I visited Leh-Ladakh in July 2017 – a trip that has been etched in my memory permanently for various reasons. I had planned to write this post right after the trip, and it has been two years (almost) I have procrastinated to put it down. But the memories are still so vivid that I can remember each day like it happened yesterday.

It is quite impossible to put down the Leh experience into words. The beauty and serenity of Leh just cannot be frozen into mere adjectives and photographs. The real depth and magnificence can be (and should be) experienced only with the naked eye.

I had been planning to visit this quaint little town located amidst the Himalayas for quite some time. So, when my friends and I boarded an early morning flight here, I couldn’t be more excited. It was heavenly to watch the golden rays of the rising sun bounce off of the snow-clad peaks of Himalayas.

Looking at such exquisite landscapes even before reaching Leh, was purely a divine feeling. As our flight receded down, we circled around the magnanimous Himalayas and the excitement doubled.

We landed in front of a tiny airport and were taken to Hotel Shambhala for accommodation.

Many such frames and artifacts were a part of Shambhala’s decor

We dropped our bags and couldn’t help but adore the artsy decor of our cozy wooden rooms. When we asked the significance of all the art in this place, the hotel staff informed us that it symbolized myths and stories from the Tibetan culture. The ambience of Shambhala was pure and fascinating. It was so much more than just comfortable rooms. It felt like I was at home, a home that had been waiting for our arrival.

The view from our room

After we freshened up, we were welcomed to the town in the true-Ladakhi style by the locals as they performed a beautiful song and dance. Not only did we enjoy their performance to the folk songs but even shook a leg with them. “Julley!” – the local word for Hello became the only way greeted each other thereon.

Then, we left for an acclimatization hike to Shanti Stupa. As the name suggests, it was an extremely peaceful place located on top of a hill and was frequented by monks for meditation. Our hike here wasn’t about meditation though. We simply wanted our bodies to get adjusted to the altitude of 11500 feet and the clean, pollution free air.

When we reached the top, it was almost sunset and in the golden hour, we saw the bird’s eye view of the entire town flushed in green, nestled in the valley created by the mighty, barren mountains.

We strolled around the Shanti Stupa for a while, inhaling the clean air and absorbing the purity. It was a peaceful day one.

The Shanti Stupa

Next up on our journey at Leh was Indus-Zanskar Rafting. On Day two, we left for White water rafting from Scorpoche to Nimu Sangam – a stretch of about 16 kms. Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to do rafting on the Ganges many times. It is probably the only river in India with the highest grade of rapids. But the Zanskar has a charm of its own. Its fresh and white like ice just melted (it literally is a glacier) so we were asked to wear bodysuits and they were umm.. well, here it is..

Rafting is probably one of my favorite adventure activities. It is both thrilling and calm. I have some really special memories attached to the sport. One of them being the Zanskar experience.

Post rafting, we visited the Thicksey Monastery and saw the Future Buddha- a tall and really huge structure of the Buddha.

Next day, left for the Pangong Lake. A six-hour road trip through the gorgeous Himalayan valleys and plains was worth it all. On the way, we took a stop at the Changla Pass (altitude 17688 ft) and at Khardongla Pass (18380 ft) where we also experienced our first snow fall. Our roadtrip also included multiple dance sessions whenever we took a break. It was a crazy fun time. Beautiful beyond expression. I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves here on.

Can you spot the Mountain Roads?
Through the ice-capped mountains to Khardongla Pass
Zillions of Tibetan prayer flags adorned the rocks at Changla Pass

It was almost dinner time when we reached our campsite beside the Pnagong, we were at the highest altitude ever and freezing beside a lake. We had a little dance party at the campsite and then a chilly night followed. Next morning, when we woke up to the sight of the blue spread of water on the backdrop of dull mountains and a bright blue sky, we were spellbound. No matter how I describe this place, it will be an understatement.

Did you know that India shares this pristine lake with its neighbor? Only 20 percent of the lake lies in India. The remaining 80 percent lies beyond the line, in China.

(…to be continued)

photos by me and my friends Apoorva, Rishabh, Sammy

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