A bag of surprises in Ladakh

A bag of surprises in Ladakh

"The mountains are calling and I must go". It indeed was a calling for us. My daughter took an impromptu decision to travel to the mystic land of Leh and Ladakh nestled in the Greater Himalayas.

On reaching Leh airport, we were given a warm welcome by our tour organisers. After a sumptuous breakfast of 'idli' and 'vada', we went for a walk and explored the town.

The eight-day trip was well planned by our tour organisers. It included visits to ancient Buddhist monasteries and other significant tourist spots.

The next day, we set out to visit the ancient monasteries of Likir and Lamayuru. Every monastery has an interesting history and exudes the aroma of exotic incense and a lot of interesting items to shop.

The important monasteries we visited are Alchi, Likir, Lamayuru and Hemis. The drive to Lamayuru along the Indus river is quite memorable. Watching it flowing in full spate, frozen at some places, and its 'sangam' with Zanskar river was an exhilarating experience.

The Lamayuru monastery atop the hill is ancient and faces the moon rock landscape (the rocks on that hill resemble the landscape on the moon). We were transported to a totally different world.

The Likir monastery is known for its 1,000-year- old wall paintings. Hemis is the richest monastery with gold paintings which are worth seeing. The alley shopping at Alchi monastery is very interesting. One can buy Tibetan turquoise jewellery, prayer bells and flags, meditation bowl, incense sticks and Buddha statues here.

Next was our unforgettable drive to Khardungla Pass which is the world's highest motorable road at an altitude of 18,380 ft. It was a dangerously adventurous drive. But there is a sense of great achievement once we reach the top.

A slight snow drizzle welcomed us atop Khardungla. A stay longer than 15 minutes may cause breathing problems because of the altitude.

It is advisable to carry camphor or Vicks inhaler to ease the breathing. All along the way, there was heavy Army presence which gave us a sense of safety.

We travelled down from Khardungla to the sand dunes of Nubra Valley. Surprised? Yes, this is how Ladakh surprises you with a variety of landscapes from snowclad mountains to sandy deserts, a patch of green trees, the mighty Indus river and the blue Pangong Lake. One can enjoy short camel rides and some sporting activities in the sand dunes of Nubra.

The icing on the cake is the great Pangong Lake. It took our breath away. The vast sheet of cobalt blue crystal clear lake looked like a paradise on earth.

The lake changes colour over the day. As we were relaxing on the banks of the lake, a sudden unexpected stormy wind of sand and ice caught us by surprise and we ran for our lives.

It indeed was an adventure. The Pangong Lake has another attraction – it was where the film '3 Idiots' was shot. We camped at Pangong Lake in cute little tents which were well furnished.

The other places of interest which we visited were Changla Pass (the third highest motorable road in the world), 'Shanti Stupa', 'Leh Palace', 'Magnetic Hill', 'The Hall of Fame Museum' dedicated to
the Indian Army The Rancho School and the 'idiotic wall' from the film '3 Idiots'.

Soon it was time for us to return. When a travel to a dream destination comes true, the feeling in inexplicable.  Reluctantly, we packed our bags glancing now and then at the high and mighty Himalayas that was visible from our hotel windows. It was indeed a spiritually enriching experience as well.

Every petty thought or action in our mundane life looks very trivial after visiting such a spiritually rich place. We came back satisfied and with the lingering hope of a second visit.

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