Sunday, June 9, 2013

Travelogue - Leh Ladakh 2013 - Part 1

Julley!!! ( pronounced Ju-leyy)

You might be in midst of exploring some of the countless palaces or monasteries or trekking somewhere in the wilderness or enjoying a solitary walk in the lanes of some village, and suddenly you will find yourself being greeted by the musical sound of this traditional ladakhi welcome greeting by a perfect stranger, followed by an irresistible heart warming smile, which in an instant will have touched and won your heart and you will no longer feel like a stranger in some distant land.

Nowhere, in your interactions will you find traces of any bitterness left from having toiled against one of the harshest terrain and cold environment for survival (the temperature I was told drops down to -45 degrees in winters, which last from September till March). In fact,The warmth in the smile and the greeting and the hearts of these simple, hard working, kind and honest people only radiates a certain joy, the joy probably of having beaten and survived the battle against cruel conditions of weather and environment (where lesser mortals, at least mortals like me would have failed to survive.)

There is some magic in the air of this region (of course it's free of pollution, which to our city dwelling lungs is magical in itself), It's probably this joy and the feeling of having made peace with what they have, that flows in the air, coupled with great work that nature has done in every nook and corner which makes this place so enchanting.

For 8 days, disconnected from the rest of the world, I wandered around lost in the lanes of leh and valleys of ladakh, sometimes trekking in the villages, exploring places and in the process discovering hidden gems of beauties, enjoying random encounters and conversations with locals and travelers, feeling stunned by the vast enormity and diversity of this treasure trove of landscapes.

                                        A sneak peek of the dealights of Leh and Ladakh

The valleys

The mountains

Sculptures in Snow

River basins


General Information -

Ladakh located in India, is a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, with it's capital being Leh. Situated at an altitude of about 10000 feet, it is surrounded by the Himalayas, Ladakh and Zanskar range, and is a cold arid desert, it's land locked position leading to lack of rains, and is fed mainly by streams from glaciers and rivers like Indus, Zanskar, Nubra and Shyok. The temperature varies from -40 in winters to 3-25 degrees in summers. Summer season in Ladakh is from June to July end, winters begin from October lasting till March end. It's geography is responsible for the vast variety in it's topography ranging from fertile valleys to grasslands to sand dune covered desert to bare mountains to snow covered peaks.

The best time to visit is from June till September ( you can go in April or may, but the weather around that time is pretty unpredictable and may play spoil sport with your plans) You can reach leh, either by driving in through, Manali-leh or Srinagar leh highways (when they open, information of which is available here ) These routes known for their scenic delights, at places are also back-breakingly bad and take about 30-36 hrs but the drive helps in acclamatisation, which will save you from Acute mountain sickness (AMS) but if u wish to spare your back the strain and time, you can take a flight to leh, some cities connected directly or through connecting flights by operators like Go air, Jet or Indian airlines (flights schedules depend on the weather conditions). For local advice, help or organising your trip you can check out I interacted with Tsewang Namgyal in this organisation, who was incharge of organising the transportation for my trip and did a great job. (And my interaction with a lot of locals left me wiser with the knowledge that it's better to organise the trip directly through local operators.)

While planning my trip, I studied AMS a lot, literature suggests taking Diamox 48 hrs before reaching and 24 hrs or longer after arrival depending upon individual response. I tried and along with Diamox avoided exertion and altitude for the first 24 hrs alongwith lot of sleep and water and Viola! no AMS. But please consult your doctor before taking this medicine and under no circumstances take this medication without medical advice. Do carry warm clothes, sunscreen, lip guards, sunglasses, chargers, extra camera batteries, torch (as electricity is pretty irregular).

Leh town is a regular town where u will be able to find packaged food, bottled mineral water, ATM, basic medicines and a lot of trekking stuff due to popularity of treks among travelers. Do carry all your required medications, along with medications for headache, nausea and vomiting. Pre-paid sim-cards from outside of the state of Jammu and Kashmir do not work here, amongst the post-paid connections only BSNL, Airtel and occasionally Vodafone offer connectivity, local connections take at least a week to get activated, so do carry a post-paid sim unless of course like me you would prefer to remain disconnected. Hotels and local cyber cafe provide wi-fi and internet connectivity.

Enough for one post, I shall share my experiences and adventures in the posts to come, till then explore ladakh online, let it work it's charm on you and it's magic entice you, till you are moved enough to experience it and it will be a worthwhile experience.

                                                    In my case it was a Bucket list experience.

The Experience