It has been quite some time since I visited Leh, Ladakh however, the memories are still quite fresh. Probably this was one of the best 7-8 days well spent in my life, as a human being should aim to live. Leh and around indeed can be considered as the best place to be in this planet. Well 75% due to nature’s beauty and remaining 25% due to the people of Leh, Ladakh. The Ladakhis are the most down to earth, religious person I have ever met. They are excellent hosts and understands the importance of nature. Even our driver Karma Sonam had the back of his Xylo written as “ Kindness is my religion”. Ok enough of introduction let’s just reach this slice of heaven as quick as possible.
Day1: I travelled with my wife to this place and took flight from Kolkata to Leh via Delhi. It was mid Oct when we reached. Quite a tough ask for Bengalis to leave Durga Puja and travel outside. However, a real good decision taken in the end. We reached Leh around 7 am. The last 5 minutes before we landed was really picturesque from the sky. Those kind of landscape is difficult to pen down in words at least for people like me. I had a booking at the Yangphel Guest house in the upper Tuchka at Leh. Yayati Singh owner of the guest house is an extremely wonderful soul and goes out of the way to help all his guests. I would strongly recommend anyone planning to visit Ladakh can blindly book Yangphel guest house and rest all will be taken care by Yayati happily. So soon after we checked in Yayati came and told us to have warm parantha as breakfast with mint tea (first time I had) and then roam around and explore Leh. I was apprehensive to go out just after landing there as I had read so many warnings from all travellers that we need to take complete indoor rest on day1 to adjust to the height. However, Yayati measured our oxygen level and suggested us that we were in good condition and can easily make the most of the day. We got lucky as Yayati himself joined us in his Zen to a great spot (which I named Yayati point) as it was not famous amongst the tourist or anywhere in trip advisor. This place is very close to SECMOL. Again no point describing the place. You can see the pic to understand what a good few hours we spent here. Yayati drove around 100km /hr within the army area and his Zen almost sounded like Ford Mustang. Before coming back to the guest house we all had mutton momo and soup. What a great day 1 to spend!
Day2: Not the best of the day to start, reason being election time in Leh. The effect was everything in and around Leh were closed till 5 pm. So mostly we relaxed and went for a walk after having breakfast in our guest house. The market place was empty but nice considering the Election Day. We managed to walk uphill to the Leh Palace and Tsemo Gompa. Leh Palace was really good and the view of the city from the terrace of the palace was exquisite. While coming back I took pictures with the kids playing in the streets. They had the most cheerful and happy smile I have seen for a long long time. Around late afternoon Karma came and shared the news that election is over and now we are good to roam. We wasted no time and reached Shanti Stupa to watch the sunset. While coming back checked the Donkey sanctuary from the outside as it was closed. It was fun to see many donkeys together.
Day 3: Today was the day. First time we will be going more than 100 Kms from Leh and back on the same day and hence started early. Karma came around 6:30 am. We headed towards Lamayaru. But hold on that’s the last destination. Just after few Kms from Leh we reached a place called Nimmo. Stopped our Xylo. It was a clear blue sky, fantastic weather and what I saw will remain forever with me. The Indus and Zanskar river confluence point (Sangam) as popularly known. Both the rivers had 2 distinct colours which was a visual treat. Soon after driving another few Kms we stopped to have breakfast and tea. I clearly remember there were around 8 big dogs encircling me and asking for food. I brought 2 packets of Good Day biscuits and fed them in no time. They were really cute and well-built dogs. The drive was wonderful one as expected. Weather as mentioned also was at its best. We crossed Saspol, Basgo and all the way to Ulleh. Just before reaching Lamayaru the mountains started to look like moonscapes. It was again something new, unique which I had never seen before. A feeling that we reached moon. However, soon after we reached Lamayaru. It was a wonderful, peaceful city with a picturesque view from the top where the Gompa was situated. As usual the Gompa was a serene worshipping place and we spent around 45 mins before returning back. On the way back we went to Alchi a colourful scenic village with greenery all around. There we had a sumptuous lunch and then the walk to the Alchi monastery was nice too. Since there were no tourists it made the place even more peaceful and quiet. While returning back from Alchi I asked Karma that I will drive the Xylo. At first he was a bit apprehensive but since kindness was his religion he could not turn down my request. I enjoyed driving through this paradise for 20 Kms before reaching once again the actual confluence or the Sangam point. This time stayed there for 30 mins before going to Pathhar Sahib Gurudwara and Hall of Fame on the way back. I liked the Hall of fame as got to learn so many things and incidents that took place historically around that place. Also felt proud of our army who are doing a wonderful job to ensure everything is normal considering the minus temperature it faces most part of the year. Lastly saw the Spituk gompa before returning back to our guest house.
