My cupboard has always been full of innate postcards and city maps from several cities around the world, most of which I did not recognize for a long long time. You see, the love for travel runs in my genes..My father was a traveler at heart, and one of the ways i feel the most connected with him today, after him having gone for 19 years- is through travel.
Standing in remote places, staring out at the evening sky and wondering- Was it like this for him too?
One of the first real travel anecdotes of my life occurred in 2009, when I jumped at the opportunity to visit Ladakh- The frozen desert with my friends on a much awaited college trip. Little did I know that I was leaving my city, never to be the same again.
We traveled from Mumbai to Ambala by train, and then by road from Manali to Leh. Let me take the liberty to assert that If you are thinking of traveling in India..You absolutely must do the road trip from Manali to Leh. One of the most beautiful journeys of my life, the road trip turned out to be one full of adventures. If you do travel by road, make sure you drink lots of water.
With an average decline of 30% Oxygen, acclimatization is a gradual and necessary process. We stayed the night at Keylong, one of the only bigger towns on the Manali-Leh highway but the real icing on the cake was the temporary lay over at Pang!
Once we crossed Sarchu, which is at the Ladakh-Himachal Pradesh border, one of my friends developed hypothermia. Yes, it was that cold.
The delay led us to an unplanned halt at Pang, which was a little settlement made by trucker wives in the mountain tops. It even had a very infamous “loo with a view”.
May I say, that the night spent at Pang had me waking up at 3 AM, unable to breathe and extremely hungry. I ran out only to find one of the ladies sitting there and she said- “Ah, Finally!”. I still dont know what she meant..but two bowls of Maggi later, I found myself having conversations with the mountains in the middle of the night.
The Manali-Leh highway is open to travel only for 4 and half months, but take it from me- each of the 475 kilometers of that journey comprises the journey of a lifetime.
Having crossed the Lachung-La pass, Naki-La pass and finally the second highest motorable road Baralachala Pass, we finally descended into the green valleys of Ladakh!
I instantly fell in love with Leh- Its people, Its markets, the German bakery, the Monasteries- I remember feeling, and knowing peace. Pangong lake, the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers had us awestruck followed by a trip to Khardung-la, the highest motorable road of the world.
The trip to Ladakh has given me memories and friends that will last a lifetime.
I remember walking the streets of Leh, guided by nothing but milky moonlight and I remember feeling so much, so much love in that city- that till today, I feel like I would have gladly stayed back there. Soon.. 🙂