Posts Tagged With: leh

Go, get Leh-d! (Kashmir)

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(In continuation with the earlier post on Ladakh)

“Plan only a part of the intended travel. In anticipation of the unknown, lies the adventure.”

I like a little bit of planning because the groundwork is fun – to have a basic sense of the geography of the place, the culture and an attempt to search a little in-depth and discover little treasures tucked away from the regular sights.

And so, having reached Ladakh, we had no clue what we were doing for the second half of our trip. Which resulted in an impromptu overnight drive to Kashmir via Kargil. And what a night that was!

IMG_0330Leading the way were two ladakhi youngsters taking charge of a rugged and much-abused SUV – it all started well with 2 traditional and hummable ladakhi songs. Which later turned out to be the ONLY two songs they had in their ‘cassette’ and the ONLY two songs we heard in-loop for the most part of our journey!  “Jojolejo-nonoleno” (whatever that means) still rings an air of nostalgia!

The road (if one would call a mud path so) through the mountains was nightmarishly narrow and winding. The only sound was that of river Jhelum gurgling right below us in full frenzy. Luckily the moonlit night helped give some direction to the dual-song obsessed drivers who drove like men who had an overdose of Red Bull. IMG_0430After a brief stop at 11am for some excellent dhaba ‘rajma & rice’, we reached Kargil at 2 pm hoping to get some rest till morning. The infamous town was eerily silent and the J&K tourism lodge that we spent the rest of the night will go down in history as one of the worst-kept rooms ever!

The next morning, after a brief homage at the Kargil Memorial and ‘chai’ at Drass, we reached Srinagar. The Kashmir of my childhood (in 1988, when we did a family trip) was just as beautiful but with security personnel holding rifles at every nook and corner. Dal lake was just as beautiful and the weather was perfect. And it is worth mentioning how gorgeous the men and women look (Psst: I was shamelessly ogling at some women with flawless skin and pink cheeks and briefly IMG_0519had the husband worried). Spent 2 lovely days on and around the lake before it was time to head back.

My 2 cents:

J&K is a paradise for backpackers, honeymooners, families, spiritual seekers. And despite all the turmoil that the state goes through, it must be visited once in one’s lifetime. Enough said.

Categories: India | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Go, get Leh-d! (Ladakh)

Audacious title, I hear?

But that is pretty much what you need to do! A lot has been written, plenty spoken, and visuals galore but like any traveller would tell you – Seeing is Believing. Seeing is Experiencing.

Having booked during October which is the off-season and pretty much end of the tourist season (after which the roads apparently close due to snow) we took advantage of some relatively cheap tickets and on one wintery morning, landed on the pretty ‘little’ Leh airport. But wait! That was just not ANY landing! Towards the last 15 minutes of the flight, the landscape had transformed from the usual white-clouds-and-blue-sky to a vivid mountaneous region with snow-capped peaks. Amidst a spellbound expression, one hurriedly pulls out the camera, at the same time remembering the air hostess’ warning not to use it, but really should anyone care? Some quick captures just to freeze that moment for the future, and then we are back staring out open-mouthed.

So yes, back to the li’l airport with an army base nearby. After collecting our luggage we hop into a small van that takes us to closer to the city centre. And then off walking into a small lane and we are directed to our haven for the next few days: Sia-la guesthouse.

Sia-la, a little gem that was discovered by chance on the internet after hours of research, since we were particular about getting a home-stay kind of accommodation. The guesthouse is synonymous of its lady owner Zarine – charming, warm and welcoming. All you have to do is ask her for tea and be assured to spend the next couple of hours in her living room sipping traditional chai and biscuits, hearing stories of the city, her ancestors and the changing youth of Ladakh. To me, Zarine signifies 3 notable characteristics I observed among the ladakhis during my brief stay – humble, hospitable & peace-loving.

Step out of Sia-la and what you will not miss in this land are:

  • Bare-brown mountains and ice-blue waters

It could have been the timing, but late October and the onset of winter allows one to witness an expanse of bare brown mountains with a few snow capped peaks. Not an iota of green. A trip from Leh to Dikshit/Hunder goes through 2 gigantic mountains and a ~3kms long road that connects them. Its BREATHTAKING. It makes you appreciate nature so much more. It can just make you fall in love all over again! Oh but I digress….

And then there is the Pangong-Tso, one of the most picturesque lakes in India, with every hue of blue that you’d find on a paint catalogue! A lake that has been kind enough to be 25% Indian – the rest of which is in China – and allow travellers to experience its beauty. And if you can brave the cold, stay overnight right near the lake in a few available tents!

  • Pagodas and Buddhas

You see them all along – little white structures called ‘chortens’ on the side of roads, on hilltops – just about anywhere. And the famed Sanchi stupa from where one can have a birds eye view of the city. Then, the monasteries – beautiful colourful structures that stand apart in the region. While there are the more popular ones like Shey & Thiksey, if you’re ready to rough up a ride – do not miss Sumur monastery in the Nubra Valley. Set amidst an amazingly picturesque village with out-of-nowhere greenery, this 150 year old structure provides a fascinating view of the valley, and has a storehouse of a huge collection of thangkas (buddhist silk paintings) and is surrounded by apricot and apple trees!

  • Thukpas and Yak-cheese

The food is super-delicious! More than due credit given as winter sets in and consumables are hard to get (the roads close and much cant be grown in this region) so how restaurants whip up varied stuff is beyond me! A must-try are thukpas (veg/meat noodle soup) and ofcourse, yak-cheese pizzas! And on road journeys, don’t be surprised to encounter little joints that serve hot paranthas or Maggi noodles!! Maggi – SO popular even in places where local noodles should be ruling!

And while we are at it, the road from this little paradise on earth leads to Kargil-Drass and towards Srinagar….

Categories: India, Travelogue | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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