25 unusual and the usual things-to-do in Leh, Ladakh and around…
When you travel less, you only wish to do so. When you start traveling, after getting back from a trip, you get back to earning pennies only to be able to travel more…So you start prepping up for your next trip months in advance, book early tickets and try keeping the dates on the calendar vacant. When everything is set, call parents a day before you leave. Tell them you are going on a holiday but don’t mention about any waterfalls or international borderlines. (Tip – Try starting from the closest member of the family and make them to convince their closest one. Lastly, tell dad about it!)
And the journey begins…
Experiencing live wallpapers, holding conversations with people for no business, giving up twitter for bird-watching, driving along through seductive landscapes, exploring uninterrupted wilderness, listening to life, humming with the wind and gathering all these moments into memories that could never escape out of your head. This is the kind of high you get on altitudes.
So, I toted up 25 unusual experiences / things to try out from the trip. Also, at the end is a short itinerary for those who get excited after reading this and decide to pack their bags. 🙂
1. Live in a houseboat
A change of place calls for a change of house. A houseboat in Dal lake, Srinagar.
2. Watch sunrise by the lake
The sun, rising from behind the mountains at Pangong Tso.
3. Camping in the mountains
In Sarchu. You don’t find water in the jug when you wake up in the morning. You find ice.
4. See mountains reflecting in the lake flawlessly
Perfect picture for a wallpaper. Taken while leaving from Tso Moriri on the way to Sarchu.
5. See how two rivers meet!
Confluence of the Indus- Zanzkar rivers. Zanskar river freezes during the winters and is the only way to cross and go to the other side.
6. Don’t tweet, Bird-watch!
The high altitude wetlands of Ladakh are a favored destination for a lot of birds, many of which are endangered. This one is a Brown-Headed Gull, also called Niyazor that came by to wash it’s face in the lake while the sun was rising.
7. Look up the sky at night
It gets better when there is full moon. A view by the lake, with its reflection in the water is something you can’t blink your eyes on.
8. Camouflage yourself
In the mountains. Can you find me?
9. Stack up stones and make a wish
People have been stacking stones to make cairns since ages. Earlier used as messengers, signs and landmarks in unoccupied lands, locals suggest that they are also known to bring good luck for travelers.
10. Visit a local family
Visit their home, drink a lot of butter tea (because water is too chilled), eat some momos (dumplings) and play with their kids (if they have any)!
11. See the Indian Flag wavering high
Emotions of pride and patriotism fill in your heart when you see the Indian flag wavering somewhere up there.
12. Pray some. Spin some
You will find lots of prayer wheels on the way. In Buddhist traditions, spinning the prayer wheel is as meritorious as chanting mantras.
13. Meditate in an open monastery
A feeling much different from when you meditate within the four walls. Picture taken at Diskit monastery/ Gompa while returning from Nubra valley. A man meditates in front of the giant Buddha statue.
14. Chill out with monks
Taken at Thiksey monastery. If requested curiously, they will sit down with you too and tell interesting stories.
15. Eat Maggi at the highest altitude
The best invention ever! No words.
16. Make a camel pose
Bactrian camels are the rarer breed of the two species of camels. They have two humps on their back. Picture taken in Nubra Valley where sand dunes is another surprising sight.
17. Spot wild animals – Yaks, Wild Horses, Ibex, Mongoose and Mountain Dogs
Road trips are pretty long, but if you sleep even for a few minutes, you are gonna miss spotting these wild animals along with frequently changing landscapes.
18. Make pasta in a hot water spring
Might not look good, but worth an experience and tasty too. Make sure you don’t let the spring water mix with your dish!
19. When you feel like playing, play!
Given the location, who says no to cricket?
20. Let there be snow!
If I could, I’d gather all of it, fill up a cushion and sleep on it! On way to Khardung La.
An adventure park near the ‘Hall of Fame’ or the Leh’s war museum has activities for tourists as well.
22. Ride a bike
Where sand blows along with the wind and a turn is miles away, keep driving!
23. Try out all possible frames for photography
Because getting the best picture out takes a lot of effort.
24. Don’t miss out on the Road Signs
Three cheers to the most seductive beauty, mother nature! Read the full post here.
25. Sit quietly by the lakeside
There’s no network anyways. So why not some self-indulgence! At Tso Moriri.
Local Terms (Tibetan)
Juley / Jhule – greetings
Tso – Lake
La – Pass
The trip began from Srinagar where houses were made inside huge boats, resting peacefully by the banks of Dal Lake. From then on, there were experiences of spending the nights under all kinds of shades. After getting acclimatized, the next stop was Kargil through Sonmarg, Drass village and Zoji La. With views changing unexpectedly from green to rocky and then to snowy, we reached Leh to start prepping up for daily drives to places around. En route, Lamayuru monastery, Alchi, Likir Monastery, Magnetic hill and a magnificent view of the confluence of Zanskar and Indus river won over the long road trip.
After reaching Leh, the next day was for the popular Pangong Tso (the one shown in 3 Idiots movie) via Chang La and Thiksey monastery where I made a record to survive at -5 degrees in a tent nearby the Lake. Wearing pajamas over denims over jeggings over thermals was of some help. Back to Leh, and we covered the Leh Palace, Shanti Stupa and local markets around to buy some more woolens and head for Nubra Valley.
This time on bikes, passing through Khardung La and eating Maggi on an altitude of 18380 feet while experiencing snowfall came in as another day’s adventure. Before we reached the valley, passing through the sand dunes in the cold desert with winds blowing fiercely was A-mazing! Who knew, there could be a Bactrian camel ride up there. We returned back to Leh visiting Diskit monastery.
No rest (neither we needed any), with cans of extra diesel, we bid adieu to Leh and headed for Tso Moriri, a lesser known majestic lake where night-sky-watching on a full moon day was not an experience you imagine to have from the earth. When you see water freezing on the road in front of you, “No, there was never a thought of spending another night in a tent”. But, after we left from Tso Moriri for Keylong, a traffic jam on Baralacha La made us stay in tents between two snow-covered mountains in Sarchu. Before sunrise, we left for Manali via Baralacha La and Keylong.
Besides this usual itinerary, the unusual things that happen to you or you come across, make the journey worth singing for, Lehla o Lehla!