Ladakh – a snapshot

Bucketlist Travels recently organised a mixed group trip to Ladakh. Nanditha, a HR Professional from Bangalore and a part of this group, beautifully encapsulates here, her experience of the enchanting Ladakh. You can also check out the trip pics on Facebook here

 Over to Nanditha… Oh btw, humor-wit happens to be Nanditha’s second name ;-)  

There’s so much already on the net and hearsay stories from the oh-so many travelers over the years. I am putting together a scrap that were my takeaways from Ladakh.

1. Diamox

This was the first time I ever heard of this term. Even after having trekked the Himalayan peak twice before, I was oblivious and totally unaware of this medicine. Yup it’s a medicine that helps combat AMS. What’s AMS? You can say it’s the relative of good ol’ PMS – except in this case, there are no mental disruptions. Only physical disruptions and applicable both for men and women! :P  

Acute Mountain Sickness. When you reach high up above the Ladakh so high, AMS makes it a point to bring you down. That’s why there are oxygen cylinders in resorts and campsites. Diamox is our famous nursery rhyme – that gives you twinkle toes, twinkle cheeks, twinkle lips and twinkle eyes to help you stay up above Ladakh so high like a diamond in the sky! Or like a Diamox in the sky… :) Am not kidding, gulp down a diamox to understand what I am saying. Just for the record, I took only 1 out of much reluctance and trashed the rest. I survived AMS and stayed high up above in Ladakh like a diamond in the sky! :)

2. Ladakhi Language

The first Ladakhi word I heard after landing in Leh was “Juley”. Pronounced Joo-Leh. Ladakhi connotation for both ‘How do you do’ and ‘Thank you’. Used more for ‘Thank you’. Gonpa is the other famous word seen across Ladakh. Means monastery. Ladakh is the only city in J&K that practices Buddhism, I realized it when I didn’t get a whiff of any biryani anywhere around Ladakh on Ramzan day. Tara is the female Buddha I came to know and Tangpka (pronounced with p silent) means painting – saw many beautiful ones in the museums that we visited. La is another word. It’s both Ladakhi and Tibetan and means pass. Chang La and Khardung La. La means pass. Chang La Pass means Chang pass pass. If you say it so, you are fail! 2 positives make a negative, hence 2 passes make a fail. Chang Fail! Talk about language and words and I can’t hold onto my PJ puns. Hee Hee Hee ! :)

3. Om Mani Padme Hum (Om Ma Ni Pae Me Hun)

The 6 syllable Sankrit Mantra meaning ‘Jewel in the Lotus flower’. The indepth detailed meaning is available on Wikipedia. Go read ;) I listened to its repeated rendition across Ladakh. First time, in our car it was always the opening prayer before the Bollywood blast. It was also played in one of the monasteries we visited. The best rendition of it was at Khardung La – mixed with the sound of the cold winds. For me, the music is so melodious and soothing to the ears. Ladakh is so serene and the rendition of this chant only made it seem like Ladakh was further soaking in its own sereneness. Well, it’s a Buddhist chant famous across all Buddhist cities and countries, but for me, Om Mani Padme Hum is a direct association to Ladakh. Only Ladakh.

Here’s the link for your reference.

4. Brown

The 9 day sojourn in Ladakh brough in various hues. One that stayed and is also my description in 1 word for Ladakh is Brown. Lha Ri Sa our resort was wooden allover – brown. The mighty mountains were brown, blue or snow-capped white but mostly brown and oh-so beautifully brown! Zanskar River, Indus River, and their Sangam was chocolate brown. Sand Dunes were brown. Camels were ofcourse brown! Buddha statues in all the Gonpas were golden brown. Adventure freak bikers and cyclists across ladakh were also brown coz of tan and sand :P The Army personnel across Ladakh in brown too. Maggi noodles is brown. Momos the other staple food was white, but the chicken inside was brown! Tea, Coffee and Lemon tea were all brown! Jungle Tea on my last day in Ladakh was a rum based tea – also brown. Before that, the farewell chocolate cake on last day was brown! And me Indian with skin colour brown. He He ;)

Red came second – all the cute monks in the monasteries. :)

5. Tar Chok

Ladakhi or Tibetan for prayer flag. I am a huge fan. They came in different colours and tied high up in the air from pole to pole, tree to tree, door to door, long ones, small ones, plain ones, written ones, big ones, short ones and they sweetly merge into God’s nature. I have one in my car now :)

6. Randomness

I didn’t tell you that this escapade of mine was with a random group of people brought together by Bucketlist Travel Company. All were from India. Yes I had hopes there’d be foreign people. Anyway… :P

