The extreme cold makes you shiver and yearn for warmth but at the same time makes you wonder about your place in this vast universe. Unfamiliar roads make you restless and count your blessing for the familiar roads you pass every day to your place of work. New destinations make you wonder and embrace its newness while also making you earn for the familiarity of your own bed. Maybe because it’s when you are out of your comfort zone, do you look closer to the reality of what life actually is. Your brain thinks of the things you’ll never allow it to think of; your soul has experiences it could never fathom otherwise; and your body is living in a new environment, in a new world. Travel gives you newer perspectives about life and about yourself.
Maybe that’s the thing about travel, it leaves you speechless. It can’t be put into words, the adrenaline rush you felt scaling mountains, the delirium you feel whether you really are experiencing what you are experiencing, and the bliss of living in that moment is unsurmountable.
As I skip my thoughts on a gloomy rainy workday, I’m sailing through the sky, with my feet in the air and head in the clouds. I’m paragliding through the valley, nestled in the endless expanse of pine trees with the sun shimmering on the snowy mountain peak. When I’m slowly drifting, I can feel the wind rushing on my face, and at that moment all I can think of is to be alive and experience every emotion that flows through my views; experience it completely so that I can relive it forever.
That was my first day on the trip to Manali. We went around sightseeing to the Hadimba Devi temple, paragliding in the Solang valley, and eating and shopping on Mall Street Road.
The next day we got up early, moving towards the Rohtang pass. That was our first experience in the snow; trying to fit a spot with fewer people and throwing snowballs on each other. The rest of the day was spent on the road; through snowy landscapes and empty roads. We reached Jispa almost in the evening, where we stayed in tents. As the sun slowly melted in the backdrop of the mountains and the stream of water rushed through the turns, we saw our glamping tents rooted right under the snow-capped peaks. It was a perfect glamping experience with Persian rugs, heated tents, carpeted floor, plug sockets, and astounding views. After dinner, we lit a bonfire and surrounded it, singing to the beats of nature; feeling the much-needed warmth on the night when the temperature was 2 degrees Celsius.
The day started early because we naturally woke up at sunrise and couldn’t bear the cold any longer. The water in our water bottles had frozen overnight, and we had to heat some water for ourselves. We had our breakfast and sat in the car, driving towards Sarchu. We passed the Suraj Tal and the Baralacha Pass; an endless expanse of snow around us. The Suraj Tal was frozen and we tried to walk on it. But it was too cold to stay outside the car for more than 1o minutes. We get into the car and warm ourselves up until we went out again.
Sarchu was another glamping experience of sleeping under the open sky and staring constantly at a mass of innumerable stars planted together in clusters. The night was cold when the moonlight shining through our tents. The temperature dropped to as low as minus 7 degrees on that night. I could hardly get myself to sleep through the night because of the cold. I could see the stars and only look at them and dream with my eyes wide open.
The next day of the trip was spent passing the Gata loops, Lachunglang La pass, and the Tanglang La pass towards Leh. We passed one of the highest motorable roads in the world- Khardung La, experienced splendid scenic drives in the remote regions, some little-known gems as kaleidoscopic Moore plains and hypnotic Gata loops. All the trails were different from the previous one with- glittering glacial lakes, endless pastures, waterfalls at every turn, quiet monastery towns, and scenic snow-covered drives. When we got down the car on the Tanglang La pass, which was at a height of 5328 meters, we experienced snowfall. That the first time in my life that I had experienced snowfall. There was white above us and beneath us.
All the roads had stopped on the way. We would get down the car, relax, feast a little, and I would go around asking the locals about stories of the place or what they do the entire day. We heard a lot of stories of people traveling in the Himalayas, ghost stories, religious stories, and learned about the lifestyle of the people and their livelihood from our driver. I must say he loved to talk and tell stories. Whenever I go to a new city, I always wonder looking at people through car or train windows; what their life was like, what do they do the whole day, what hardships do they face. These questions have always intrigued me. I always try to live and look at the world through their shoes, maybe traveling, talking to them, and living in their cities helps me get a few answers for myself.
