I was on a 14 day trip to Leh, Ladakh; with 4 days train travel, 4 days of bus travel and 6 days of treasure travel. The route was Ahmedabad to Pathankot by train, Pathankot to Manali by bus (with a 1 day stop), Manali to Leh city by bus, exploring Leh city, Leh to Pangong and same day back, Leh to Nubra valley next day return, and back to Ahmedabad in the same order via Manali, Pathankot.
Ladakh is a region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram range to the main Great Himalayas to the south. The journey to Leh city is not easy. I wanted to travel by road from Manali towards Leh because of the natural beauty around and it was an amazing yet challenging experience. Leh city is 465km from Manali. Only 150-200 km has a properly maintained concrete road, other than that the whole route is between mountains and a lot of rough “roads”. Driving is very risky.
I was aware of bike riders and personal car drivers on that road, I saw cycle riders on that road and I was stunned!! I mean how a person can ride a bicycle for 465 kms. I can’t even ride for a single km on normal road and these people were riding bicycle on such curvy altitude. Bravo!!
As you go higher into the mountains the air gets thinner and the roads are curvy which leads to experiencing altitude sickness. I have travelled a lot in mountains and have never experienced motion or altitude sickness so I was pretty sure that this time also I would not suffer from it. But no!! I was wrong. I’ve never been to such height and nature challenged me and I was sick so badly that I couldn’t even hold water in my stomach. Whatever I was having, liquid or solid food everything was coming out in a minute. And thanks to our driver and weather, the journey took 44 hours (no exaggeration) to reach Leh city.
Add on to this, no famous restaurants are available throughout the journey, only road side small cafes were there. And they had Maggie, Rice and Paratha to serve my hunger quickly. At first I was excited to have Maggie, it was one from my list but due to altitude sickness I couldn’t enjoy it. Thankfully we got a good hotel (as I was traveling with an NGO, the tour rate was cheaper but I didn’t expect them to provide such a good room). First thing I did was, check into my room, have a good hot shower and a light dinner and I went to sleep because I didn’t want to ruin the next day.
The next morning and I had adjusted to the climate change and my headache was gone. Not sure why, perhaps it was because of a good sleep or the excitement of exploring Leh city? We all were all set to leave the hotel after a good breakfast for our first destination “Hall of fame”.
Hall of fame is a museum run by the Indian Army as a reminder of the great sacrifices made by our soldiers to ensure the safety and security of our country. It is a war memorial house which showcases weapons, history exhibits & a souvenir shop. I am not much of a museum person but patriotic and I woke up when I entered the museum which has 2 levels. The ground level has a pictorial display of the Kargil war that took place in 1999 between India and Pakistan.
The pictures were self-explanatory and I could relate to the stories I’ve heard so far. There was a good display of the war ground on a Piano. On the same level there is also a projection room where you can watch a documentary on “Operation Vijay”. On the upper level, there is a section named OP Vijay Gallery where various kinds of weapons used in the Kargil war, along with the various arms and ammunition captured by the Indian Army during the war.
The souvenir shop is located on the ground level and I couldn’t control myself from going into there before finishing the rest of the tour. I was so amazed by watching the collection at the shop that I forgot to take photos. As soon as I stepped out on the back get from the shop I saw my national flag and “Akhand jyot (continuous flame)” in memory of the soldiers who served the nation and did not came back. The view was breath-taking. After I started my job and entered into “Professional life” somewhere I left the Sejal who was crazy for getting clicked and after a long time at this place I found her back.
We came back to the hotel for lunch and some rest. After investing so much energy in the museum I had to fuel up my tank and take some rest for the second session of my day. Around 3pm me and my group of mates gathered and bought the bikes and we all were so excited to drive on this beautiful land. To my misfortune I couldn’t get Bullet and allocated this “Hero Navi” to take my rest of the tour because all the guys of my group took the bullets.
At first I was little disappointed with the vehicle but as I was going ahead on my ride I and my ride mate Sarrah started enjoying the view and we were lost in that. The first stop was Sangam valley which is 48km from Leh city. The ride to Sangam valley from my hotel didn’t take much because of properly maintained roads. The road passes through Spituk monastery, Magnetic hill and Gurudwara shri pathar sahib ji.
We decided to visit all the places while returning back from Sangam valley. Sangam valley is a place where the two rivers Indus and Zanskar connect and make one single river. Both the rivers can be distinctly seen because of the difference in color.
On the return trip we stopped by the Magnetic hill which is situated at an elevation of 14,000 ft above sea level. Magnetic Hill is a gravity hill that is believed to possess strong magnetic properties. The magnetic force at this place pulls cars uphill and forces aircraft to increase their altitude so as to escape the interference caused by the effect.
Although many stories are associated with this place, scientists affirm that all of this is merely a result of an optical illusion formed by the hill because the hill road is actually a downhill road. Objects and cars on the hill road may appear to roll uphill in defiance of gravity when they are, in fact, rolling downhill.
The Spituk monastery also known as Spituk Gompa is the home of 100 monks. It was built in the 11th century on the hilltop near the Indus River. Photography on the entrance of the monastery is prohibited as it’s near to the runway of Army aircraft. As soon as you enter in the monastery you will see this giant prayer wheel. A prayer wheel is a cylindrical wheel on a spindle made from metal, wood, stone, leather or coarse cotton.
The mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is written in Newari language of Nepal, on the outside of the wheel. Spinning such a wheel will have much the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers. I am not much of a prayer person but enjoyed spinning the wheel and it was quite heavy. I was fascinated with view of Indus river from the top of the Gompa. I set here for a time and enjoyed my alone time with the air sound in the back.
Second last stop of the city tour was Shanti Stupa. Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist white-domed stupa on a hilltop. It was built in 1991 by a Japanese Buddhist. It is so high up that my Navi almost lost hope that it will help me to reach the place but my Navi bike did it! Riding the bike at such a height was quite difficult as it’s gearless and can’t bear such a load on it’s engine.
I was so mesmerized with the view from the top that I was not much interested in visiting inside part of the stupa. I saw beautiful mountains and the greenery on the other side. Leh Fort was also visible from this height but unfortunately Leh fort was under renovation so I couldn’t visit it.
We returned our bikes from where we rented them which was in Leh Market and the market tour was the last part of the day. Kashmiri shawls, souvenirs, t-shirts, prayer flags and jewelry are the main attraction of Leh market. And yes for all Indians, you may use your bargaining skills to purchase stuff at a very convenient rate. I gifted myself this amazing T-shirt “I just got Leh’d”.
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