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Pralay posted a topic in HimalayasFirst I thought to write a travelogue, but there is so much written material on Ladakh on the internet, I thought better I would share a snap-story, which is beyond just photos, which is short, crisp, informative yet enjoyable. Yes, I will share information & tips for our readers as well. So let’s get started.. sit back, relax & enjoy our travel tale! Our Plan: 23rd Sept: Hyderabad to Srinagar by flight, enjoy Dal lake. 24th Sept: Srinagar to Kargil. 25th Sept: Kargil To leh. 26th Sept: Leh local sightseeing. 27th Sept: Leh to Nubra valley. 28th Sept: Nubra valley To Pangong lake. 29th Sept: Pangong Lake to Leh 30th: Sept: Morning Airport drop. First view of paradise on earth! We spent a lazy afternoon by the famous Dal lake! Dal lake is an urban lake of Srinagar of India. It is very integral to tourism and recreation in Kashmir. Dal Lake is a misnomer as "Dal" in Kashmiri means lake. The ecosystem of Dal is ecologically rich and house to beautiful flora & fauna. Misty peaks of the Pirpanjal mountains are also seen in the background. Sometimes you just need to watch a magnificent sunset like this: Beauty has one word definition: Kashmir! After the sunset The Dal lake became crowd free, tranquil.. we thought it’s the best time for a shikara ride! We spent lovely time on a shikara while having kashmiri chai ”Qawaah” & Pakoda! As we were taking an evening stroll along the famous Dal-lake, which is the jewel of Srinagar , we spotted a vast sheet of water reflecting the carved wooden balconies of the houseboats. These houseboats provide fooding & lodging facilities to the tourists & travellers. Mostly locals are involved in this business .It provides unique experience of living on the water in a cedar-paneled elegant bedroom. As we spoke to some locals, we got to know that, some of these houseboats were built in the early 1900s, and are still being rented out to tourists!! We woke up around 5 in the morning to see Dal Lake during sunrise, Oh buoy! Oh buoy! How could I capture the entire feel in a photo!! Located within Srinagar's iconic Dal Lake the floating vegetables market of Srinagar , is a place where Kashmiris living within the lake buy their daily fruits, flowers and vegetable supplies. Of course, the lake is already famous for it's houseboats, but the floating market is essential for life to function within the lake. this is sort of a wholesale market where small and big shopkeepers (floating boat-shops) buy vegetables from vegetable growers and then go off in their boats to houseboats and other small villages within the lake and sell these to them. Apparently most of these are grown within and around Dal itself. Reflection! We were off to Leh after a night halt over the famous Dal lake at Srinagar. It took 2 days for us to cover the distance so that we can enjoy the beauty of Srinagar-leh highway. Most tourists are very fond of Sonmarg, which is of course beautiful, but we found Kangan is a very beautiful town as well spread over a 50 km long splendid gorge valley. Relentless flow of river Sind was adding charm to the "Gorge"ous valley. This was taken before we enter Zozila Pass. Srinagar Leh Highway or NH1D is one of the most beautiful highways in our country. One will experience stunning landscapes & lovely tarmac except few stretches throughout the journey upto Leh. A journey that you cannot afford to miss any part of. Somebody rightly said "Those who have road in their heart, can never be homeless". This snap shows every bit of the quote! After a comfortable stretch till Baltal, it was time for us to enter rough, rugged, treacherous yet magnificent zozila. Though "La" itself means "pass" in many Himalayan languages, but people usually refer Zozila Pass. Nearly 10 km long, this pass connects Ladakh region to the rest of our country, Kashmir region to be specific. It was not easy; no its not a sunday morning drive. There's very little room for any mistake in this pass. This snap was taken when the road started improving! We looked at those sharp mountain edges to find a only a thin line, that’s the ‘road’. It’s nothing more than a one-lane crumbling dirt trail that hugs some of the tallest, gigantic mountains in the world. The majestic landscape on the Srinagar Leh Highway has many less known, rarely explored places. Little did we know about the mythological importance of the place, we took a stopover at Draupadikund or Dropadikund soon we spotted breathtaking vistas all around. It was worth by all means, more than anything else over there, the silence of this place & the whispering of river dras which consumed us slowly will stay in our heart forever... Before call it a day at Kargil, we visited Kargil War Memorial near Dras. Though the war known as kargil war but the war happened right here at Dras, where the range can be seen in the background. It was very difficult for us to control tears, after seeing the tololing mountain range where the war actually happened. An experience every Indian must have!! Adrenaline hit us & gave pure goosebumps when we saw the below quote there, "If death strikes before I prove my blood, I swear I will kill death.. " Next morning, kargil town from the top! River Suru can be seen in