Day 4: Today we had plans to visit Pangong Lake and hence had to make an early start since it was a day trip from Leh. Had no plans to face the chilly temperature at night in Pangong. To our surprise Karma did not turn up but sent his brother Samthang Giaso to be our driver/guide for the day. I found his Xylo even better and newer than Karma’s. Soon we felt at ease with our new friend. Just before the divider to Pangong and Tso moriri there was a stop called Karu. Here we had our aloo/gobi parantha with achar as our breakfast. Also we had to fill in some personal details to get a permission from Army to visit Pangong. It’s a routine 5 min work which is part of the flow. The drive to Pangong was again heavenly via Sakti, Durpuk and Changla pass. We got down at Changla which incidentally was one of the highest point of my life so far 🙂 It was chilly cold but still managed to capture the moments before we started for our final stretch to Pangong. Once we reached Pangong it was surreal. Honestly, I had never seen such beauty before. The water was blue and calm. As long as my vision went I could see only the lake. Though it was a bit cloudy that day but still made it to the 3 Idiot shooting point and had an amazing experience. Again it made more enjoyable as there were less tourists, almost none. On our way back to Karu we gave lift to 2 beautiful ladies (mom and daughter) who were well dressed and were coming to attend a marriage party in Leh.
Day 5: We were all set for Nubra another big stretch to be covered but to our pleasant surprise saw a whole lot of snowfall in the morning. Eventually had to decide to cancel our plan for Nubra and went for covering all the remaining places to see around Leh. We went to Shey palace and then to Drukpa White Lotus school where the 3 Idiots movie was shot. A wonderful school in all parameters and probably one of the best located schools in this whole world. Next it was a stop to Thiksey gompa, followed by Hemis , Matho village and Stok palace. All the Gompas were beautiful but Thiksey was a level apart. The journey towards the Matho village around mid Oct is some visual delight from mother nature. It was something beyond my imagination that nature can be so beautiful. After a wonderful day came back to Leh in the evening and did some local shopping. Bought bag written Julley (which means Hello, Hi all kind of good wishes in Ladakhi) and pashmina shawls. Had coffee and chocolate cashew cake before we came back to our guest house.
Day 6: So today we had to reach Nubra as this was the last planned place in our itinerary which was yet to be covered. So we went to Nubra again early in the morning via South Pollu, Khardungla and North Pollu. Khardungla was at an astonishing highest motorable pass around 17500 ft above sea level with equally chilling cold temperature. We unfortunately got stuck for 45 mins due to the heavy snowfall. After crossing Khardungla we reached North Pollu where had Maggi and it tasted so good like never before. To have hot maggi served at minus temperature is the best medicine. Soon after we reached Diskit village where we saw the big Buddha statue and a mesmerizing view of the Nubra valley. Then we went a bit ahead to Hunder where we took the camel ride (Bactrian double hump). It was a sand desert. Again the landscape was awesome. Finally we came to Hotel Siachen for the night to take rest. The owners (uncle/auntie) who were Ladakhis were extremely good hosts and we even had a Ladakhi style dinner at night. We sat on the ground and had small short wooden tables in front where the best quality homemade food was served.
Day 7: Now the sad part. Coming back to Leh, started a bit late and early enjoyed the relaxed ride back. Felt really bad to leave those places far behind. As we say all good things must come to an end so did our trip. Next morning took flight back home. It was like coming back from heaven to earth and the wait started to go back to Leh at least one more time in this life.