15 images from Ladakh Revisited '10!
If you’ve been watching this space lately, you’d know that I was on an amazing two week vacation to the land of high passes this May. I was in Ladakh in 2008 as well. It took quite an effort to overcome the deadly procrastination and publish few major posts from the 2008 visit – this, this and this!
Before I start with the very detailed posts on each of the days that I spent in Ladakh, I thought I’d begin with a complete round up of the vacation concentrating more on the experience than on the specifics.
The journey to Ladakh started with quite a bang I must say. Cyclone Laila was lashing the Eastern Coast and Karnataka was also facing the effects of cyclone or monsoon advance but it sure was raining like hell here as well. I was to join my family who flew from Hyderabad at Delhi directly. My flight to Delhi got off to a very shaky start. 15 minutes of turbulence with lighting striking right next to the window in the clouds is enough to get even an atheist to start praying for his life! I was initially calm and composed but c’mon, 15 minutes of roller coaster ride at 35000ft is not fun by any standards. Despite a panic attack and a thunderstorm attack I managed to get myself to Delhi by 1 AM. Met up my family and we were eagerly waiting to take off come tomorrow.
Day 1 – Landing in Leh, Ladakh
It was just now that I was able to smile contently. I was going back to Ladakh indeed. I was smiling sitting in a plane flying to Leh from Delhi. We landed at Leh Airport after 90 minutes and it damn right felt like home. The mountains welcomed me or maybe I was hallucinating already but it did feel good to be back! After Srinagar airport, this has to be the prettiest airport ever!
The day turned out to be a freaking frenzy and you’ll know why in the subsequent posts. Here’s a shot of the evening view from the hotel terrace.
Day 2 – Still in Leh, the Uncertainty Continues
As we reached Leh the day before, we were treated to the news of the Mangalore Air India Flight Landing mishap. We were also told that Chang La avalanche had claimed two lives and is closed, Khardung La has been closed for a week now, Pensi La is buried in snow, the weather has been freak and it’s all uncertain. Amidst all this, my dad and my brother were not taking well to the high altitude and I was having my doubts right about now if this was a good idea at all, to visit Ladakh again. But I tried to put on a brave face hiding my anxiety inside and hoping for the best.
Here’s a shot taken from Shanti Stupa that windy evening.
Day 3 – yeah, we’re in Leh, didn’t leave anywhere
For the past two days, from my hotel room, I was seeing tiny dotheads moving up the steep trail above Leh Palace to Castle Tsemo and I kept thinking if I could pull that off! And today I discovered I could. I walked all the way up to Leh Palace and hiked up to Castle Tsemo on the hill top. Needless to say I enjoyed the peaceful solitude at high altitudes.
Here’s a shot of a how the nights looked from terrace. Leh Palace and castle Tsemo at a distance.
Day 4 – To Suru Valley
After spending three days in Leh, we finally got started with the trip itinerary. We were headed towards Suru valley via Kargil. Suru Valley is resplendent and has everything – raging rivers, gorgeous greenery, spectacular scenery, gargantuan glaciers, verdant valleys, high himalayas and colossal mountains. We went all the way till Parkachik and had to call it a day.
Here are two shots from the magnificent moonland and spectacular Suru Valley.
Day 5 – Back to Kargil
The same mountains that appeared threatening in yesterday’s fading light were now bathed in a new light and it was a completely different world. It’s amazing how darkness can play tricks and how things can appear in a new light when the sun shines. We went ahead from Parkachik on the road leading to Zanskar to view the Parkachik Glacier and returned from there to reach Kargil by evening. Suru Valley is one of the blessed places on earth – magnificence unlimited.
Here’s a parting shot from the lovely valley.
Day 6 – To the Aryan Villages
From Kargil we were headed towards Batalik to visit the settlements of the Aryan Tribe. The route was yet another lovely ride passing along side a raging Indus amidst deep cut gorges in the rocky mountains. It was today that the weather had completely taken a turn for the worse. Make no mistake, it was beautiful than ever but bad weather on mountains is no pleasant ordeal. But I made it to Dah settlement and witnessed a nice festival before we returned to Leh that evening.
Here are two shots of the crazy weather and pretty valley.
Day 7 – To Pangong… no wait, To Tso Moriri
The weather hadn’t turned good yet and we got the news at Karu that Chang La was closed again. So we took the road to Tso Moriri. The route was yet another splendid journey through the Changthang Plateau and we did spot some rare wildlife here. We passed by the stunning surprise that was Kiagar Tso, a small lake few kilometers before Tso Moriri. And then we reached Tso Moriri by evening only to be treated to a very cold weather. The night was exciting and more about it later.
Here’s a welcome shot of the Lake.
Day 8 – To Pangong via Chushul, Tsaga La.
Today we took the road less traveled. There are no words to describe the desolate beauty of this route. Driving though deserts, marshes, army memorials, more wildlife and villages on the far end and the cherry on top was the 40 kilometer ride along Pangong from Khakste to Lukung. The weather god was smiling upon us with clear blue skies with white fluffy clouds and the lake was shimmering in its bluest best colors ranging from aquamarine to Lapis Lazuli.
Here's a shot of the pristine Pangong and the route we took.
Day 9 – To Chang La and Leh
Today we start back to Leh again passing via the stormy Chang La. There was snow everywhere and we were stuck for a long time giving way to incoming vehicles towards Pangong. After crossing Chang La and having the customary tea at the pass, we cruised down passing through the magnificently placed Sakti village in the folds of the mountains and Chemrey monastery. We stopped at Sindhu Darshan to be treated to some spectacular skies and scenery and then left for Leh.
Here are two shots returning to Leh
Day 10 – at Leh
Today we were supposed to go towards Nubra but the word didn’t reach us yet that Khardung La was just thrown open. Unaware of the latest developments, we roamed around in Leh. The high point of the day out was Army Museum which proudly displayed the war history of Ladakh, the bravery of our army, the keepsakes acquired from the captured Pakistan military forces along with full documentation of the geographical and ecological features of Ladakh. Later we visited Spituk Monastery and Leh Palace before retiring for the day.
Here’s a shot of Castle Tsemo illuminated in the evening light.
Day 11 – Towards Nubra, Charmed by Shayok
Today was the last excursion in Ladakh and we headed towards Nubra Valley. Khardung La was just opened after two weeks of shutting down and there was a huge convoy of goods lorries vying to reach the other side. There was snow everywhere, right from South Pullu to North Pullu. We reached Khardung village and then were completely wowed by the brilliant blue Shayok River meandering through the deserts of Nubra.
Here’s a shot of the awesomeness.
Day 12 – Leaving Leh
Today we leave Leh. The vacation was fulfilling in more ways than one. The routes we took were spectacular. The scenery was indescribably awesome. And the people, they were the nicest lot I’d ever met till now. The weather was great few days and few days it was close to worse. But it reminded me, mountains are a force to be reckoned with. I am going back with gigabytes of pictures and countless memories and a peaceful mind but the journey is not over yet. I go back with a dream of returning, of climbing Mt. Stok Kangri or maybe cyling on the rough roads of these mountains which are so dear to me.
But, yes, I am coming back Ladakh!
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