Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ladakh: A Mountain Adventure

A Mountain Adventure

Ladakh needs no introduction. It is said that even the Gods stop and wonder in awe at its beauty. Then, how as an enthusiast travel photographer, could I resist its charm? And that’s exactly where I was headed last summer. While it was not a trekking-clicking holiday, it was also not going be an ‘eat-drink-shop’ break either.

Ladakh is a land like no other. It is mountainous, dry and cold and lies between the ranges of Ladakh and Zanskar.  Maybe I did not choose the right season to visit; March still has the sharp nip of winter.  The air was cool but the sun was sharp. It is said that in Ladakh, sitting in the sun with your feet in the shade, one can actually get sunstroke and frostbite at the same time!

The aridity of the area is immediately apparent to the visitor. Ladakh's long vistas of mountains without any vegetation and valleys with only a few oasis of green are a challenge to the eye.  The landscape looks dry and brown and the mountain tops, white with snow. Green is a rare colour in Ladakh. You can drive for long stretches and might not come across any living creature. Yet this rugged state looks awe-inspiring and beautiful. The clear blue skies with playful clouds chasing one another and the snow-capped mountains make a stark contrast to the otherwise barren land offering one of the most spectacular panoramas and mountain view which literally has one gasping in amazement! I have travelled to many places across the world, but none can hold a candle to what my eyes were feasting on at that moment. It is like stepping straight into a picture postcard! 

Though I was handed a long list of ‘places to visit while in Ladakh’, I simply trusted my driver-cum-guide, Joginder, to take me the most picturesque spots. One of this was the Sangam - meaning Union. The confluence of the Indus and Zanskar Rivers is very scenic and should not be given a miss! The two rivers flow together without a care that their destiny will take them to a different country.

Of course, being at a high altitude had its flip side too.....I was running a constant cold. But that did not keep me away from getting out. I even spent an entire night outside my room for some night photography. Was it worth it? When I looked at what my camera had captured, I would say, definitely yes!

Every day brought with it a new adventure. But my unplanned visit to the Gurudwara Shri Pathar Sahib en route to my hotel was what remains etched in my memory. It was way past our lunch hour, but I could not resist having a peep inside. It was a quiet Thursday afternoon and I didn’t expect to see anyone. An army jawaan (the gurudwara is maintained by the Indian army) warmly welcomed me inside. After explaining its history and showing me the best spots to click from, I was invited to langar – a meal which is generally reserved for Sundays. It was ages since I’d eaten; the simple meal seemed heaven-sent! As we sat down to a simple meal, the jawaan who had fought in the Kargil War, narrated his tales to us. I was overwhelmed just to be in his company. 

Finally it was time to head back home. One trip to Ladakh gave me plenty of memories for keeps. But this definitely wasn't a goodbye; it was “see you again soon” to paradise, also known as Ladakh!  

About author and photographer Pallavi Chanda: A career as an international flight attendant is what introduced me to the joys of traveling to different parts of the world. Armed with love for discovering the new, I enjoy capturing my travel stories in frame and words alike, but the best role I like is playing mom to two energetic boys. When not traveling or clicking, I enjoy classical dance (Kathak), listening to Sufi music and reading. 

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