the picture Since rest was an important part of this trip to acclimatise, we started off from kargil rather late. We took a short break at small, little & peaceful village called Mulbekh after around two hours into our journey of the day. There we found these Prayer flags were fluttering in the wind like it supposed to. Prayer flags essentially carry our prayers through the wind to get them answered. It is believed that prayer flags moving in the wind generate a natural positive energy. Colour fading from the flags is considered auspicious, since this means that the prayers were carried by the breeze - fading colours are a sign of it. It's not just some fancy accessory. Everything right from the colour to the words on the flags has a deeper meaning. The Mantra printed on the flags is "Om Mani Padme Hum" . Though OmManiPadmeHum can not really be translated into a simple phrase or sentence, however the common belief is, you can accumulate merit and purify your delusions by chanting this Mantra. Soon we reached Namikala. As a tradition, we made this pile of seven stones to carry good luck on our way ahead!! Our ladakh trip made us realise one thing that, when you're truly on road, deep inside, you start feeling every part of mother nature as your travel partner. This snap shows, along with giant himalayan mountain ranges, river Indus is also flowing with us as true travel companion. Somewhere near Alchi, when we were still around 60 km away from Leh. Highway to Heaven? Srinagar Leh Highway comes to end!! A road which is beyond beautiful. A journey to one heaven from another. Moment when finally got Leh'D!! Leh Santi Stupa is situated on Changspa hill at a height of almost 14000 ft. Built in 1991 by Ladakhi Buddhists who offered voluntary labour & Japanese Buddhists who consider India as a sacred birthplace of Buddha. It is a major tourist's attraction in Leh, which was built as a symbol of peace & to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism. To avoid monotonous & typical frame of santi stupa, we went to a nearby hill top to capture this!! Main reason why we went to the top of Shanti Stupa is, it gives a perfect bird's eye view of the entire Leh during sunset. This view made us realise once again that, Leh is not a destination, it's a journey. A journey on the curves of hills which is beyond imagination!! Apart from having immense geographical importance, as it connects Indus Valley to the Nubra & Shyok Valley, KhardungLa has its historical importance as well. It lies on the ancient silk route, from Leh to Khasgar in Central Asia. As many as 10000 horses ploughed this route annually. The traditional trade caravan, Bactrian camels carried Silk across this east west highway, hence giving it the name Silk Route. It borders on the Karakoram Range & presently a very very important route for Indian Army as it's the only route to reach Siachen by road. We started off our journey from Leh little early in the morning to reach Khardungla Top, which is nearly at 18000 ft, claimed as "world's highest motorable road". But, for us equally interesting thing was climbing around 7000 ft in just about 40 Km which takes barely an hour or two!! For a moment heart stopped beating when our driver friend told us, KhardungLaTop..!! claimed as "worlds highest motorable road". Unbelievable is the apt word to describe this place, we were around 18000 ft above the sea level and frankly we could feel that. The air was so thin, every breath we took was hard palpitation on our heart! After all standing at that height after an elevation gain of 7000 ft in just an hour is not a joke!! From Khardungla Top, it was around 50 km, we were taking a maggi break at Khalsar T junction, from where road towards left was our next destination, Hunder. Our driver friend informed straight road is going to Panamik, famous for its sulphur hot springs, and is a small village which is nestled very close to the Siachen glacier, though not very popular among tourists. Made a sudden change in our plan to explore the unexplored! The journey along the Nubra River and bird sightings against the backdrop of barren mountains gave us mesmerising scenic visuals!! So finally we were at Hunder, which is a part of the Nubra Valley. Its such a weird place.. just think about it.. you've sort of desert which is surrounded by Snow Clad Mountains ; you've harsh rays of the sun yet the cold breeze coming in from the mountains and this river kinda creates oasis right in the middle of the dunes!! The Bactrian Double Humped Camels came to India & Ladakh via silk route. For most of the tourists these camels are the main attractions of Nubra valley. Originally from Bactria, Central Asia, these camels have high degree of tolerance for cold, drought & high altitude. They were used significantly as pack animals by traders of the Silk-Route. After the closure of the silk route, it is believed some of these camels were let off into the wild, and that's how today these are found in Hunder, Nubra Valley. However, in recent times they've been domesticated & are used to give rides to tourists. Knowing that, we could not stop ourselves to take a snap with one of these wonders of nature! Camel joy ride in Hunder during the sunset is a very different experience all together. Watching