This is an entry in the We Said Go Travel Writing Contest written by Nisha Punjabi from India. Thanks for your entry Nisha!
One look from the air and I saw the hills splashed with white cream. Carefully and evenly – like mum use to do it. This snow from hilltops melts every summer providing this desert land its nourishment. I was about to land in Leh, the capital city of Ladakh, where the sun shimmers 300 days a year swinging the temperature from -20 to 30 degrees Celsius. It was July; the weather was at its best, how could I not love it?
Ladakh is brilliantly nestled as a penthouse in India between the Himalayas and the Karakoram mountain ranges. It is a new land, pushed and formed by pranks of a little boy. Millions of years ago it was covered with water, now only a few relics of it remain – Tso-moriri, Tsokar and Pangong-tso – even force couldn’t consume the beauty of these lakes.
This region is devoid of comfortable trips and luxury of a seven star where you can taste cheese and dip into wine. And so, travelling to Pangong-tso is not easy. It’s like God wants you to deserve it before you marvel at its architecture. The altitude increases from 11000 in Leh to 17,586 feet at Chang La – the third highest motorable road in the world. You twist and turn and fall until you see clear blue waters of this magnificent glory. Clear blue, like the azure eyes of a new born. Incomparable to any I have seen before.
Ladakh is also home to the highest motorable road in the word – Khardung La pass. Standing tall at 18,379 feet, it has a view to remember. The 39km long road from Leh passes through beautiful villages where you see Ladakhi families farming. These paths are a delight for photographers for you see a variety of birds and animals – especially if you go to Tso Moriri. The landscape has myriad hues so don’t be surprised if you spot a purple mountain. I, for one, jumped in excitement!
Tourists going to Ladakh have penned down a rule book – don’t venture out on your first day. The air is thin. The change in altitude makes your head spin and stomach churn. If you follow their Bible, you will stretch your arms and sing aloud throughout your journey. If not, be prepared for a clumsy dance to a certain music.
I followed the rules like a well-behaved girl. First, I slept like a log in my hotel. There are plenty of budget hotels and fairly neat establishments to crash into. More than that, there are ample of places to eat. Tibetan delicacies like momos are staple and thukpa (noodle soup) is a must-have. And if you’re in a mood for a pizza, the wood fired one at Inferno will increase your appetite.
I also tick marked a few tourist destinations – Shanti Stupa, Stok Palace, Magnetic hill and the Sindhu Ghat which were closer to the city. But the real charm lied in the smiling faces on every corner. It’s like the beginning of your spiritual journey. As you visit monastery after monastery, Hemis, Sankar, Lamayuru, Thiksey, et al. and delve deeper into Buddhism rolling the prayer wheels and singing a silent hymn to the almighty, you feel more connected with nature and hence, the almighty himself. The flickering prayer flags and the compassion in monks enchant you and you wish that this land which is unaffected by outside influences remains innocent forever.
During my cab ride from the hotel to the airport, I planned my subsequent trip. And so, when I was offered a booklet advertising trekking, mountaineering and rafting options, I politely refused and kept it for the next time. This trip was a beautiful adventure in itself. Sports could wait.
Once in a while, when the road is rough
When you have been bogged down for a variety of reasons
And you need to run into an unknown territory
Far, far away from the humdrum.
Go to Ladakh.
It’s amicable people, rolling prayer bells and raw beauty
Will inspire you to breathe in again.
About the Author: Nisha Punjabi is a poet at heart and home-maker by choice. When she’s not blogging or writing for people, you’ll find her using her Finance degree budgeting for her next vacation. You can read her at http://shimmeringsunshine.blogspot.com.