Trip Start Jun 12, 2009
11Trip End Jun 28, 2009
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
In the morning of 14th June 09 we are airborne for Leh from New-Delhi. We are in air for nearly one and half hours. From the window seat, I can see deep down below, reeling under my eyes, valleys, plateaus, glaciers, snow laden Great Himalayan and Zanskar Mountain Ranges gleaming in the soft morning sun and also the bare hills casually clad in white clouds and enwrapped in silvery mist. Finally we are in a vast plateau, seemingly alien land, far away. I enjoyed the flight over the Himalayas which I shared with tourists from many countries … all eager to embrace the trans-Himalayan charm of Ladakh.
We land in Leh, around 8.30 am. From the conditioned-air of a packed-to-capacity aero-plane we are now in a pure and fresh air; refreshingly cool and invigorating. I am fascinated as I touch the highest elevated and inhabited land of Ladakh and enthralled under the encompassing grip of crisp cool morning air of the cloudless sky at an altitude of 11,500 ft above sea level, where lively River Indus shining in the sun lazily flows under the shadow of snow capped bare mountains. The air is thin but we can breathe easy. Maze of stark multihued mountains surround us from all sides. They appear dwarf and very close-by. If we stretch out a bit we could possibly touch the snows! The ground is strewn with rocks, boulders and sand.
Leh airport is simple, quiet and peaceful, unlike the crowded, noisy and artificial sophistication of New Delhi airport. I like it. I feel happy and excited. On landing I touch the soil with both my hands in obeisance, close my eyes and pray. I reverently kiss the gentle breeze and commune with it to carry my love far and wide. And I feel connected ….
A smooth drive and pleasant passage through rolling grounds takes us to our Guesthouse in the Leh town. A huge, elaborately ornate Gate followed by massive 'Mani' wall, alongside huge statue of Buddha and prayer wheels welcome us as we climb to enter Leh town-ship. Known as ‘Rengmo’, these "Mani" walls with “Om-Mani-Padmi-Hom” mantra inscribed stones within, can be seen everywhere as we approach a town or a monastery. This ubiquitous Buddhist Mantra literally means “Oh Jewel in the Lotus” and that’s what they seek, while murmuring the mantra all the time singly or collectively in soft drone creating halo of spiritual vibrations. There are three big and ancient stupas, as we enters Leh, erected on huge platforms, cylindrical in shape and topped by rising conical towers. These chortens or stupas house the ashes of departed Lama.
The Guesthouse campus is just above the Leh town; is in open space with apricot, salix and poplar trees in the surround, commands splendid view of the Palace, the plateau, hills and snows. In such cheerful setting I wanted to roam about and soak in the sun but we were advised complete rest for 36 hours to get acclimatized to the thin air of the new environment. However, I could not resist the temptation to be out in the open and lap the surrounding rugged beauty and charm of silvery snow peaks of Stok ranges peeping out just in front. After breakfast we lie down under the cozy comfort of the soft comforters and drift into disturbed sleep, only to get up for a while for lunch and thereafter again surrender to the dreamland and rest in the quiet and serene ambience until late afternoon.
Towards evening we set out for ‘Sindu Darsan Festival’, about 5 km away on the right bank of Indus River. We enjoy being here and touch the waters of the serene and stately Indus River, the life line of Leh. Indus River originates from the north of Mount Kailash Tibet; inters Indian Territory at Demchok in Changthang valley. The water of the river is not as cold as I thought it would be. The trigger-happy enthusiasts begin to click their cameras.
We return as sun sets behind the hills. The silhouette of hills against the setting sun becomes dark and the serrated tops are luminous with fading sunrays. Nearby snow peaks turn molten gold and slowly become lifeless. The twilight here remains for longer duration than we are used to. Finally night falls; gentle air blows; it’s all quiet and cold. It is exhilarating and I revel in joys of being here.
Leh is the district headquarter and is the largest district of Jammu and Kashmir state. Earlier Ladakh was single largest district and Leh it’s headquarter but was later bifurcated in to two districts of Leh and Kargil. Since the time immemorial Leh has been the commercial capital of Ladakh, a commercial center where caravans from China and India met to do business. It was central transit point on the silk route from China to India, linking Yarkand and Kashgar both in Sin kiang province of China in the north, Lhasa capital of Tibet in the east, Kashmir in the west and Himanchal Pradesh in the south. Traders from Punjab, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Turkey and Arabia congregated in the main square in Leh and displayed their merchandise like shawls, spices, saffron, salt, sugar, wheat cloth and even opium etc in exchange with wool, carpets, leather, gold, silver, tea, tobacco etc. brought by traders from central Asia. Hard working nomads of Changthang and Zanskar whose main occupation is sheep and cattle rearing, today as in past produce sheep and pashmina wool, sheep skin, meat, butter, cheese, dry peas, and dry apricot. It amazes me that despite desert like conditions and extreme climatic conditions Leh region produces in abundance variety of vegetable like cabbage, onion, turnip, carrot, radish, peas, tomatoes and mustard. Soil seems to be productive and people, very hard working. It is an important center of Buddhism, Buddhist-art and cultural heritage. The population mainly consists of Buddhists, Muslims and a small Christian community living together in close harmony.