23rd – 29th August 2013
We were planning a holiday yet again with nothing specific in mind… we virtually went from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and from south pole to north pole … one called for beaches another voice for hills, and you hear resorts, sand dunes, sanctuaries etc for many days… and no one can really recall when did we all say a yes to go to Leh.
I am one of those lucky ones who got a chance to go to one of the most coveted places in the world, Leh, with a bunch of my school friends. But let me tell you this ‘most coveted’ place is not really like a luxury holiday. You just can’t go there assuming you will be high on life in the mountains with your best buddy ‘Beer’ and ‘roasted nuts’ amidst your friends since childhood!
Yes it is beautiful! Of course you get to see mesmerizing scenic beauty. But, it takes a while to acclimatize to the weather there. You have to be cautious for the first two days as you will feel breathless with every little activity you do as little as even breathing ;). The place lets you absorb it and absorbs you in couple of days.
Let me share my travel experience with you to help you get better insights!
All excited to see the hills, we start our journey from Delhi at 8.40 am and reached Leh airport with mesmerizing view of ice capped mountains.
First day at Leh is the toughest as one can feel the fatigue even while breathing. You walk 5 steps and you will start breathing heavy. For first 2 days we felt very different compared to our metro life style.
In hills you have to be early to bed and early to rise! Life as a whole is slow. Life in Leh, particularly near the central market area, is not slow. In fact, it’s all the more happening as the hippie crowd is around, they have set up a whole new world there. But, the locals there and the whole city in general moves slow and leads a simple life.
We reached our hotel around 11am and settled in. We were constantly advised to rest for the whole afternoon so that we can go visit a place called Shanti stupa in the evening. We somewhat adhered to the advice and did so. We headed to Shanti stupa and witnessed the sunset! It had a beautiful view and a peaceful feeling. The calming effect could really make you feel closer to nature and soothe your mind for a few seconds. Though we were gasping for our breath now and then climbing up the Stupa, still we enjoyed this along with feeling with breathlessness after walking every few steps. Sigh! !
We began our journey with utmost enthusiasm, all dressed for day 2. We hit the beautiful roads of Leh… taking us to the outskirts. The mountains, the view, the air, everything could just make you happy then. We could see our route ahead of us… like a clean never ending road which is guiding you through in that moment.
We first went to a museum called ‘hall of fame’ which described geography and culture of Ladakh and then moved ahead to magnetic hills – exciting part about this hill is that the car moves on its own at the speed of 10km per hour there. Yes you can shut the engine and your vehicle will move on its own.
Further we halted at a point called Sangam, this is a confluence of river Indus and Beas which amalgamate and further flow to Pakistan. It has a beautiful view during the winters, though summers make the water look all muddy and dark.
We returned to our hotel in the evening and decided to spend the evening at the market before we begin to unusually eat and sleep early. We took a stroll and went down the bazaar lane exploring the streets there.
We began our journey to Nubra valley which was about 5 hours away from Leh… loved the view which comprised of mountains and long stretch of roads.
Half way we reached at the height of 18500 feet… Where the wind became chilly and we also witnessed snowfall drizzle which was definitely a high point for me 🙂
Though you get severe headache as you get closer to heights and it stays for about an hour. No one escaped this headache!
We finally reached Hundar (a place near Nubra valley) where we did camel ride. If you are wondering ‘why did these idiots travel so far for a Camel ride?’ Let me tell you these were mongalian camels with two humps that were brought to India by Changez Khan. So that’s what excited us to go this far!
See our smiling faces below:
Also this place had greenery, really lush green bushes and trees on one side and sand dunes on the other. 6 hours journey became worth it when we did Camel ride and felt the amazing cool breeze on our faces.
We headed to our cottages where we were told that electricity is available for only 3 hours in a day from 7pm – 10pm. And bang on 10pm, electricity gone.
The only thing that you realize is that even today there are so many remote areas which do not have 24 hours electricity supply. #Ddevelopment #India
Next day, we had to return to Leh. Early morning, most of us fell sick (nausea, vomiting, stomach upset and fever). We managed our journey back to the Hotel and took rest for the whole evening.
Eventually with a dose of medicine with dinner and oxygen cylinder for one friend, the unwell set of people got better!
