How does it feel to be in thin air.
How does it feel to attend no calls for 10 days ?
How does it feel to forget Google for sometime ?
How does it feel to be a road all alone hearing only the sound of your Royal Enfield trying to catch up with your heart beat?
How does it feel to meditate in a closed room and then share your experiences with total strangers.
How does it feel to be a place where nature changes its color every second?
How does it feel like sitting at a place and getting lost in the surroundings for eternity?
How does it feel to close your eyes besides a 134 km long lake and dream in a dream.
I don't have words to express the beauty of Leh and i challenge you that no camera , book or painting can capture it. Leh is not a place it is an experience.
"It feels great to wake up in a unknown land. " This was my status message before the trip but i never knew that some of the mornings to follow will make me realize the importance of this quote.For the first three days we were on road for most of the time and we made it to the places of nice halt late in the night. Sonmerg was one such place and the only thing we knew about the place was that there is a river flowing by which we later came to know was Sindh. With 4 hours of sleep in the coldest place of the trip , when i looked out of the window I almost woke up in a shock . Oh is it real , am i surrounded by ice capped hills . It took 10 minutes to get ready and we were out in the cold to feel the beauty of the place. If you plan to or even if you don't plan (as in our case) to go to Leh via Srinagar , plan a halt at Sonmarg. This will be the first cold place of your trip and you can buy cold clothes here if you are not carrying some.
People and their stories :
18 X : The fifth guy in our group whom I met for the first time in Delhi. I am that sort of person who takes a lot of time to mingle with new people but this guy , the very first handshake had the feel of a friend. His stories , his bargaining and wins in the card games were the highlight of the trip. It took us 3 days to name him (nick : Mayur), his name 18 X not because he carried a 18X zoom camera but because he can can zoom through your heart or anything that comes in his way.
Jimmy with a J: Our driver at Leh had a very unique style of wearing cap and a cool goggles. He was an entertainer , especially the way he spoke Hindi slangs was awesome. He helped us a lot in getting the permit and arranging taxis for our return to Srinagar.
English man in a world cup match : To quote him," If you do 1000 sins this birth you will be born an Englishman in your next birth." This was on response to the performance of the England football team. This man was on his tour to India and his next destination was Chennai ( I prayed , "God bless him."). Was happy to hear that after traveling in India he was headed to Thailand where he and his siblings had planned a reunion after 35 years.
The short skirt French female during meditation : During my 30 minutes meditation experience at Mahabodhi center of international meditation i was twice distracted by her and I confessed so during another half an discussion after the meditation. Will never forget her blushing face:)
The man at K.C. Restaurant : K.C restaurant is said to be the most happening place at Leh(as told by Jimmy).So we met a guy here who not only helped us plan our two days bike trip around Leh but also enlightened us about Trance parties organized by him in July and August.
Julia, nazeer , kulbeer , preet , the french woman at Orange restaurant were among the others whom i will always remember.
The Bargain mantra: Sometimes saying that you are a writer always helps you get good deals. This was something we did to get a 200 per person rebate while bargaining for rafting :)
Million Dollar Pic : Every travel book you read will have an element which distinguishes his journey with others. If asked I think the half an hour football game at Kargil was something which everyone will not do . Hunger , thin air and time were no bondage for this spiritual encounter. A game in such a beautiful place with entire strangers was a trailer to what we were going to experience in Leh.
The place called Leh :
The very fact that this place is cut out from the external world for more than half the year makes it so special. A place which has its own culture , a place having Buddhists and Muslims as the major religious tribe, woman with red cheeks , where sun sets after 8 and that too in no time , where children go to school for half the year and for the remaining half have to rely on private tuitions, a place surrounded by barren and muddy hills .
Ideally if you are at Leh then you will surely visit the Pangong lake and the Nubra valley . Also you may see the Shanti Stupa , Alchi and Lekir monastery , Pather Saheb gurudwara etc.
But this is something which you would come , contact tourist guides and do , feel that you covered some places and return . But this is not the way to live Ladakh . The market place , the dharma chakra , the topmost point near the city gate , the Women empowerment center , the Gol market , The tibetian market , International center for meditation , local food and tea, water refill stations where you will get wonderful apricot juice . These are a few things which you may probably miss but even if you miss these don't miss the opportunity of biking and rafting. For rafting you will be tested in the coldest waters you have ever felt and biking as usual is an experience of its own especially if you are riding a Royal enfield.
If you plan a long trip to Leh , you can :
a) Rent a bike and roam around many places in and around Leh
b) There are even 21 days treks to altitudes much higher than 6000 meters.
c) A cyclists destination to rise uphill in thin air.
d) A meditation paradise with a 10 day meditation and Vipasana camps all through out the year.
e) If you are planning to write a book come to this place you will be inspired.
The FIKARNOT Spirit:
Right from the Arunachal trip when mamme was almost drowning to many treks and this trip I have had close shaves and dangerous travel has always been a part of the trip. Traveling from Srinagar to Sonemarg late night and then the last stretch of travel from Karil to Leh was something insane and rational people would have not taken the risk. The 5 hours of sleep Bhale and me had in a shady dormitory at Kargil , reaching Srinagar airport amongst threats and my 5 minute extreme turbulence experience in the Delhi - Chennai flight have given more strength and added to the spirit and meaning of fikarnot.