Leh-Ladakh on the roads. A journey described through feelings.
Leh… The most awaited journey began, we were 10 of us. But unfortunately 2 of them couldn’t be a part of this trip which we will always regret. We all were different from one another and perhaps did not share the level of friendship that makes you go for a holiday together for 13 days, but there was one thing in common between us and that was the urge, the passion and the dream to visit the most beautiful and scenic Leh-Ladakh. The road trip with simple things like waking up to an azure blue sky, the sight of rocky brown and snow-capped mountains, biking to the most beautiful Leh Alchi road, enjoying the mesmerizing full moon night on Pangong Tso lake, visiting the most beautiful lake of Ladakh – Tsomoriri and the last village of India – the Turtuk village, has been a memorable experience. It has been one of the most amazing and exciting trip with lots of unforgettable memories and life long friendships. We started our journey from Ahmedabad to Delhi and then from Delhi to Leh. Our original plan was to do an extensive road trip from Delhi covering Amritsar – Jammu Kashmir – Srinagar – Drass- Kargil – Zojila pass – Leh – Nubra Valley – Pangong Tso – Leh – Tsmoriri – Sarchu- Keylong – Manali – Delhi – Ahmedabad, but due to the tense situation in Kashmir Valley we had to cancel that plan.We reached Leh beholding some beautiful sights of Karakoram Mountains, Nubra valley and the Greater Himalayas from the flight.
First day was a complete rest day so that we could acclimatize our bodies to the 11000 ft high altitude above the sea level.
Here our actual journey began. We hired 4 Royal Enfields and began our drive to Alchi- the most beautiful and scenic drive with smooth curvy roads. Alchi is a village and monastery situated on the bank of Indus River which is 70 kms from Leh. We came across some beautiful sights of the Military area, the Magnetic hills, the Nimmu village and the confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers. River rafting on the confluence is something that should not be missed. We also visited the Alchi Monastery which is home to some beautiful paintings and is renowned as the oldest Buddhist centre in Ladakh. For photography lovers this is one of the most scenic routes on NH1. We returned at the hotel by evening after visiting Shanti Stupa, the place from where you get a beautiful view of the entire Leh town. We rested afterwards as the next three days were going to be very hectic for us.
Third day was our journey to Nubra Valley via the second highest motor able road at Khardungla Pass which is at a height of 18380 ft; with breathtaking views, though the roads are a bit rough. And as the altitude increases you tend to get a feeling of dizziness and mild headache. There were a lot of foreigners on cycle expedition which should get a standing ovation to even think of attempting such a feat. The army recommends not to stay for more than 20 minutes at any high altitude passes whether it’s Khardungla, Changla or Tanglangla Pass. While descending from Khardungla; the roads are really bad till North Pullu. We had Maggi at our halt (the most common dish in this region) and later reached Nubra Valley. When you are en-route towards Diksit Monastery and Hunder village a stop over is a must for some beautiful photography. Later we drove to Diksit Gompa, and the first thing that caught our attention was the 50 ft tall statue of Maitreyi (Future Buddha ) and the breathtaking view of a beautiful contrast background comprising of brown mountains, green fields, sand dunes and the beautiful Shayok river. We then visited the sand dunes and did camel safari on the two humped bactarian camel in hunder, found only at this place in India. We checked in the guest house at 7 in the evening. Aah!! What an amazing place it was. The guest house was surrounded by long trees with a view of the river and mountains from your room and on top of it; it was a full moon night and the beauty of the full moon was at its best and the sky was full of sparkling stars. Something which I just can’t put in words. It needs to be felt and we were lucky to feel that…
Today we started for one of the most beautiful and the last village of India – Turtuk village. This place justifies the saying that ‘The journey is always more beautiful then the destination’. It was a long day but very scenic including rough roads, rocky mountains and the beautiful Shayok river flowing besides during the entire route. It was a full day excursion. On reaching Turtuk we visited a small but a very beautiful café. The ambiance was really very good and refreshing; we had maggi and fries, we spent some time in the village and then we returned back to Hunder.
The most awaited day of the trip was here. Our visit to the famous and the most beautiful Pangong Tso lake. We drove from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso with lots of rocky mountains and beautiful river flowing besides the road making the journey very scenic. We arrived at Pangong Tso in the evening and checked into the tented accommodation. We had our tea and got refreshed. Then we went to the point where the highly acclaimed movie 3 Idiots was shot on the Pangong Tso Lake. The water was very cold and we clicked a lot of pictures and it was an unforgettable experience. We came back and had our dinner. As the night was getting colder, we did a camp fire at the camp site. It was fun and one more wish of ours for this trip which got fulfilled was the beauty of the full moon on Pangong Tso lake. Though it was the next day after full moon but the sight which we got to see was simply amazing. Imagine the dark sky with lots of stars and a full moon shining right up there in the sky and its reflection in the water of the beautiful Pangong Tso. Breathtaking, isn’t it? Spending a night at 14500 ft high above the sea level was not an easy task. It was very windy and we were sleeping with 4 layers of clothes and 2 blankets. Awesome…!!
We started around 9 in the morning from Pangong Tso lake for Leh. We thought it would be a simple journey towards Leh, but what we experienced was something which we had never thought of, never planned and was not the part of our itinerary. It was supposed to be a 5 hour journey but due to a road block we had to wait. We waited for around 2 hours and still it wasn’t sure when the road would get clear. So we took an off route of around 145 kms, which was through the entire stretch of Pangong Tso. On one side of the road Pangong Tso and on the other side the beautiful snow clad mountains. Wow !! After 4 hours of drive we finally reached the third highest motor able road – Changla Pass (17,590 ft). To our surprise the climate had become very cloudy and soon there was a snowfall. Due to high altitude it was not advisable to stay for more than 20 minutes. That is why after taking some pictures we started our journey again for Leh. We reached Leh around 9 pm. It was almost a 12 hour long drive which was totally worth it.
To be continued….