Before, I head further. I would like to share the itinerary here-
‘Day 1- Shanti stupa, Market; Day 2 – Museum, Gurdwara, Monastery, Mandir, Sangam, Magnetic hills, Monastery; Day 3 – Nubra valley (Monastery, Camel ride Monastery), Day 4 – Return to Leh (Monastery on the way); Day 5 – Pangong lake (enroute Monastery); Day 6 – Return to Leh (Monastery)
Our whole trip comprised of so many monasteries that the thought of visiting a monastery also makes most of us tired. It became Moan-astery for us!
All set to go to pangong Lake. Yes, we were all set to go for another 4-5 hours journey to go see the beautiful Panong lake, where Pia gets her love Phunsuk Wangdu back, where Anushka Sharma took a dip in bare minimum clothes for ‘Jab tak hain Jaan’!
This was an even beautiful journey, half way when we reached 18,500 feet again our heads pierced with pain. But, a little less as compared to initial days as we were adapting to the city and its climate gradually.
We hired a cycle for the downhill ride amidst the mountains. We started our journey, clicking loads of pictures, chit chatting, listening to music and enjoying the nature around us!
The journey went smooth and we reached Pangong lake. Mesmerized by the beauty of the lake we all were elated and spell bound. The vast stretch of blue-green water in front of the massive mountains below the blue and white sky seemed unbelievable in front of the naked eye!
We just wanted to stay by the lake side and click pictures all the while. We decided to return to the spot in the morning and headed to our amazing tents. I decided to ride the bicycle up to the tents, and it was one of the best moments of my life. Lake on one side, mountains on the other… puddles of spring water on the road with barely any visible soul in reach.
Next morning, 5am, we were waiting for the sunrise, which got shadowed by the clouds! 😦 Still we managed some beautiful pictures of that morning sight! 🙂
Ready, to hit the lake again. What we saw in the evening was nothing compared to the lake in the morning, we could not believe our eyes when we looked at the multi-colored water shining like a diamond, sparkling like wine!
We just wanted to stay there and keep clicking through the day! Keeping the trend alive, we did not miss clicking a lot of pictures to remember sweet memories of our trip!
Some important facts-
Medicines – Carry loads of medicines!
Most important medicine ‘Diamox’ for altitude sickness; others include – Anti-puking, for gastric issues, stools, nasal spray, vicks, crocin, aspirin, combiflam.
The hotel would also have a medicine kit and you can always tell them how you are feeling and they will tell which medicine you need!
Toilets –Do not expect proper toilets anywhere while travelling instead drink less water. You will find mobile toilets on the way which are dirty to the core. Believe me you would not want to use them even if your bladder blasts. Boys really have have their way easy! 😡
Food – In Leh, you will manage to get food; do not expect anything specifically very good or authentic. Forget about traditional Indian food from any region. There are some good restaurants but largely you will get cafe’s serving European food! Try your luck!
At the hotel, definitely get your dinner included as hotels serve decent north Indian and south Indian food!
While you are travelling for long hours, carry a lot of light munching stuff. Carry chocolates for instant energy. On the way, mostly you will get Maggie and beverage called ‘black tea’. It is not a usual black tea but a tea made of spices (compared to kava that you get in kashmir), a must have as it will give you a warm and refreshing feeling!
Safest bet is to eat eggs and MAGGIE! You might not get a lot of things of basic needs there, but Nestle made sure that Maggie reaches the remote corners of India. It seems, it is actually a part of their staple diet. I can guarantee for the days you spend there, it will surely be a part of your staple! #Meramaggie
Souvenirs – You will barely get any souvenirs to buy. Most of the things there, are also available in Paharganj, Delhi. #Disheartened
- Do carry sunglasses, comfortable foot wear (sport shoes), Torchlight, candles, match box.
- Pre-paid numbers don’t work there!
The plan mushroomed on a chat group of my school friends (about 10 of us J). Let me tell you it’s been 8 years that I completed my schooling. The point why I am giving you this information is not for you to calculate my age but to remind ourselves that plans are made and cancelled a lot of times after so many years but we should still plan in hope of seeing a sunrise in the mountains or a sunset on the beach (yes with beer) with friends once in a while.
I can just tell you with all the breathless days there, it’s worth it!
P.S. – Mountains shall call again!