We took an early morning flight from Delhi and were on the skies of Ladakh in no time. Normally I prefer aisle seats on flights but this was one place where you really want to make best use of your sense of sight. It feels exciting to be able to absorb and drink the beauty of the stunning canvas lying down there. We could see brown mountains and blue skies as far as the eyes can go. At times, our pilot had to maneuver the plane between two giant mountains. Soon after we landed at the Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Terminal at Leh first thing I realized after landing was that my phone had no network. Prepaid SIMs do not work in J&K. I swore at my network operator for not switching my connection to postpaid but by the end of the trip, I was happy that the calls never bothered me. We took a taxi and made ourselves comfortable in our hotel. You might feel the thinness in air after landing in Leh from North Indian plains. It is advisable to at least have a place to stay reserved on the first day, so that you can feel home soon as you land and take some rest. Normally it is advised to take rest on the first day and stay in Leh for the second day to avoid AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), but we felt fine after 3 hours of sleep and started in late afternoon to explore the local sightseeing spots in Leh. We explored Shanti Stupa, which is a Buddhist stupa not far from city and the old Royal palace, which is in its ruins now. After that we wandered around the markets and had a nice Ladakhi dinner and Thukpa (a Tibeten noodle dish). There are a lot of cafes in Leh where you can go and chill while enjoying the star studded sky and local cuisines
We rented bikes and started on our way to Pangong Tso lake. It is a 150kms ride and takes up to 5-6 hours. There are no petrol pumps around the lake, so the bikes are fitted with additional petrol cans on an iron frame to make it last the distance. The roads in Leh are good but when you travel out to the other destinations, you might have to find the road in between big pebbles, streams of water and dirt. If you are not confident of riding bikes on rough terrains, it’s better to hire a taxi, sit back and enjoy the views while being driven. After riding for 45 minutes, it starts to feel like there are giant and magnificent wallpapers on both sides of the road, which make you forget about anything else in the world. I just wanted to ride on that road for a long time and wished that it never ended. There are hardly any vehicles on the road and still nobody wants to speed up. Everybody is cruising at a gentle pace, awed by the vastness of the landscapes. After every few minutes, bike riders are seen who give a thumbs up, wishing you a safe and great journey ahead. I followed the unwritten rule of the road and gave back a thumbs up every time. It’s a great feeling. We saw giant valleys in the shape of a flowing river between two mountains, cows grazing with no worry in the world and snow covered peaks. The only sound I could hear was the sound of two Royal Enfield engines.
Travelling to Pangong can be a bit tiring, especially if your bike breaks down. So we decided to explore some nearby places that day. We went to Hemis Monastery which is around 30 kms from Leh. It is a beautiful Monastery which is I think intentionally built in the quietest of places. After that, we went along the National Highway-1 (the road to Srinagar) to see the magnetic hill and the confluence. NH1 should be called the CH-1 (captivating highway number 1) for it presents such delightful sights along its length. After a few kilometers, Indus river will join you on the journey, flowing quietly in between the mountains. Further 10 kilometers or so lies the confluence point of Indus and Zanskar rivers. Blue waters merge peacefully with a green looking stream. After this, river Indus absorbs Zanskar and moves on its way. It is a splendid sight.
While Pangong Tso lies on the China border, Nubra valley lies towards Pakistan. The distance between Leh and Nubra valley is around 140 kms. We started on our bikes early morning towards our next destination. In contrast to the Pangong way, where the steep climb towards the mountain pass starts after around 70 kms ride, in case of Nubra, the climb starts right after you exit the Leh city. But as compared to the former, the roads are wider and not that steep. The road overlooks the Leh city for a few kilometers, after which it makes it way into the mountains. After about an hour’s ride, there is an army post called South Pullu where the permit papers are checked to go across. Once we crossed the post, the roads are in a bad condition (although the construction work was going on that time).
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It was once in a lifetime experience. Thank you Spot my trip for the wonderful experience.
It was a delightful experience more than we expected. We will recommend it to our friends.