the white desert while lights & shades are continuously playing magic with its colours, makes the experience even more special!! This morning scene of the white desert was captured while we were leaving from Hunder. With the beautifully painted blue sky in the backdrop, the sand dunes of white desert was looking stunning bright & clear, shining like a diamond!! This impressive 106 feet gold plated, tall statue of Maitreya Buddha was clearly visible from a distance as soon as we entered the Diskit Region.Maitreya is regarded as a Future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. Perched atop a hillock, facing the Shyok River towards Pakistan and complementing the surroundings, Maitreya Budhha was constructed in 2006 keeping in mind three objectives - protection of Diskit Village, prevention of further war with Pakistan, and to promote world peace. The statue was inaugurated by his holiness Dalai Lama in 2010. Planned for a 10 minutes visit, we ended up spending nearly half 'n hour fascinating the sheer brilliance of human art!! We spotted this herd of "pashmina goats" somewhere while en-routing Agham. These goats are famous for producing Kashmir Pashmina wool. The Pashmina goat or Changra as it's called in Changthang region of Ladakh , sheds its winter coat every spring. One goat sheds approximately 80–170 gram of the fibre. In fact, this Changthang region of Ladakh produces 40 thousand kilos of pashmina every year, largest in the world. This Livestock is the most vital source of income for the nomadic community of Changpas here. "Some roads are born to be admired and born to be travelled!" From Agham, we had a choice to go towards Wari-La and proceed to pangong, but that would set us back, causing further delay. Normally, to go to Pangong from Nubra most of the tourists break the journey at Leh, because the road via Agham-Shyok village is atrocious and had witnessed many landslides in past, some of which were caused by just an innocent honking!! Driver friend warned us for the overcast weather, because a sudden rainfall can worsen the situation. But, we weren't tourists.. we were adventurous.. so we decided to push the limit. And, we must pat on our back as the decision proved to be great! and made us believe that, "True Ladakh begins where the road ends" Last three hours we could spot merely three cars. There was not a soul in site..there was no mobile network.. no place to eat. We were counting on our driver friend, and he was counting on luck!! Exhausted by the treacherous ride, hunger & freezing air, we finally gotta see a tiny dhaba served us this warm & delicious maggi. Sitting by the bank of Shyok River, no one around except the gigantic Himalayas & this relentless river.. oh gosh! this is the best maggi we have ever had..!! Suddenly, we came across these guys..! Kiangs are the Tibetan wild asses, that inhabit this alpine grasslands. Its current range is restricted to Ladakh, plains of the Tibetan plateau and northern Nepal along the Tibetan border. Though mostly found in Changthang region of South-Eastern Ladakh, we were lucky enough to spot them in the North-Eastern side of Ladakh. Even our localite driver friend was surprised to see them here!! They were bit away from us & we didn't want to disturb them, so took this telephoto by zooming in. This photo just cant do justice to what we had experienced. It was a sight to feast our eyes! At the backdrop of pure blue sky & barren mountains.. these brown shaded kiangs & golden grasses were pure magical & absolutely stunning to say the least ..!! Love at first sight..!! First view of Pangong Lake. The ever famous Pangong Lake. We picked up a place, where nobody was there.. we sat down on the bank of Pangong Tso till it got dark to witness the divinity of mother nature in it's purest form.. it was exquisite! We just soaked in..we were speechless. The silence of this place mixed with the soft & rhythmic sound of the holy lake was pure magical..! The hours spent there are a few of the most beautiful ones of our life! Pangong Lake is indeed a marvel of nature! 5 Km wide at its broadest & 134 Km long with 60% extending into Tibet, China. The lake is huge and almost never ending! Surrounded by the naked mountains the blue water takes you to a different level of trans and confuses you between the sky and the water. The saline lake is almost still and extremely serene. There’s a saying in Buddhism that, if you make stone piles at some place and genuinely wish, your soul would definitely visit there, if not now.. in your afterlife..!! And we couldn’t keep ourselves from making one here! Hoping Pangong will call us again! The aura of the overnight stay at Pangong will have a long lasting impression on us. Following the magical stargazing at night, we woke up to witness this magnificent sunrise... A view anyone would die for..!! Its a fundamental belief that road trip teach you so much about your co-traveller. Our trip to Ladakh has brought us closer than ever before.. !! The landscape we were traveling while headed back to Leh was lovely... The terrain was like Humpy meets Grand Canyon meets Rajasthan meets Decan Plateau.. It was a mix of so many things! There we met this guy, "Marmot". Marmots are large oversized ground squirrels living in this harsh