Apologies that I missed my date with you all last week. But if you recollect, I had said that making one more trip is more alluring option than writing about it. And I made that trip as soon as I got a chance. I was in the Himalayas during Diwali, lost in their charm for the umpteenth time. But that is a story for another time. Presently, there is much more to be shared about the Land of Lamas. So, over to Ladakh once again!
One needs time to get acclimatized to Ladakh. The reason is its peculiar geography. Ladakh comes under a rain shadow region formed due to the mighty Himalayas. The rainfall is scanty and that explains the barren mountains sans greenery. The only vegetation is around the basin of river Sindhu. All these factors make oxygen scarce. The high altitude coupled with oxygen scarcity makes breathing difficult. If you feel out of breath after brisk walking for about half an hour normally, here in Ladakh you get that feeling within ten minutes. And so, it is advisable to give your body some time to get used to this. Also, this “getting used to” is faster if you travel by road, gaining altitude gradually. By taking flight to Leh, you not only miss out on a beautiful journey, but also subject your body to a greater challenge of adapting.
We were rejuvenated and fresh as daisies by the next morning. There is no fatigue that warm food and a good night’s sleep cannot cure. The day dawned bright and sunny and the first half being free, we treated ourselves to a sumptuous breakfast with leisure. When we finally stepped out, we were bowled over by the charming Leh and its vibrant and colourful streets. People, mostly tourists, thronged the street.
Leh has a unique mix of people. It’s a hotspot for the mountaineers and adventure-seekers from all over the world. You overhear many stories as you sit in a café or stroll down the street. Plans of trekking up to one peak or other are made as easily as we make plans to go to a market. The atmosphere is so charged and so contagious. The food here is also a blend of Tibetian, Ladakhi and Continental cuisines. Overall, the morning was well spent.
After lunch, a plan was made to explore Leh. There is Leh Fort, Shey Palace, Thikse Gompa, Hemis Gompa (Gompa is a Tibetan-style monastry), Sindhu Ghat and this list can be extended as per your own interest and time. One thing that stood out in our visits to the Gompas is the peaceful atmosphere that engulfs them. Gompas are essentially situated away from civilisation usually atop a hillock. It’s a retreat for the monks seeking peace for their meditation.
The offerings made in Gompas intrigued me. I could see packets of biscuits, juices and other packed food offered to the deities. In my family, the idea of getting ready-made sweets from a Halwai, as an offering, is frowned upon. It is always insisted that we should prepare the bhog at home. But diversity of thoughts, cultures, traditions and ways of life is what gives our country its unique character. Something that we should be proud of!
In the evening we went to the Sindhu Ghat. Sindhu Ghat is the venue of the Sindhu Darshan Festival held every year on Guru Pournima. This place is perhaps the only place in Leh which has vegetation and greenery. If you go to any one of the higher points across Leh, this patch of green stands out in the surrounding hues of brown.
Contended and spiritually satisfied, we went back to our lodgings. Nubra Valley was going to be our next destination and excitement in the group was palpable. But I will narrate those adventures next Sunday as the place deserves a blog of its own.