Me and Leh | Guest Blog

July 7, 2016 at 8:36 am |

If you are a traveler and not a tourist, you would certainly relate to this feel “Once in a Lifetime Journey”.

Though I would like to sum my journey of traveling between Srinagar-Leh-Ladakh as the statement above but NO-

It was “Not a Once in a Lifetime Journey”,

It was a journey where I met LIFE.

Touching nature ever so gently as I passed along secret lakes, beastly mountains, and dangerous terrains while exploring the unexplored and getting to know the unknown.

As I finished my birthday celebrations (27th May 2016) and yes by celebrations I mean, drinking like a fish, and getting everyone else drunk as well ;), I realized that in few hours I would embark on a journey, that I did not plan. Yes, being a solo traveler has its pro’s & con’s but then I got too comfortable in that space, so I kept asking myself,

Will I be able to sit near a lake for hours and think of NOTHING?

Will I be able to gaze at the stars past wee hours of midnight and not be bothered?

Will I be able to stop when I like, start when I feel, lay asleep when I want, eat and drink like there is no tomorrow?

My conscious mind answered with a NO to all these questions, because quite frankly I was travelling with 23 other human beings and I knew we were to stick to a schedule, but my sub-conscious mind kept telling me – “You god damn will” . I boarded the flight around 15 minutes past 5 in the morning telling myself, “This is how I Roll” 🙂

Day 1 – 28th May 2016. – Kolkata-Delhi – Delhi-Srinagar.

I am not a big fan of flying, but does it matter? I am taller than most by Indian Standards (6’2) and those cramped spaces ends up screwing with my sanity always – But hey, who’s complaining 🙂

Reached Srinagar a few minutes closing on 12:00 Noon, and started gearing up for the journey ahead. Met my co-travelers (some of them) and started off towards our accommodation for the night.

The day was well spent at Srinagar, relaxing around Dal Lake, getting on the boat, seeing the sunset while strolling across the lanes with fellow travelers. The weirdest part of the day was that I instantly connected with a few of my co-travelers, and began to wonder, “Do I know them from before”?

This is how you get surprised when:

A-You like and have been travelling solo for quite some time

B-You are more of an introvert by nature (Yes a 6’2, 29 Years Old Punjabi Introvert Man) – “We are rare”.

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We called it a day post our afternoon lunch and Meaty Dinner so that we could start off well the next day

Day 2 – Srinagar to Uleh

Yes , no typo here, Not Leh, Uleh. This one is a long stretch spanning across 400 Kms riding through really difficult terrains but also absorbing nature at its purest along the way. It was like seeing nature in its two extremes.

I still can’t forget how beautiful this resort was where we were put up for the night. Uleh Eco Resorts. Built on the banks of Zanskar river, I spent the night with my favorite friend (60 ML Black Dog) and fellow travelers who were now becoming friends.

Late to bed, but early to rise was the need of the hour on this trip, so we headed for our next miles on the road – The ever so grand “Leh”

Yes, we did cross Sonmarg on the way, feasting on Maggi, Egg Toast and Tea (The only staple food, I trusted after a few not so good experiences)

Were we crazy to stop in the middle of the road for a photoshoot? Hell No, we are travelers, that’s how we DO IT!!

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Yeah, yeah, them girls outnumbered us boys, but once again, NO COMPLAINTS 🙂

While on this road trip, we fiercely competed with each other over the rap portion of Yo Yo Honey Singh & Badhshah songs, but the real camaraderie started over the evergreen number “Oh Oh Jaane Jaana” pictured on our “Bhai”. Gosh, I am now singing this one in my head.

Day 3 – Uleh to Leh (After all. we need to get Leh’d)

A long journey concluded with an accommodation that was heavenly to say the least.

Woke up to the sound of the river flowing right next to my room, walked out to sit by the lake for (I never counted for how long I was there, I was just THERE!!) – EK Selfie to Banta hai Boss 🙂

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So stomachs full, decently hydrated due to overdose of Black Dog (last night) and gearing towards Leh. Enroute Leh, we had to but stop at the exact point where the Indus and Zanskar river merge. First hands experience of sitting by a lake that had two colors streaming through but not mixing together.

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Picture Perfect 🙂

Amidst the beauty that is nature offering everything from certain insanity to serene and bliss, we finally reached Leh an hour past noon.

Excited and hungry, immediately left thereafter to the nearest food stop and show some love for food. Tried Momos, Tried Thupkas, but ended up savoring good old Butter Nan & Kadhai Chicken. Maybe it is about how they make them and how I am used to eating them, but neither Momos nor Thupka were any good. Butter Nan & Chichen can never go wrong though 🙂

While others strolled through the market, I went back to the hotel, because boy oh boy, I needed some sleep by now, almost 4 days in a row and barely any sleep. Regret missing visiting Shanti Stupa because I overslept just like I was meant to but did not want to.

And as soon as the evening arrived, we got together over a few drinks, enjoyed each other’s company and about this night, enjoyed taking jibes at one particular poor soul who really gave us no other choice but to take our shot. A drunk teen high on ambitions with never ending questions and his quest for answers made this particular evening a memorable one. 🙂

Day 4 – Leh to Nubra Valley (Via the beast sitting at 18030 feet, Khardhungla Pass)

Don’t kill me but I do not have a photo of myself here. You know how sometimes the battery dies on you? Yeah, yeah careless me, but I am cool, because I spent around 30 Minutes on the highest motorable pass in the world feeling like it was the next best thing to home.