Day 5 of the trip was spent in Leh. We went to the Nubra Valley and spent the rest of the day shopping in the bazaars, eating, and wandering the streets. The Leh district has an average elevation of 3500 meters and is predominantly inhabited by Buddhists. The district has some beautiful monasteries more popularly known as gompas, which hold immemorial treasures like frescos, images, thankas, and rare manuscripts. The most visited are Spituk and Thikse Monastery. We visited the Thikse Monastery, which was calm on the inside with high winds and rain outside.
A route follows the valley past attractive villages to Dikshit, the largest village in the valley. Onwards to Hundar down the Shyok valley, the trail wanders past rolling sand dunes. The Nubra valley, a vast area of flatlands, is a place one can never miss on the journey. It is interesting to see how nature dominates the Himalayas. You can find rivers meeting each other and forming a ‘Sangam’, vast expanses of sand dunes, flowering valleys, snow-capped passes, endless flatlands, and green plains.
The next destination was the Pangong lake; the most awaited. Passing through the valleys of different colours, bridges over rivers, and sand in the wind; we saw a spectacular view of the saltwater lake from the top. The unending stretch of roads led to the glistening blue waters of the Pangong lake; against a backdrop of mountains and clouds. The moon rose from behind the mountains. It was a full moon night, and we had to go outside our rooms to see the moon glistening into the blue waters. I sat in my window reading, with the view of the lake and the moon. It was one of the most surreal experiences.
The Pangong lake is located along the border of China, 75 percent of the lake is on the Chinese border and only 25 percent is in India. We were told by our driver that when the lake is frozen during the winters, trucks run on the thick ice of the lake to patrol the border. I immediately thought how lovely it would be to see the lake in the winters, but the temperature drops to as low as minus 30 to 40 degrees in the winters. Still remembering the glistening blue of the lake against the cobalt-coloured sky gives me unfathomable joy.
A country like India with its multiple religions, caste, creeds, traditions, languages, cuisines, customs, and costumes; a nation that is known for its diversity is like a microcosm of our entire universe. But there are certain hidden gems, certain places that give you an escape, give you a sojourn from everyday life.
Such is Ladakh, the land nestled in the northeastern part of India. The land on many passes.
The land of dramatic mountain ranges and bucolic scenery.
The land of incomprehensible beauty.
The land of tranquil backwaters and lush green valleys.
The land where the barren landscapes are illuminated by the glimmering sun and monasteries dot the landscape. Its soundlessness, cobalt blue skies, bright rainbows, and glistening lakes are pure magic.
Living in the 21st century has taught us to constantly be on our feet, to catch every single running second and make the most of it. With the world moving fast, and people constantly struggling to achieve something, we forget our purpose. Life isn’t about what it is, but about what we make of it.
When you travel, you leave a part of yourself there; like I left my heart in the stacked stones wishing to go back and witness them again. The delirium makes me wonder if it was a real journey. I still want to go back where some ephemeral moments were captured. I still want to travel the paths untrodden and explore the pages unturned. I still have a perpetual thirst for wanderlust. I still dream of chasing faraway summits and catching every sunrise and sunset. I still have hope. And that was when I realized how travel can open your minds to yourself, to new experiences, and other cultures, in its raw and naked form.
The trip through Ladakh was a road trip, we took two cars and two bikes for our family. We took along a cook with us enough food supplies to last us for the entire trip. The stay was in tents and hotels.
Day 1- Mumbai to Delhi (flight)
Day 2- Delhi to Manali (Overnight bus)
Day 3- Manali (car journey here onwards)
Day 4- Manali to Jispa, Rohtang pass
Day 5- Jispa to Sarchu
Day 6- Sarchu to Leh
Day 7- Leh, Nubra Valley
Day 8- Leh to Pangong Lake
Day 9- Pangong Lake to Manali
Day 10- Manali
Day 11- Manali to Delhi (Overnight bus)
Day 12- Delhi to Mumbai (flight)
Earrings (one engraved with the symbol of long life never-ending love)
A bookmark (engraved with the tree of life)
A pocket watch
Stone and pebbles
An enthusiastic and inquisitive architect, a writer by passion and an artist by night. I believe in voicing my opinions about life and architecture. The little things in life inspire me and basics intrigue me. I'm eager to learn and often explore different modes of learning as an avid reader, writer, and traveler. I spend my day yielding pen into various hues of ink.