The oddly embossed mountains bordered the water securely, as if saving it from the unworldly exploitation.
We took shelter in one of the camps nearby, to enjoy this perfect view all throughout the evening and the morning. It was chilly and with every passing breath we could hear the awkward silence of the place.
Day 4: Pangong to Leh City
We retreated back to the Leh City as there was still much to catch up. On the way back to Leh, we had our second wicket down, when another friend felt unbearably exhausted. At Changla Pass, we were informed that her oxygen had creepily fallen below 55, low enough to cause hallucinations. She got her drip in the military camps set up for visitors, and within 30 mins, she was feeling fine.
Reaching Leh around afternoon, we visited the famous touristy spots including Shanti Stupa, Magnetic Hill and Zanskar Confluence.
On the Magnetic Hill, the car strangely moved without ignition, and no of us understood the force that drove it. It was actually happening and the confused expressions surfaced almost every visitor.
The Zanskar Confluence, meeting of the Zanskar and Indus river, was also an enchanting view, and along with the sunset, it brought peace and relaxation.
Day 5: Leh to New Delhi
Like every journey ends, this also came to an end. Early next morning, we left for New Delhi, with a bunch of memories that were no doubt priceless, for the rest of our lives.