Yes, this is a long overdue post. I was afraid either I would blank out and not know what to write or would end up writing a thesis. The blank word document lying open on my laptop was teasing me all along, and I found myself diverted fully into cutting my nails, failing to find the right words to express those emotions, the way I wanted to.
With words falling short to frame those experiences, I simply started to recollect my memories from the trip, only to realize how those moments, when stitched together, became larger than life.
The night was cold and windy, with the clock struck half past 10. I fixed his blanket and covered his bare feet, he mumbled and fell asleep again. Silently, I got down from the bed, slid into the slippers, and came out from the tent flap, as I wanted to live in the painting like landscape for some more time.
I looked around.
Pangong Lake was tinted with the darkest shade of indigo, and the grey sky was hovering over the mountains. There was a chill in the breeze, carrying a faint familiar flavor, but it was gone before I could recognize it.
Mountain delights me and makes me feel like Peter Pan, the one who refuses to grow up, and I heard him whispering in my ears- ‘Come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things and your heart will fly on wings’. I decided to postpone saying goodbye to this night as long as I can.
With phones out of network most of the time, and far away from constant office emails, this was our fourth night in Ladakh. Past few months have been hectic for us with continuous bumming around the chaos of regular travel for work, chasing deadlines off the clock, setting up the new house, and also paying visits to the home in Assam. And so when the dates for this trip were approaching, we realized that apart from a few emails with flight tickets and hotel bookings, we had little knowledge about the to-do-list for this place. But our almost-impromptu travel plan, which we made without drooling over google images of places to visit, and poring over guidebooks to map out the best possible route, turned out to be beautiful so far.
(PS- Just to make sure that we eat like a local during our trip, and that we don’t miss out on a “must eat when you are in” Ladakh dish, I quickly made a food list after checking a few local food blogs, which are laden with information on Ladakhi cuisine and delicacies. Foods, that too local foods, cannot be missed after all!)
You read about the intoxicating friendliness of the natives of Leh, that has completely infected me by now, in my previous blog. Four days have already passed now, and snapshots started unfolding in front of me like a picture book, every moment claiming that it indeed was the best decision, to ignore the rest of the country and coming to this Ladakhi land instead!
The next destination after Leh was Nubra, and our first stop from Leh to Nubra valley was Khardungla Pass, one of the highest motorable mountain passes in the world at 18380 feet! It was like driving over a summit and I could literally feel how my breathing slowed down, but the excitement level was not in a mood to compromise. Though it was not advisable to stay at the K-top for too long because the air at 18000+ feet was very thin, we came back to our car after spending a good 30 minutes, singing and shouting amongst the colourful prayer flags fluttering at the top. We got our adrenaline rush pumping, you see!
The Diskit monastery was our next stop, the largest and the oldest surviving monastery in Nubra valley. Promoting and protecting the entire valley, a statue of Buddha is surmounted on a hilltop, facing the Shyok River towards Pakistan. I was lost gazing at the maze-like structure of Diskit monastery, when a kid, with deep blue eyes and a maroon sweater, came and sat next to me. His appearance was largely indistinguishable from his fellow mates- same red robe they wrap, same little possessions they have and same pale smiles they wear on their innocent faces.
The journey continued, and the car zoomed past the world outside my car window. From minute to minute the colours of the mountains and valleys, sand dunes and meadows changed, from yellow to orange, and by the time we reached the Duwa camp in Nubra valley, the sun was dyed slowly from red to redder.
A typical day in Nubra looks something like this: First, you have breakfast in the serene camp, right in the foothill of a mountain when the old town is still under sedation. You won’t hear anything but the sound of birds chirping, and the soft rustle of apricot leaves that is all over. You can sit under one, and get lost over your favorite book. You can also help the slightly entrepreneur- like, young owner of the camp picking up fresh vegetables for your lunch from his backyard garden, and over a friendly chat, he might also reveal a secret pahadi recipe or two. You can even walk down to the brook runs by the camp, to find a gorgeous evening waiting for you.
There is only one way to explore the old village Turtuk: on foot, which was our destination for the next day. Cobble-stoned streets, villagers rearing their sheep with a strange dialect, and meandering lanes as from a picture book- they define Turtuk, the last Indian outpost before Pakistan in Ladakh and the northernmost village in India. Far from all the materialistic crowds and skyscrapers, and everyday hustle bustle, sitting silently in this green village in the lap of nature, surrounded by barren valleys and mighty mountains, was a bliss. There was not much to do in this place. But to travel to a place is not just to get there; it’s all about the roads leading you to the destination, the time you spend with your favorite company, and the realization- such places really exist in the realms of reality!
The night was growing fast, and so was the cold. The steep and lofty cliffs were sound asleep, and there was silence in the air, except for the constant lapping of water on the shore. I took the remaining last sip of coffee from my mug and came back to the camp, which was nothing less than ‘home’ for the night. Home, for me, is always a feeling, more than the address of any form and any kind.
I believe the essence of traveling is to make memories along the way and to cherish them for a lifetime. I clearly remember how excited we were when we captured the first glimpse of the lake from inside of the car, a scene I’ll never forget in life. Will tell you what a beauty the blue-watered lake was, and how spellbound we all were, in my next blog. So stay tuned!
Palakshi is a perpetual traveler. She can be reached at “The Uneven Pathway“. She is reciting her Leh and Ladakh travel experience, amidst the best time to visit Pangong lake- in the months of August and September. Her journey from Leh to Pangong lake consisted of distance covered on road, by car, taxi and a bike.