There are various blogs which are available on internet that may help one in organizing a trip to Ladakh region. But this write up will meander across different trajectories of experience. As my husband is in defence forces, I got the opportunity to stay in Leh for almost a year. During my stay I have not only visited the famous areas of Ladakh regions but also got to explore few remote and pristine locations, which are not touched upon by other tourists.
Reaching at 12000 feet above the sea level gives a mixed bag of feelings in addition to the adulation for nature. The first thing your body is not able to comprehend is that why suddenly all activities are consuming lot of energy, making you feel drained. This is because the higher you travel, the less oxygen you take in with each breath. The body responds by increasing the heart rate and the amount of blood pumped with each beat. This temporarily increases blood pressure until the body adapts to the lower oxygen level, usually within a couple of days. I can still recall that chilling morning of December when my eyes captured the serene beauty of Leh first time from the small window of our flight. That time I realized the real meaning of “love at first sight”! Yes… Those beautiful landscapes covered with snow took away my heart. The recorded temperature at the time of our landing was -20 degree Celsius, at which the first thought captivating my mind was “Oh! I am here, not for short vacation; I have to stay here for quite some time”. Nevertheless, I was excited for experiencing this new roller coaster phase of life.
After few days of acclimatization (which is mandatory), my husband decided to take me out for a stroll, mainly because it was my birthday. We dared to step out of our house in the sub-zero temperatures, for exploring the snow clad serene landscapes. Witnessing the crystal clear blue sky above a frozen river, we were mesmerized by the expanse of this natural beauty. Certainly! This could not be captured by any high definition camera. Usually people visit Ladakh at the onset of summers (mid-April to mid-September); but the real beauty of this place comes out when it turns to a “no man land” during winters.
Another highlighting aspect of this region is the confluence of rivers- Indus and Zanskar, which is magnificent. At least from a distance, one can easily differentiate between them. Magically, during winters the beauty of these rivers is at their peak, when they are completely frozen, and one can walk upon it. My personal experience with frozen river strolls was indeed enchanting. Tourists seeking adventure treks over the thick sheets of ice, come to this region in winters and thus pay for this experience, which in local terminology is called ‘chaddar trek’. After visiting these places, we got numb-frozen for a while, owing to the -15-degree Celsius temperature at that place.
During winters it becomes hard to find eating joints offering their services. We had to wander 10 kms from the place of river confluence to spot a restaurant. It was hamlet called Nimu, where some kiosks serving authentic Leh-cuisine were open. We had some of the native dishes prepared in that region- Skyu (a kind of soup which contain various vegetables and small balls made up of wheat flour), Momos, and Thupka. (another local delicacy- basically a noodle soup). These dishes are a piece of heavenly delight as you gulp them during chilling winters.
Other places of attraction that catch tourist attention are: Khardungla Pass- highest motorable pass in the world, Pangong-Tso Lake (famous for its hues and location), Diskit & RumTek Monastries (which invites Buddhist pilgrims from all around the world, Hunder (famous for the stretch of arid dessert and the double hump camels). These places are however not visited during the winters, due to path blockages by heavy snowfall.
Despite of scary winter period, which again has its own charm, Leh is an all-time paradise that provides a transcendental space for uniting an individual’s mind and soul. So if you have a good tolerance to sub-zero temperatures without getting your health affected, it’s a traveller’s advice to visit Leh once during winters in your lifetime. The calmness and distinct aura from that place will propel you to finding greater meaning to Life.
It’s said that overcoming the physical shortcomings and challenges often lead one to the most beautiful and serene escapades.
The author is a teacher at Army Public School and a coding instructor