India Now - page 57

ous natural water bodies for families to trekking,
biking and cycling trips for nature enthusiasts
and adventure seekers, Ladakh offers it all. Take a
flight to Ladakh from Delhi, Jammu, Srinagar,
Shimla or Chandigarh or if you are so inclined,
wait till August for all the motorable routes and
passes to be open to before you decide to drive
down to Leh, the capital of Ladakh. Biking up the
highest motorable pass in the world, Khardung
La, is an out of the world experience. If taking the
road, you can either drive up to Leh from Sri-
nagar between June to November or take the trip
fromManali between July and October. For thrill
seekers, the Leh-Manali route is the preferred
one for the challenges it poses. Try it!
Nature in its entire natural splendour at the
foothills of the mighty Himalayas and the Kara-
korammountain ranges hits you as you lay your
untrained eyes on all this beauty. Is it natural?
You wonder. Till now, you may have seen this in
technicolour on 70 mm screens, perhaps Pan-
gong even looked a bit familiar. After all, it was
the backdrop to the hit blockbuster 3 Idiots. You
may have also seen such serene and captivating
beauty of snow-capped mountains, endless val-
leys, unspoilt greenery, the deep blue above with
its white cloud cover reflected in a deeper blue
below, in various movie locales and wondered if
these were the Swiss Alps or a high tech studio
creation. Ladakh has that surrealistic quality that
calls for a suspension of disbelief. It’s real, it’s
here and now. Yet you feel as though you are in a
magical land.
If Pangong had floored you, Tso Moriri, the
fresh water lake situated at a height of 15,000 ft
will leave you gasping. The trip from Leh to the
lake itself is refreshing as the topography chang-
es gradually rom rugged mountainous to sooth-
ing green. The excitement and wonder is akin to
that of a childhood train journey spent hanging
out of the window watching the scenery chang-
ing rapidly as it flashes by. In Ladakh, it is a cine-
matic journey in slow motion. Lodge for the day
at one of the guesthouses near the lake. You can
spend the entire day watching the reflections of
the clouds float by on the crystal blue surface of
the clear lake water. The beauty is mesmerising
and soulful.
Nubra Valley, about 150 km from Leh, is anoth-
er picturesque spot in Ladakh. Khardung La pass,
yes the highest motorable road in the world,
takes you to Nubra, making the drive an adven-
turous and thrilling one. Situated 3,048 metres
above sea level, this spot of heaven on earth, as
the Valley is popularly known, offers long leisure-
ly walks amid its beautiful countryside. It’s a
great way to discover the many villages and learn
the simple ways of the lives of valley folks. You
can find accommodation in one of the guest
houses at Diskit, the chief village in Nubra, and
take trips down to the ancient gompas and palac-
es dotting the valley of flowers, another name for
Nubra. A visit to the 32-metres tall golden statue
of Buddha is one of the landmark experiences to
carry back home. The Diskit monastery traces its
history back to the 14th century and is the oldest
monastery in Nubra Valley. It houses an impos-
ing 106 metre tall statue of Maitrya Buddha. The
monastery at Alchi village, around 70 km from
Leh, presents a unique contrast in architectural
style to other monasteries in Ladakh. Situated in
the plains, it is perhaps the only one not located
on a hill top. Alchi is one of the oldest monaster-
ies, tracing its roots to the 11th century, and exhib-
its a distinct Indo-Himalayan influence. A trip to
the monastery, which offers guests a modest
accommodation, promises rich dividends.
Explore its past and discover the murals, frescos
and paintings belonging to another era.
Life Lessons:
The eight stupas that symbolise the major
events in Lord Buddha’s life at Jivey Tsal, Choglamsar-Shey.
Divine Tranquility:
Gompas near Hemis Manastery
that traces its origin beyond the11th century.
Some say it with words,
some sing it with
songs, some write it on
parchment, in Ladakh they
say good luck with stones.
The highest motorable
pass in the world,
Khardungla Pass, is
a thrilling drive for
adventurist in summers.
The majestic Shanti Stupa
atop Chanspa, part of the
Peace Pagoda mission,
provides a magnificent
view of sunset and
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