Julley! the local Ladakhi word means “Hi, Hello, Adab, Namaste”. This word brings in real flavor of exploring Leh & Ladakh high passes.
We have been procrastinating this trip for a while and now finally we are here, to this magical land of Leh & Ladakh. We had 2 reasons to feel excited. One, for the first time we are traveling with a women’s only group (Wowclub) and secondly we are going to see the place that looked like heaven on earth in pictures.
So, me and my friend both got ready for our week long exploration with a group of wanderers. On the scheduled day, we meet our fellow wanderers at Delhi airport and our flight took off early morning (5:10am) flight.
By the time flight took off, I was dozing off but after an hour, I was awakened by a buzz and when I looked out of window, I saw beautiful mountain range, it was breath taking. When we landed onto small Leh military based airport it were mountains all around us. Though it was chilling temperatures, the view was worth a watch.
“WELCOME to LEH”, our journey started.
Day 1: After our hotel transfer (Spic n Span), we took some rest and later in the evening visit the Royal Leh Palace and Shanti Stupa. Shanti Stupa and Royal Leh Palace stand opposite to each other and view is spectacular. Shanti Stupa, as name goes is quiet serene and one can feel the strength of calmness in the wind. Leh palace has some nice view points that will give 360 degree sight of Leh.
Tip: Leh is @ 3500m above sea level and places next up will be at higher altitude. So it is important to acclimatize.
Take ample rest on day 1. Don’t exert with extensive walking , running or climbing small mountain rocks you see around.
Drink lot of water and try to eat light.
Day 2: Next day we were set on Leh-Srinagar Highway towards Nurla. The drive indeed was splendid. In one day drive, we saw variety of landspaces
- Indus, Zanskar rivers confluence: The turquoise blue water merging with muddy Zanskar waters is a sight to watch. This is Leh’s poster kid. The longer you stare at this sangam, the more energy you gain.
- Magentic Hill: The landscape here is completely different from confluence. This area defies the phenomenon of gravity. You can stop your vehicle and it will pull the vehicle upwards.
- Pather Sahib Gurudwara: This Gurudwara is on the highway and one look at it will pull you towards Wahi Guru. A moment of prayer always not just helps traveller gain back energy but also restores strength in our army whose camps are nearby this Gurudwara.
Tip: Entire Stretch from Leh to Nurla is like a desert and there are no eating joints easily available. Hence carry some snacks and water so that you can munch on them if journey is tiring.
- We were suppose to visit Kargil memorial but it was pushed to another day because of some VIP movement. Kargil memorial is epitome of sacrifices army does to ensure we are all safe and enjoy our lives. We saw various fought and won by different regiments and how they celebrate the victory by putting the country ahead of themselves
One thing we need to remember, “They give their today for our tomorrow”
- Indus river: OMG!! yes this was exact reaction when I saw river Sindhu/Indus just flowing behind our hotel balcony. It started raining by the time we reached our hotel (Apricot tree) and we were a little disappointed that possibility of getting near the river is ruined because of rain.
But our group so strongly had this desire that nature had to give in. There was SUNSHINE. Our joy knew no boundaries. We right away climbed down the tiny tiny rocks and were near the river. The water is so clean and flow as so effortless that I instantly fell in love with this river.
Tip: Keep umbrella handy all along the trip. Make sure you pack ample of winter wear and depending on the temperature you can use light jacket or heavy one
Day 3: Next day, we were on our way back to Leh. We visited Lamayuru Monastery. This is one of the ancient monasteries and at one point housed 5 buildings. One can see high pass roads and snowy mountains around. Simple life of monks and their thoughts on the way they see this material world will leave you astonished.
Monk said, “Our offering to God is as simple as pure water for it is available everywhere and affordable to every one. That is why we offer only water 5 small vessels”
Evening our dinner was at local Stok village. This is the place where we tasted traditional Ladakhi food (butter tea, Thukpa (Tibetan Noodle soup), Chaang – local beer).
Tip: At Stok Village, food is very tasty, organic, filling yet light on stomach and more importantly they serve with pure gratitude. Whenever you visit, please give them some tips because they are really paid very nominal by our tour operators.
Day 4: The real intensive drive starts. We are enroute Khardungla Pass. OMG! What a drive!! These are real high pass roads and you can see yourself getting lifted up as your vehicle goes up and up.
Roads laid by BRO (Border Roads Organization) deserve a bow. They are quiet smooth and maintained well. They have enough warning signs and give sense of safety to those who drive.
As we started from Leh, the green trees slowly turned into brown mountains and then into snow capped mountains. This transformation is breath taking. Sitting in the car, you keep on clicking pictures and your hand will start aching but beauty of nature is never ending.
Kardungla is @ 17,582 ft above sea level and is heavily snow capped area. It is the highest vehicle accessible pass in the world. You will see military camp and one can get down to take pictures.
Tip: Make sure you wear a thick jacket, gloves and cap.
After spectacular drive, we checked in to a Desert Himalaya Camp. This is a well built tent that will give you sense of staying in the mountains.
Tip: In some tents, there is not heater but they provide bed sheet heater. This should keep you warm in the night. Tents does not have intercoms. So you need to rush to reception if something is required. Plan well
From spectacular mountains === >Terrain of magnetic hills==>Snow capped Khardungla==>Himalayan desert ==> Sand Dunes
Yes, you read it right. There are Sand Dunes near by and we took double hump camel ride. There was also a traditional dance performance by local Ladakhi dance troup. This was quiet enticing though they sing in Ladakhi their attire and movements will keep your attention.
Day 5: Enroute to Ladakh, we saw Diksit Monastery. This has a beautiful Buddha Statue which oversees complete Diksit District. This is called Silk route as this was main path for chinese/tibetan travelers to bring in Silk into India.
Day 6: From Leh, we headed toward Pangong Lake. After 3 idiots, this place has become famous and tourist visits are multi fold.
To reach this spectacular place, we had to pass through another high pass, Changla Pass (18,000 ft). This guy is no less than Khardungla. The roads are heavily snowed, drivers had to put chain to rear car tyres so that drive is safe. Again awesomeness of mountains will leave you spellbound. You cannot escape without admiring the eternal beauty.
Pangong Lake with dark blue color is amazing. The color will drive you crazy and you cannot stop admiring it. We have spent more than an hour here, just looking and walking around. The bliss is beyond words.
Tip: Don’t litter the place with plastics and junk. It is serene beauty. Preserve it
Day 7: With all the memories captured in our cameras, all wanderers packed their bags back to their respective places.
Tip: Before rushing to click pictures, enjoy the view. Soak your soul with the untouched beauty and capture it completely with eyes.
Today after a month, whenever I hear song “Sanu Ek Pal Chain na aave,….”, the traffic around me disappears and I go back to my Leh-Ladakh road trip view with mountains around.