You thought I wouldn’t, yeah? Well I also thought I don’t have one, but then what do we have co-travelers for?

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Them girls, they never leave me alone 🙂 (All in good humor).

Well up next Nubra Valley – My first experience of camping under the stars. Bumpy road, post an elevation to 18030 feet and then going downwards stopping at close to 10,000 feet at Swiss Luxury Camps.

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And No, the pink one was not the one I was in. It was reserved for two pretty teens and was justifiable.

Nubra Valley, – You Beauty- Coupled with playing ice breaker games till wee hours of the night along with seeing a shooting star, the night was well spent or shall I say well camped.

Quad Bikes – The next day? – “Again, this is how I roll”

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Quad Bikes was followed with the Panamik Hot Springs, (Burning Hot Springs). It has purification benefits, and is known to cure ailments as well, but what I enjoyed the most there was this panoramic selfie on the edge of a mountain with almost the entire group being there.

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We then followed on to find a secret lake, a lake which is hidden in between the mountains and was playing Hide & Seek with us, much too well.

Yarab Tso Lake, a secluded lake where there was us and nobody, where there was ME and NO ONE.

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You know what I did after having checked into our Deluxe Camps again? Spent another night camping, seeing shooting stars, playing games, and then sat down in absolute silence inside my tent to pen a few words which I then slept over.

Day 6 – Nubra Valley to Leh.

Nubra – “I am coming back next year”, were my thoughts as we left after an eventful stay headed back towards Leh before we take off for our final journey to the ever so beautiful _________ (Wait for It, all in due course of time)

Reroute to Leh, we stopped by Diskit Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in Nubra Valley. It was beautiful to say the least and if you are the kind that loves the peace that monasteries bring, then it is a definite GO TO & SEE THAT place.

Back through the same old routes via Khardungla Pass and reached Leh 30 minutes past 5 in the evening.

Hungry I am, hungry we all are 🙂

Headed towards a true blue German Bakery and enjoyed a light dinner, (Just so you know a light dinner for a Punjabi means – Half a Dozen Butter Naan and Kadhai Chicken).

Enjoyed being accompanied by my friends (See, they were not just co-travelers anymore) over a few drinks, some games and good conversations.

Day 7 – Leh to Pangong Lake. (Pangong Tso)

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Can you even write about this place? Would words do any justice? Well, no harm in trying.

But before I explain more about what I felt when we were closing on Pangong Tso, some pictures of my bike ride from Leh to Pangong (So you know I am a biker stud as well) 🙂

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Note:- Blurry Pictures, but HAPPY ME.

Journey via Bikes is a separate travelogue in itself, so will share one next year when I ride again, but this time all on my own.

Pangong Lake (Pangong Tso) – You may laugh at me when I say this, or maybe relate to my emotions, but while approaching Pangong Lake, I suddenly noticed wet cheeks – Yes, there were tears in my eyes, at that time I did not know why, and at this time I still do not know why.

It is one of those instinctive reactions one feels when they connect with a place emotionally, spiritually and in every other way possible.

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No- these are not paintings, these are pictures of Pangong Lake (Be there, once to feel what I felt)

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(I am a left arm Medium Fast Bowler, hence the pose 🙂 (Some call it the Naagin effect as well) 🙂 🙂

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Will you believe when I say that:-

A-I decided to sit outside the tent under a clear sky full of shooting stars until late hours past midnight in freezing -5 degrees with a bonfire right in front of me, and some fellow travelers turned friends and my best bud (Scotch).

B- Such clear was the sky, that we could identify the Milky Way

C-And I did not fall sick thereafter

Maybe, when you truly enjoy the weather and the landscapes, your body works harder to ensure it gives you enough energy to enjoy more. Soul findings on this trip for me because irrespective of the extreme temperatures, barely any sleep, crossing through difficult terrains, and covering myself with just a jacket or a sweater at times, I did not for once felt sick or had loss of energy to the point where it would have interrupted the ecstatic happiness I was experiencing while on this trip.

So to top things off, here’s me and Pangong Tso.

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Where is Rancho’s School you say – Here on our way back?

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And yes, they now they have a school there called Rancho’s school. Pretty legit and happy to see that an Indian Movie can not only help boost tourism, but also help promote education in areas such as these where it is not easily accessible.

The next part of the trip is not worth detailing, it is sad, because it marks the end of my journey, and the only thing I did post reaching Srinagar, is catch a flight to Delhi, then one from Delhi to Kolkata and came HOME – (The one place and the only place that could top the list before Leh/Ladakh)

Key Points if you would like to embark on this journey:-

A-A traveler would enjoy, a tourist would get tired soon. Know which one you are before you take the first step.

B-If you are as careless as I am, then you will come back tanned, really really tanned, so arm yourself with cosmetics if you want to avoid it.

C-Acclimatization is individualistic, so keep your regular Diamox handy, and in addition carry Oxygen Cylinders if the need be.

D-Travel mate, Travel, and the rest, you’ll figure it out. Now GO ON and GET LEH’D.

 

 

About the author

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“If you are reading this, then I would like to thank you for your curiosity and appreciate that you would spend some minutes to read through my journey.

My name is Aakash Kapoor. Who is Aakash Kapoor you ask?
Born, brought up and still growing in the City of joy (Kolkata).
Vice President, Business Operations for the Wizard Group of Companies. (Helps keep the bank account warm)
A self proclaimed travel buff. An amateur writer. A scotch lover.
I work to make a living, and travel to make a life.

Motto I stand by:-

“If Travel is life, then I am not living it to the fullest yet”

“One Day You May”

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