The phone rang, while me and Nikhil were simply relaxing on a Saturday evening at our balcony. Nikhil picked up and handed over the phone to me since I had been waiting for this call the entire day. I couldn’t be there, since it usually is a limited seating capacity at the event.
Lt. Niharika Singh calling… Were the first words I heard when I set the phone to my ears. It was a pompous and a proud feeling for me… (Even after all the differences that we have, I still have to admit this)…… Just a year ago, she had stepped into the famous corridors of this hallowed institution OTA, Chennai, with a little trepidation perhaps; from a young tender girl I have seen her transformation to be an army officer, strong in both mind and body. She gave up a comfortable desk job at one of the most prestigious IT companies in India and was ready for a different ball game altogether.
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Her first posting she told me was at Leh. As soon as she told me this, I poked Nikhil in the stomach lovingly (my usual action whenever am about to propose a new journey). A broad smile came to his face when I told him that his Saali Sahiba is arranging for the trip. And the next thing we knew, we were catching a flight to Leh from Delhi.
The view from the plane was almost breathtaking. Nikhil kept jumping up and about whenever he caught a glimpse of those snow clad mountain peaks. Niharika told us about the scenic beauty of the place that could be best enjoyed while travelling by road, esp. on a bike, but by road it would have taken us almost 3 days to be there and plus my XL hubby doesn’t have that kind of a patience, and he wouldn’t let us stay in a road side motel kind of a thing ever. So the next option was by air …. But for us, the experience was equally enjoyable as we flew down. With a blanket of snow on the mountain ranges, our entry to Leh-Ladakh was truly promising.
She was there at the airport, smartly dressed in her army combats, I was glad to see her in the attire that was not too common in girls. We stood awestruck as great mountains loomed before us, that view from the Leh airport is something that shall remain with us for a long time. While the lower passes wore slight patches of greenery (even though the entire area seems like a big desert), the slopes were all barren and the peaks were crowned with a diadem of ice. The narrow road with high cliffs on one side and deep and cavernous flow of the Indus on the other made our drive all the more beautiful and majestic.
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Took some rest before stepping out to explore the veritable kaleidoscope of natural beauty, rough terrain, snow peaked mountains, rough ranging waters, steep rocky ridges topped with striking Tibetan styled monasteries.
We started off with a quick tour of the Leh bazaar, where we didn’t stop at first and just drove right through the market. We proceeded to Khardungla Pass.
Khardungla Pass … Scaling at a height of 5,602 m (18,379 ft) is THE highest place that I had been to … Almost breathless, nauseated and puffing, my head reeling and whimpering, I somehow managed to gasp the majestic beauty and all-white expanse of the world’s highest motorable pass. Finally, we got up there and to our luck it started to snow as well.
We moved at snail’s pace, our hearts pounding, lungs protesting, and looking at the girl who was running at a pace, guiding us to our way ever upwards on the narrow, winding road, just made us realize how tough they (Army) have made her.
The word ‘Julley’, Ladakhi for the welcome, had never looked more welcome as we entered the highest café. Sipping hot Kahwa and ‘Garma Garm’ Maggi Noodles came to our rescue….I remember what they call as acclimatizing is what we missed. After playing around in the snow like kids who had never seen it, we started our descent back.
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Next day we started our journey quite early to the place which I wanted to visit, ever since I witnessed it in the movie – 3 Idiots. Nature has bestowed Ladhakh with extreme beauty. From Barren deserts to thick flora and fauna and beautiful lakes Leh has everything one asks for. The most famous lake Pangong Tso in Ladakh is about 160 kms from Leh. The drive was stunning, untouched by the hustle and bustle of people and amidst high mountain ranges of Himalaya and Karakoram ranges….. We drove through another pass called the Chang-La pass where we had to stop and shop for some more woollen clothes since Nikhil was freezing. And look what we bought.
However, it seemed that the proverbial dialogue – Agar firdous baroye zameen ast, hami asto, hami asto hami ast was really true.
The Pangong Tso is a paradise on earth with its mesmerizing scenic beauty and is blessed with an unimaginable scenery – The majestic Himalaya to serve as a backdrop with sparkling blue turquoise water… I simply couldn’t believe that we were on earth… Everything seemed to be a painting….
The third day we covered – Thiksey Monastery, The Magnetic hill, Patharsaab Gurudwara, Nanak Hill and the ‘Sangam’ between the Indus and the Zanskar River. We had hired motorbikes from Leh which helped us to enjoy the majestic scenery all around us. It seemed every 15-20 minutes we were stopping for pictures. The next halt was the famous Patthar Sahib Gurudwara, managed by the Army…
The magnetic hill is another place which intrigued me a lot. The layout of the area and surrounding slopes creates an optical illusion that the downhill road is actually an uphill road. And after we tried defying gravity, we started back for a wonderful evening dinner at the lush Leh Bazaar.
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Bestowed with extreme serenity, beauty and tranquillity Leh has everything to offer which you might have kept on searching at a location outside India. One trip to Leh in a lifetime is worth it… and yes, am coming back pretty soon, and this time on a Bullet (or like we Chandigarh folks call it – Bult).