My parents and I had not been on a vacation for over two years. So, when we finally etched out some time earlier this year, we knew we wanted to commemorate the revival of our adventures with something epic. In India, the most epic you can go is the majestic, breathtaking Himalayas. And, if you want to experience the Himalayas in its raw, beautiful best, you must explore the barren beauty of the glorious Leh-Ladakh. The trip commenced on 13th May 2017, and went on to become the most memorable trip of my life.
Day 1: The First Glimpse of Leh
The Delhi to Leh flight was scheduled at 6:40 in the morning. The duration was 55 minutes, the weather was not favorable and the aircraft hovered, before landing.
In those few minutes, we got our first view of the majestic Leh, from the plane. The barren hills and snow clad mountains seemed to be right within arm’s reach.
The quaint, little airport at Leh was an experience unto itself. We soaked it in, before heading off to find boarding. We had booked the guest house of BRTF, which was close to the airport.
We relaxed and settled down for the rest of the day. I spent my time exploring the unique Leh architecture. One of the fascinating corners of the Leh houses was the kitchen, with Bukharis (or wood oven/space heaters). The word is derived from the Persian word, Bukhar, meaning heat or fever. This oven keeps the house warm. But, it is said that due to insufficiently long chimneys, Bukharis cause many carbon monoxide-related deaths in the region.
Day 2: From Pathar Sahib to the Palace, around Leh
Our explorations started the next morning, in earnest. The first stop was Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, a legendary place of worship, built in 1517, to commemorate Guru Nanak’s visit to the region.
Many people do not know this, but in his travels all the way up to Tibet, Guru Nanak had inspired many Buddhist followers. He is often prayed to by the Buddhists, as Guru Gompka Maharaj. It is believed that Guru Nanak saved villagers from a demon, and left behind an unmovable boulder at the location of his conquest. The Gurudwara was built at the spot and is today maintained by the Army.
Our next stop was the Sangam. This is the World’s highest river rafting point. We hiked up 14 km to the rapids of River Jhaskar. Our trainer helped us put our life jackets, and gave us instructions on how to paddle. We boarded the raft and followed our trainer. The rapids were strong and we tried our best to maneuver our raft across it. It was breathtaking to watch the beauty around us. Next, we went to the Hall of Fame. The museum has a replica of fighter planes and tanks encircling it. Inside, there is a gallery of war-related photos and weapons.
Our next stop was the Leh Palace, which was about 3505 m above the main sea level. Though it looked dilapidated from outside, and the entrance was dark and narrow, the interior was grand. The view from the top window sweeps almost the entire Leh valley, and it was a magnificent sight.
We stopped at the Magnetic Hill next. The hills have magnetic property and pull the cars traveling through it, resulting in auto-deceleration of the car.Our day ended with quick snacks at the Leh market.
Day 3: Monasteries and a Kali Temple
The next day we paid a visit to the famous monasteries of Leh, and a Kali temple near the Leh market. (Read about: The most famous Kali Temples of Bengal).
The most beautiful among these was the Shei palace, a monastery built on a hilltop. We had to climb to the entrance, and it was beautiful inside. The view of snow clad mountains and a small lake amidst greenery made us spellbound. The Buddha statue was 3 storeys high and adorned with colorful stones.
Our next stop was Rancho’s school, made famous by the Bollywood movie, 3 idiots. Classes were on-going, so we were given a guide to help us explore the place in silence. There is also a cafe named after Rancho, the fictional protagonist.
We ended our day at the Leh market. The small market is crowded mostly by school students, a few locals, and tourists. The market displays everything a tourist can ask for – food, locally made shawls and stoles, ornaments etc. While we were in the marketplace it started to snow – an experience that deserves a whole post in itself! The center of the market had a gazebo, where we sat and relished the snowfall. The day ended on a high note.
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