The Ladakh Reflections - Day 1

As i start to write down my experiences of my travels within Ladakh, it would be highly unwise if i don't start by thanking the people who have made this long cherished dream of mine so fulfilling and exhilarating. To Nawang, my friend who went all the way to see that i am well cared and looked after and always felt at home, to all the places he showed me, all the smallest of details he told me about things. It was just superb and this whole reflections would not have been possible without all that tiny details. To Sami, Aunty ji and Namgyal who were there, thank you all for the good times.It is good to have good friends in Ladakh. Period. :)
(leh city, ladakh range, the clouds, the sky from shanti stupa)

(view of the leh city from the shanti stupa)

(another view en-route to shanti stupa)

As i boarded the much delayed kingfisher flight to Leh, only one thought raced my mind. Was it for real, was one of the things i have in my list of todo before i die, really about to happen. It is not very common that you really achieve those things. Away from this scorching summer, away from this uneventful life. The short one hour flight was a treat in itself, as i had the window seat to glance the joyous views outside. As we passed over the smaller himalayas, i could see green hills with white lines curving randomly here and there. The thinner white ones were for roads and the thicker for rivers probably. Near the settled areas, the mountains were cut into steps like fields which looked like map with isobars in the relief. As we go further north, what looked like little south of kangra (on the in-flight entertainment system navigation map), the mountains turned craggier and edgier and colored deep green. A little further, the cloud cover was broken by the towering snow covered peaks of the higher himalayas and then it lay just beyond the horizon, the endless expanse of snow covered peaks and no words are enough to describe what you see across and what you experience. Slowly the higher peaks give way to what look like glaciers and you could see the glaciers as slow moving river of ice and clearly distinguish glacial moraines between the high peaks. After a while, the snow on the peaks was intermittent. The peaks looked smaller now and the color changed to brown with some spattering of snow. The pilot announced that we are to land shortly and we started to lose height perceptibly. The peaks looked much closer now, and in fact they were indeed. After a while, we descended below the occasional clouds and banked sharply and i could see what seemed like we were flying parallel to a mountain range which slowly appeared amidst the cloud which reminded me of the dramatic opening to the jurassic park island in the movie. We descended more and i could see the green valley and settlements down below. The plane banked left and right sharply many times till it was just above the ground and when i saw below, all i could see was sand plains and i wondered maybe if it is indeed going to land on sand. Thankfully that was not the case to be. The whole airport had only this one plane that landed just now. After a short taxi and passing a very nondescript terminal, i was out where my friend (Nawang) was waiting for me. It feels too good already, the air is cool and its pleasurable to be out in the sun.

A short ride in his car, and we were at his home, a nice two storey home in karzu, leh city. After settling down and some old times gossip over lunch, i was advised to rest for some hours to get acclimatized to the altitude and thin air. I slept for couple of hours with the blanket and the cozy feeling that accompanied it. Around 4pm, as my friend readied himself, i went to the terrace to savor the magical views around. Nearby on top of a barren mountain against the blue sky, was a castle and temple (Namgyal-Tsemo) overlooking the leh city. A little further below was a brown palatial building called as Leh Palace. I felt like exploring them right away. On the north lay Shanti Stupa perched midway on a hill. On the west were the high peaks of the Ladakh range and on the east were lush green high poplars that grew on fields beside. As we took to the road to the nearby Shanti Stupa, the road was filled filled with foreign backpackers of all hue. We passed by a Israeli synagogue and there seems to be lot of Hebrew text around. My friend told me that this place is famous with the Israeli holiday makers. As we winded up the hill, I could see the never ending magnificent expanse of the Ladakh range and the brilliance that lay in front of my eyes. The green cover gave way to higher alluvial plains and then the hills and the snow beyond it. I stopped by to capture this moment in time. A short ride, and we were at Shanti Stupa. The view from there is something that can not be missed ever. It is as if all the nature and the elements are there for you, just for you. I wonder how it would be to have a window that opens out to such breathtaking beauty. We both sat down, and talked about the hills and the town that lay in front of us. The peaks are part of Ladakh range that runs parallel to the Indus River, the highest peak that one can make out from naked eye is indeed the highest, at 6130mt called the Stok Kangri peak. Ladakh (land of passes) was brought into Indian domain by Zorawer Singh, the military commander of Ranjit Singh. Leh's mean altitude is 3500mt and population is 19000-22000 people settled on the banks of Indus. As we did the circulatory walk around the Stupa on a hill, hidden in the relief there was a small hut. It is said, that sometimes monks undergo rigorous meditation there for a 3 years, 3 months and 3 days. After couple of more shots, we drove downhill and took a turn toward Upper Leh, a small hamlet that had a semblance of a village with mud houses and fields and trees. A small donkey sanctuary by the roadside opened by some foreign NGO caught my eye. This was were old and unhealthy donkeys that roamed around Leh city are brought to spend rest of their lives. We drove for another 15-20 minutes through the roads of Leh before we were back at the guesthouse for some old times and some new talk over many cups of kawa (traditional green tea with spices and cinnamon i guess).


  1. Nice description. It looks as if all is here right infront of you... and yeah, the pictures are nice too!!
    Hope you continue the same for all days of your trip!!

  2. A very sweet description of Leh as you see to yourself when you first descent from heights to its low land. Glad that you loved your short stay at my homeland.

  3. Such a sweet description....I completely concur with you on the heavenly place called ladakh. And to tell you frankly , its the people I found there who give character to the place, the simplicity of the place is simply enchanting, the landscapes grandeur, its just exhilirating