Ladakh: The dizzy heights -1
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Ladakh: The dizzy heights -1

October 14, 2022

Travelogues are always a source of information that other travel literature or travel guides seldom provide. It captures the experiences unique to the traveller and invites others planning a visit to benefit from it. Here we publish a travelogue on Ladakh, one of the best tourist destinations in India at dizzying heights,  by Ashvini Ranjan, who writes occasionally for Star of Mysore on various issues. Now read on… —Ed

By Ashvini Ranjan

Asking for a window seat on the plane if you are travelling to Ladakh, avoiding footwear with laces to enable frequent removal while visiting monasteries, carrying a hard copy of your boarding pass as a backup when your phone battery is low etc. These and more can make your travel more enjoyable.  I wish we knew that two-and-a-half hours is insufficient between two connecting flights in a big airport like Delhi.  We almost missed our flight shuttling our luggage and complying with the airport security formalities.   Last but not the least, a guide to fill you with stories of the natives adds life and colour to your visit.

Limited information

Ladakh is not the most visited or popular tourist destinations.  Probably because of lack of adequate information.  Some think that these are disturbed areas and not safe to visit. So much so, information of the place can be inaccurate and sometimes exaggerated. Like it happened in our case. Not at your age, said an acquaintance, you will develop high altitude sickness. The temperatures there is too cold, said another. Ladakh is at an altitude over ten thousand feet above sea level and as a consequence, has reduced oxygen levels. While such information is shared with best of intentions, how one feels visiting such places depends mainly on one’s health and fitness. Being a mountainous area, it does involve some climbing. Particularly when visiting monasteries which are located at elevated places. Our travel advisor put all the doubts to rest and assured us that we were fit to undertake the trip.

Weather and sights

Ladakh is at a height of 10,682 feet above sea level as against Mysuru’s 2,530 feet. It does get nippy to cold at night depending upon which place you are visiting and at which altitude. Heights can vary from ten thousand feet to seventeen thousand feet above sea level. Now having returned without a facing a problem, I dare say don’t miss an opportunity to travel there. The breathtaking landscapes, the crystal clear lakes, high mountain passes etc.  Besides, Ladakh is particularly known for Buddhist Monasteries, colourful festivals, blue lakes, towering snow-capped mountain, the cold desert.  Ladakh has it all.  Insist on a window seat if you are travelling by air.  The views from the plane’s window are simply amazing. 

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On arrival

Leh’s Rimpochee airport reminds you of Mysuru’s airport when it was commissioned a few years ago. It is tiny. The size of Leh’s airport is also an indication of the number of visitors.   Seven flights land and take off as against 700 of Bengaluru airport a day.  On landing at Leh, I did feel like taking deeper breath probably to compensate for the reduced level of oxygen.  We were advised to drink water at regular intervals.  Not to physically exert ourself by  rushing or lifting weights. I was also told that the airport keeps oxygen cylinders for those rare cases when people feel sick. I was cautioned not to click photos for security reasons as Indian Air Force too shares the airport for its operations. No matter how many places you have visited around the world, that little anxiety of the new place is always there.  Most importantly about the person who is supposed to meet you on arrival.

View from window seat of the plane.

Our guide

The smile on Dorji Namgyal’s face was as wide as the name card he held in his hands when he saw me waving my hand. Within the next few minutes, I was happy about the efforts I had made with my travel agent to assign me a good guide.     Namgyal truly was tailor-made.  Spoke fairly good English with a dash of Hindi thrown in. Well- informed and well-mannered gentle six footer.  He is as tall as the mountains, quipped my wife Shashi accompanying me. He seemed to have a standard list of information of dos and dont’s to a visitor. You need to rest and allow your body to get acclimatised for a day sir, he said.  Keep sipping water and insisted that we do not venture out during this time as we drove to the hotel fifteen minutes away from the airport. In contrast to the greenery in the Leh city which is located on the Valley floor, the surrounding mountains are bare and stark brown with almost no vegetation. Most of the mountains have some snow on the peaks even during the Ladakhi summer. For a first time visitor, the scenery all round is stunning.

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Our visit was for a duration of seven nights and eight days.  Before we set off to seeing places of tourist interest the following morning, Namgyal asked me what would interest me apart from site visits.  This surprised me.  Most guides will just follow the fixed itinerary. Since we were only two and not a group tour, we had the flexibility in our travel plans. He also realised that I had read up sufficiently like I always do before a trip, he seemed pleased.  I told him that besides tourist spots, I would also like to know about local customs, stories, religion, heroes, education etc.  Seeing me carry my cameras and tripod, he added photography to the list.

A  room with a view

There are plenty of hotels in Leh that fits every budget.  Foodwise, every possible cuisine is available and for vegetarians, they will get to taste vegetables truly fresh and crisp.  In fact it tastes better. Not to forget, Ladakh is a land where majority are Buddhists and they do not eat meat. Ladakh is a Union Territory. Leh and Kargil are the biggest cities and the population is approximately three lakhs only, making it the least populous place in the country, said Namgyal. I could not help thinking that one extension of Bengaluru has more population than of entire Ladakh.   Our hotel room had a view of the snow- capped mountains and also of the town.  One could see coloured prayer flags strung across trees and lamp posts fluttering in the wind.  The continuous melting of snow formed rivulets feeding rivers below.  Looking at the high rocky mountains, one cannot help wondering how man and animal survived in such conditions for centuries.  Early man had found ways to trek across on horse, yaks and camel back in search not just of food alone,  but also to trade and new territories to conquer.  The famous Silk Route passed through these ravines. 

[To be continued]

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Ladakh: The dizzy heights -1”

  1. Bharat says:

    Wrong most ladakhis are non vegetarian..

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