Ladakh is the kind of place you bring your wildest expectations to, and then watch them pale in comparison to reality. Here are a few snippets of the many memories made in Ladakh on my first ever visit to this cold desert full of warm people. Cameras can never do justice here, but I commend them for the attempt.
White peaks stretching well into the horizon and perhaps even way beyond. Like a vast unmade bed of snow and sun, in no mood for neatness or smallness. Peaks and folds spreading all over the place like blankets someone up there would rather leave undone. Nonchalantly stunning mortals like us into silence, all in a morning’s work.
Window seat. Two important words any time you fly into Ladakh!
The absolute honour of being alive. That is what filled me when I first laid eyes on this magical place called Sangam – where River Indus meets River Zanskar. And the rest is mind-bending beauty.
And when you get the choice to sit it out or fly, I hope you fly. The original frequent flyers in this part of the world, seagulls take turns lounging and soaring over the impossibly beautiful Pangong Tso Lake. Making me want to swap lives with any one of them, if only for a few fleeting moments. Tibetan for ‘long, narrow, enchanted lake’, Pangong is all that and more, with its many shades of blue rippling into each other constantly.
Marine life in a desert? Coming right up. This tiny oasis in the high altitude cold desert of Nubra Valley proves that life always finds a way. Rows of camels and people walked by with their eyes on the vast views all around, but for anyone who cared to stop and notice, this underwater tangle of greens and reds and yellows was a world unto itself, grandly oblivious of the stark desert surrounding it.
Nature’s own whiteboard at Changla pass. Where’s a giant marker when you need one! At an elevation of 5,360 m (17,590 ft) above sea level, it is the third highest motorable road in the world, and quite the pitstop enroute Pangong Tso Lake.
Big scoop of vanilla with chocolate chips anyone? Because there’s always space for dessert, even on the world’s highest motorable road, which takes you to the edge of life and brings you back with a renewed appetite for everything life has to offer.
Flowers of Ladakh deserve a special mention. A local told me flowers have long been a status symbol up here, and one sees that at every street here. Balconies overflowing with inexcusable beauty if not full-fledged gardens taking no prisoners with flowers as big as our faces. Move over fancy cars and shoes, here are some seriously bragworthy flowers to write home about.
And the middle of nowhere put me right in the middle of now and here.
What struck me when I first landed in Leh was that I’d just Landed. In. Leh. Funny how I’d always thought of Ladakh as a place that demanded a lot of time and energy and planning and warm clothes and altitude acclimatization and what-have-you. And when I finally did get there, it was after no more than two days of planning. No doubt it’s a rough place to travel, but its unassumingly charming ways make up for all the inconveniences and hardships it throws at you. Be it the sharp nip in the air or the relative rareness of oxygen up there. It took me thirty years and an impromptu travel blogging trip to get to this place which has been standing just two domestic flights away. And now having barely scratched the surface, I know there’s so much more yet to be seen and experienced up there. I know I’ll be back for more every year. If you haven’t already been there, or even if you have, here’s wishing you lots of Ladakh and soon!