Over the course of my stay on this planet, I have seen Leh Ladakh emerge as one of the most coveted travelling experiences in India. It is a dream destination for many while others may describe it is an adventure of a lifetime. For me, it was a mere accident.
Spread over a solid ten days, the journey was as exciting as jumping off the cliff for the first time. So much so that if I were to write about every experience of mine, I would rather take an hour of yours!
The road trip began from Delhi leading up to Jammu. After a quick pitstop, we made our way to Srinagar. A travel of nearly eight hours seemed easy, owing to the sleek roads and the Herculean mountains around. There was no off beat in this nature’s cacophony. After spending a night at Srinagar, we were to head out for Kargil the next day. But would not it be a crime if leave without visiting the Dal lake in Srinagar? As cliche as it sounds, there is nothing dull about the lake. Once you get accustomed to seeing the clutter of plastic and waste on the lake, the smooth ride on a shikara makes it all easy.
Tucked in neatly like pillowcases on bed, a parade of Victorian era houseboats on either side may lure you into humming any of the chartbusters from Shammi Kapoor starrer Kashmir ki Kali. A sunrise on the horizon, chants of vegetable vendors in the background and a kahwa to sip on makes for an instagram-worthy moment! (if only I would have remembered to capture the moment. Damn, got too lost in the real-life experience!)
There are no points for guessing the highlight of our next stop, Kargil. The memorabilia of the 1999 war spread across the foothills of Tololing in the war memorial is a visual treat. It is hard not to be inspired by the legend of the war and its martyrs. From every brick to pillar, there are unforgettable stories in every nook and cranny.
Legend has it that when two magnanimous personalities collaborate, the climax is bound to be grander. Such is the case with Confluence of Zanskar and Indus rivers in Ladakh. Also known as Zanskar valley, words would fall short to describe the spotless jugalbandi of the sister rivers.
Monasteries to Leh are what oxygen is to living creatures. One can easily locate age old monasteries at every 10-20 km from the main town of Leh. It would not be wrong to say that it is the beating heart of the cold desert. Be it the grandeur of Shey Palace, vibrancy of Thiksey or the magnanimity of Diskit, each monastery has something different to offer. Besides a plethora of monasteries, Leh is also home to Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, one of the most revered gems in the vicinity.
As we made our way through it all, the anticipation grows steadily for the pinnacle of this trip. For many, that was Pangong Tso (tso means lake). For the ones who did not believe in love at first sight would probably reconsider their belief after witnessing Pangong.
With well painted mountains in the backdrop the clean blue waters of this endorheic lake are a perfect protagonist of this dream-like reality. While your skin could feel a slight burn from the sun, one dip in water could freeze you for a week. The apex of this trip in form of Pangong is every bit worth the hype.
After such a blockbuster view, everything seemed underwhelming till we were back to the grind (read: Delhi). One may call this travel soul stirring, while some may say it is as good as they come. I even heard some of the fellow travellers saying it was the ultimate dose of adrenaline. Well for me, it was just a happy accident!