Here are some reasons why Ladakh was special for me:
Jullay! Says the city of Leh welcoming every visitor like it’s their home. Barath Guest House is your place if you want to experience the true hospitality of a Ladakhi family, see the khardungla pass from your room and eat some of the best food (made from vegetables of their own garden!). Let your body soak some fresh air of Leh for a day as you relax and acclimatize to this highland. Trekkers- one way to prep for your treks is to climb the 400 steps of Sanchi Stupa from where you can see the whole of Leh. After this tiring expedition, you deserve some binge eating at the pizzerias of the city or on the roadside kebabs. Rest well before you head on to exploring the wild areas of Ladakh.
The Markha valley trek is that perfect combination of ease and adventure that every trekker dreams of. Starting from the base camp at Chilling (10,000 feet) you start walking the endless arid mountains of Ladakh. The company and guidance of the sherpas and the horse riders is like having the mountains guide you into safety, comfort and beauty. They bring more than you need on your pallet- from pitching your tents, cooking Thukpa and telling stories of the mountains to waking you up with black tea. Grasslands or mountains? The trek confuses you till you lay down in the cold to sky-gaze and see shooting starts amidst the silhouette of mountains. It is not until you reach the summit (Thochunske) that you realize what your trek has taught you; most of all about yourself and about how important is the descent from a height of 17000 feet or more towards your base camp.
THE HEMIS LOVE
The biggest monastery in Ladakh, Hemis Monastery is worth visiting if you want to get a taste of the Buddhist culture and religion. You can witness the lives of monks, their routine practices, visit the Hemis museum and buy souvenirs. The mesmerizing sound of the gong will teleport you to the ancient times of Gautam Buddha.
SALT WATER LAKES
If only language could describe the waters of Pangong Tso or Tsomoriri Tso. These mystical mountain lakes are cold, salty and are in all shades of blue. The brown mountains cup the reflection of the sky in the clear waters of the lakes. They create a heart-touching harmony and some amazing pictures!
Pangong Tso is a six hour drive from Leh, via the third highest pass in the world (Changla Pass).
To get the best experience of this paradise, a combination of good health, sensitivity towards the region and its community and an open mind is all you need; and around 40,000 rupees to do these five things (if travelling with a group of 10 people in a shared car). Get a sturdy 60-70 liter backpack, pack some warm clothes and put on those raybans once you book your flight to Leh or train to Chandigarh. Oh! And do not forget to pack lots of nuts, body lotion, a good torch and power bank (if you want to capture every moment of your trip). That is only how far you are from stacking stones next to the fluttering prayer flags of your summit.
– Written by Ayushi Limbachiya