Weekend in Leh, Ladakh

Maitrey Buddha’s smiling face invited us to partake of the simple, hardworking and happy lives of the Ladakhis.

Buddha at Thikse monastery, Leh, LadakhOn the highest motorable road to Khardung La pass at 18, 380 feet, near Leh in Ladakh, Professors Neerja and Anadi Pande along with their daughters Sachi and Priyam were mesmerised by the chip-chocolate snow and rock landscape in this part of the Himalayas. AnandWay gets a peep into their summer holiday…

Acclimatizing in Little Tibet

Ladakh opened for tourists in the year 1974 we were told. Lucky us! Where the sun shines bright on whitewashed Gompas/monasteries nestled on rocky mountainsides almost communicating with the blue heavens and rocky earth all at once, Ladakh showed us another facet of the beautiful Himalayas.

View of snow peaks from guest house, Leh, LadakhLeh City in Ladakh took our heart away in the three days that we spent there. The high altitude resulting in lesser density of oxygen required us to breathe slowly and deeply to acclimatize. We put up in a family-run guest house with a smiley granny as our loving host.

With a view of snow peaks on the terrace, we had breakfast comprising of local buns, bottled jam, omlettes and Yak milk, followed by exploratory walks around town. Dalai Lama’s pictures everywhere reminded us of its name ‘Little Tibet’. We picked up sweaters from the Tibatan market, and a special piece of tapestry with Chinese dragons for memory's sake to display on a wall back home.

Sun and snow

The cold despite the bright sun befuddled us completely! On our way to Thikse monastery we greeted mighty river Indus on her pebbly bank, and imagined what it would be like with white-water rafters dotting it in August-September. Meanwhile, we splashed a little in the ice-melt, and marvelled at the locals who were arranging a net at the shallow edge for the fish to simply swim into!

Thikse monastery and library

Thikse monastery and library, Leh

Thikse monastery has a library with well preserved Buddhist manuscripts. They are covered in red cloth treated with special pest-repellents and protected by two wooden covers. A man dressing up a standing statue of Buddha with paint, allowed us the privilege to hold his wooden bowls of paint for him as he brought divinity to life. Maitrey Buddha’s golden smiling face invited us to partake of the simple, hardworking and happy lives of the locals who were almost conditioned by Buddha’s philosophy of compassion and peace.

Buddha's peaceful ways find place in locals' conduct

Ladhakhi women The people here sure are friendly. And language is no barrier! Ladakhi, Hindi or English, or simple sign language, body language; smiling faces with no pretence convey with crystal clarity a welcome to this land where rainfall is less, vegetation is less, life is a bit difficult, yet satisfaction reigns on smiling, content, wrinkled, look-alike faces. The wrinkles being from the stark play of sun and wind; and not due to insane worry, like we are used to in our daily lives back home.

Highest motorable roads are to be found at the top of the world, of course!

Apple trees tossing their heads in the chilling breeze and onions rooted in scraggy kitchen gardens speak volumes of the local spirit of untiring effort in this desert city with minuscule rainfall. Rations have to be procured from Srinagar during the three summer months that the road from Srinagar is free from snow. Project Himank run by Border Roads Organization to build motorable roads at the top of the world, keeps the lifeline ticking.

A jeep-ride to Khardung La Pass which opens the way to Siachen glacier was really an out and out fun! It had snowed heavily in June! We went berserk playing around; with nothing but the foggy sky, snow peaks and chip-chocolate ice lolly for company.

We returned, loaded with warm memories from the top of the world.

Khardung La, Ladakh

Travel facts

Ladakh is the highest plateau in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Most of it is at a height of 3,000 m (9,800 ft) or so. It spans not only the Himalayas but the Karakoram mountain range and the upper Indus River valley as well. Leh is the state's capital with an airport. Tourists to Manali in Himachal Pradesh often include Ladakh in their trip. Ladakh offers interesting adventure options such as mountaineering, trekking, camping and white-water river rafting. It is also a great place to witness cultural riches, or even simply be with nature. Take your pick :-)

Himalaya Series

Anisha Sharma
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