As a kid, I had once taken a trip to Nepal with my family. The one thing I was looking forward to most; was playing in the snow at the foothills of the Himalayas. However, due to some local trouble the area was closed to tourists and I was robbed of my first snow ball fight. Since then, seeing snow has always been on my bucket-list. Recently a friend of mine had visited North India, browsing through the beautiful pictures of the snow covered passes was the final push I needed to get my act together and live my childhood dream and take that trip to Ladakh I had been putting off.
Once the decision was made, it looked like it was going to be my first solo adventure. I planned the entire Ladakh trip for late November so that, there was no way the snow would evade me this time. I booked my tickets; packed all my warmest clothes, got a printed map and finally the day of departure had arrived.
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Travelling by train has its own charm, especially if you are making an interstate Ladakh trip. I love watching families board the train and start to eat the minute they are seated or the coffee vendors waking you up at five in the morning by walking through the compartments shouting “coffee coffee”. But, as much as I love the experience, I wanted to make sure I have enough time to explore the place, so I decided it was best to take a direct flight from Mumbai to Leh. I left early in the morning, when the city was still asleep and a few hours later, I was blown away by the stretches of snow clad mountains peeking through the fog, as we prepared to land.
As soon as I set foot out of the plane, I realized that I had packed all my woolen clothes in my luggage. Teeth chattering, I found my bags and quickly took out my warmest jacket. A shot taxi ride later, I found myself in a hotel room. It was around 7AM, and although I had traveled a fair bit, I wasn’t particularly tired and I decided to begin my adventure early. After all, I would have lots of time to rest when I returned home.
Two kilometers away from the city was the Leh Palace, this would be my first stop. I took a taxi up the hill and found this magnificent structure on the edge of cliff, overlooking the entire city below. It is nine stories high and was built in the 17th century. I spent some time admiring the architecture and enjoying the view. I then proceeded to the museum, which had a collection of embroidered scrolls and paintings.
My next stop in Ladhak was the Pangong Lake. Although it was a long drive away, I have always been fascinated by the fact that this lake is over 4,350 meters above sea level, but still contains saline water. After driving a few hours, through the picturesque country side and the Chang La pass I finally reached the lake. As expected, the surface of the water was frozen and it looked like a large ice skating rink. I took a stroll by the lake, walking through the towering trees that surrounded it. My fascination for the lake only increased, it is a saline lake and the in spite of this, the water still freezes during winter.
The next day I started my long journey to the Drang-Drung Glacier. The ride through the Zanskar Valley to the glacier was like nothing I had ever experienced before. We slowly made our way through the beautiful orchards, which had stretches of apple trees, then came the mighty mountain ranges which can make the largest man feel small, finally we reached the glacier. It is one of the biggest glaciers in India and a popular destination, as it is set with the Himalayas in the background. This huge sluggish stream of ice slowly moves down the side of the mountain and is truly a unique sight.
Next I headed towards Manali which was a two day long journey. It included, driving through harsh conditions; Ghats with steep winding roads and narrow passes like the Rothang Pass. It was hard to imagine how a large bus was travelling through such narrow roads sitting on the edge of the valley without falling down. There were times when I felt a chill run down my spine, when I looked out of the window. We spent the night at the Sarchu La on the Leh-Manali Highway before continuing on our journey in the morning.
Once we finally reached Manali it was like something straight out of a post-card. It had everything I could ask for, and more. With dense forests full of emerald green trees and ample snow where you could trek and even ski. I spent a total of four days here. The first place I visited was obviously the Solang Valley, also called the Snow Point. I was welcomed with a bed of snow, and spent the day taking ski lessons with one of the many agencies that operate there. I was treated to a great view of the valley below with the snow clad mountains that I had just visited in the background. I could not help staring in awe, at the rich natural diversity our country has to offer.
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I also went to the Beas Kund Lake and the glorious Chandrakhani Pass. Last but not the least I visited The Great Himalayan National Park where I saw a number of rare animals and birds. With that my adventure Ladakh trip was over and it was time to head back home. I took a flight from Bhuntar airport and before long I was circling the runway in Mumbai. No matter what happens, this is one trip I will never forget. Not because I saw snow or because it was my first solo Ladakh trip, I will remember it because for 15 days I was surrounded by raw natural beauty. No matter what we create, it is nothing in comparison with the endless bounty of nature.
– This post talks about Tejas Buch’s Ladakh holidays experience.