This was my 3rd random group, only difference was that the previous 2 were trekking groups, this was a leisure trip. I am over with treks… getting old you see. Met some interesting people. Yes, though I am in HR, I tend to believe all people are interesting. We had fun, sounds like a cliché. They had fun at my behest, now that’s not a cliché! :) It’s a new set of people, not sure how long ahead we’ll go along? Time will tell. That we met and continue to stay connected via technology is a big take away. We will depart if and only when the internet crashes. But Google’s Project Loon is trying to be Diamox – high up above the air to help the us stay connected for free :)  

7. Fighter Jet Planes

This is a separate topic coz it’s my favourite. I’ll keep it simple still. Day 1 was acclimatization day – spend time in the hotel and evening market. On Day 2 sight-seeing, all I gathered was brown dust on my face and clothes. Day 3 was Rafting. On the way to Zanskar River which is a good 4 hour drive I saw the skies were clearer and the mountains looked sharper compared to day 2. It was breathtaking. This is a day I’ll cherish coz I felt like I died or should I say Leh’d? It was my first close connect with the mountains and the city. And as we were driving, there was this bird like thingy coming close to me – I thought aero plane. Wait. It’s a glider. But lo & behold it was a fighter jet! I tried to grab my camera – couldn’t get clasp of it due to my excitement. Its picture perfect captured in my heart. My heart sank, skipped many beats I think, I felt overwhelmed. Only time AMS hit me I guess. Nope, didn’t need Diamox even then….. loved that moment of highness….!! Guess I felt love …. J J Gosh, then came 3 more such fighter jets – we were lucky coz they probably were taking off from a runway very close to where we were driving and thus we caught a close glimpse. Something macho about them, something romantic about them and my huge respect for the defence forces! May be coz its a rare sight in my city except during the Aero India show. 

Gosh! I died many times! And the jet flying past those magnificent mountains is a view to die for! Jai Jawan! :)

8. Photography

A favourite topic kept for last. After I confirmed my participation to BucketList, I knew the place was going to take up more or all of my time in the trip than the people. Nothing else mattered. Except photography. I am not an avid photographer, I like being photographed. I have never really enjoyed capturing anything without people in them. I appreciate photography of generic wildlife, landscapes, archaeological ruins and stuff, but I’ll like them more if there are people in them. Known people even better! And me, all the more better! Ha ha. I have one dabba (godforsaken in kannada) Sony small hotshot camera. Apparently misplaced and I can’t find it anywhere in my home. I knew the others would bring their cameras along, I wanted to rely on my camera more than theirs. So, off I went camera shopping and bought a Canon 1100D with 18-55 lens and 55-250 lens – tripod came free along with it! My new adventure with the camera was to begin… tripod and all… full showoff I thought! The start was exciting, I was thrilled and felt proud owning the new camera! As is the norm, I removed my camera at the Leh airport and gave it to my random friend Menaka to click my pic with the trolley! Lol. Then I looked around and clicked 2 pics of the airport entrance. Ok not bad I thought. The Leh airport is so awesome surrounded by mountain ranges. Didn’t click anymore coz I read somewhere that photography strictly prohibited at the airport due to security reasons. Ok follow rules. Camera inside. Our cars took us to our resort, Lha Ri Sa in Leh. Everyone sitting in the lobby sipping chai and trying to acclimatize – with one another that is ;) I went clicking… saw the pics. Hmmm not bad I thought. Retired for the day. Slept. Evening market. Had momos and dinner at one of the restaurants there. Clicked a few pics. Ok. Not bad again.

Next day was sight-seeing. Obviously camera was coming out. Click. Click. Click. Mountains, Tar Choks, random mates, me, everything. Click. Click. Click. Not bad at all I thought! The next days – Rafting, River, more mountains, Chang La, Khardung La – click click click. I said to myself – this is easy. All cool pics. So easy or am I just too good? :P

Slowly, the tripod came out too. At Pangong Lake, Hemis Monastery and used to its maximum at Nubra Valley! I had a blast clicking me with my tripod. Thanks to my random mates who clicked me while I was clicking. That was ok too, not bad at all!

Actually, the ‘ok, not bad’ was to boost my own self with a new camera. I knew it from the start that any pic in Ladakh would be a beauty. Close your eyes and click and the pic is a definite Wow! I take no credit. 

I don’t give credit to all those photography junkies that claim to be great phographers in places like these. I’d give it first to the engineer who created Ladakh and then to the engineer who created the camera. Period.

To conclude…

Barren boob like mountains. 

Sleek mountain curves. 

Pangong or Banging? 

Nubra or No bra? 

Hot, Cold, Cloudy, Cool, Warm. The all in one weather.

Adrenaline rush while Rafting. 

Chang La, Khardung La. La La lusty. 

Rapist sand storm during camel ride. 

Love and Peace at all Gonpas. 

And high altitude! 

With signs like the above, anybody’ll feel like they got Leh’d. 

But I feel loved! Juley Ladakh!! :) :) :)


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