terrain. The Himalayn Marmot lives in colonies of varying sizes. Different sized deep burrows keep them warm even in sub zero temperature. In winter they go into hibernation. Over the years, Marmots seem to have become human friendly & can be seen freely roaming around here. PS: Attention please dear tourists! These wild animals don't need your extraordinary love & care. They don't want your food as well. They born to be wild, let them be wild.. They can manage their food for their survival. So, PLEASE DON'T FEED OR TEASE THEM After crossing the treacherous road of Chang La till Shakti, finally we're back to Leh to say goodbye at the end of our journey, and oh gosh...what a journey it has been!! We got a chance to visit comparatively small, less crowded Spituk Monastery before we faded away from Ladakh. So this is my last snap-story of our recent Ladakh trip, would like to wrap up with our favourite snap & true feeling of the trip.. The Himalayan Range is easily one of the harshest environment on the earth but it certainly is one of the most beautiful as well. From the soldiers who laid down their lives to protect this land to the BRO workers who are endlessly putting their effort to make roads of these areas in a good shape.. we can't help but feel a deep sense of respect having experienced all these. This is our first time to Ladakh, and certainly isn't our last and it is an experience we're going to cherish for the rest of our life. Information & Tips: 1) No need to book your accommodation in advance, unless you are going in a peak season or going in a group, Go there, check rooms, bargain & stay. Trust me, you will get way better deal than on the internet. 2) Be flexible. When you are travelling to Himalayas, better not to have a fixed plan. Just see how many days you have & broadly fix which areas you want to cover. That''s all. It greatly helps. Any emergency situation like bad weather, landslides, you don't need to worry about your cancellation of hotel! Also, unplanned trip is the best kind of trip. So.. 3) About medicines: See, it depends. I am not a doctor. But whatever we followed worked really well with us! First, Drink lots of water, have minimum 5-6 litres of water. It works like a magic. It will provide support of oxygen, will keep you fresh. Second, "khana kam khana, pani zyada peena". We used to have light breakfast around 7 in the morning, then maggi for the whole day in the interval of 2-3 hours. Along with that, we had dry fruits, energy bars. And at night, 2-3 rotis, sabji, dal in general. Always remember, have small portion of light food in short intervals. Dont skip it. Have more than the normal amount of water. Along with water we used to take 1 liter of Glucon-d/Electrol during day time. It will provide you energy in those treacherous journeys! & keep your hydration level checked in case you are dehydrated. We didn't take a single medicine, though kept Deriphyllin & Diamox ready apart from all SOS medicines & first aid kit. You can carry a small can of oxygen, though your driver should have one in his car. At least our's car had. Do check up with doctor before you go to ladakh. Another important thing you can carry is camphor stone (not the puja samagri one). It is available in most of the supermarket. Just wrap it in a handkerchief & inhale in case you feel breathlessness. It worked like wonder, even for headache 4) Leh market is pretty big & you will find almost all the items there. Buy dry fruits from there, fresh, cheap. ATMs are available in Leh. But beyond leh, cash availability can be an issue. So carry enough cash when you are out of leh. 5) Carry a hot water bag per person. It will greatly help in places like Pangong, Tso Moriri etc. Nights are too chilling there. And during night you can keep yourself & the bed warm with the help of hot water bag. 6) Mobile network: No pre-paid will work in Ladakh. Carry either airtel or BSNL post paid. While BSNL worked in most of the areas of ladakh, but airtel is next best option. Idea post paid was not working for me from Srinagar itself. One way its good, we were connected to the nature by disconnected from the rest of the world!! 7) Keep informing your friends & family, it will help in case of emergency. 8) Rigzen was our driver friend. Such a lovely person & my good friend. He is one gem of a person. Very very good driver, took every care of us, gave time to us for photographs or any halt. We will go with only Rigzin if we ever visit Ladakh again. His number is 9622950842. Few instances, on the night of pangong, we were worrying about how to spend that chilling night, Rigzin arranged the hot water bag for us! We never told him for this. Had he not arranged that hot-water bag, that night would have been difficult. He just read our face!!! Second, As my Idea SIM stopped working the moment I landed in Srinagar, I requested him to arrange a BSNL sim, he was having dual sim phone. he gave me one of his number in front of me!! Third, in Leh, after a full day drive, he used to come to our stay from his home (20 mins distance) to take us to the food joint nearby. Any other specific query please drop it in reply section, will surely share information if its known to me!! ALL RIGHTS RESERVED FOR THE CONTENT & THE IMAGES OF THIS POST Signing off..!!