Ladakh is one of the few places I have visited more than twice. I don’t normally like to go to the same place again and again, not when there are new moments and experiences waiting to be explored. It could be the spectacularly arid and craggy peaks, the serene gompas (monasteries), the infinite valleys and people as sweet as the fruits grown here.
The first time I went during winter (what was I thinking!), I could barely step out of the room and was miserable and be shivering. Next, it was trekking in the magnificent Stok Kangri, which unsurprisingly fell under the category of ‘really roughing it’. The adventure programme organised by Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and hence supervised by hardcore professionals was merciless but self-enlightening.
This time I was determined to soak up nature nonchalantly – without stuffing my days with hordes of activities. I didn’t want to do a lot of hardcore trekking either. This laziness was almost criminal in a place with as many enticing and trekkable spots like Ladakh. But there you are! I just wanted to indulge myself in a lot of camping, reading, lying down and eating local fruits. Surprisingly, it took only a day to acclimatize.
Thiksey, our camping site was a breathtakingly beautiful place, was not far from Leh. Now Ladakh is not just any other hill station. I don’t think I will ever stop being weary of possible high-altitude health issues or acute mountain sickness, no matter how many times I go there. This means you cannot leave your tent windows wide open even in summers.
The next day, our first stop was at Hemis Monastery. No, I wasn’t lucky. I actually planned this trip to catch the preparations for the famed Hemis Festival they host every 12th year, if not the festival itself. The courtyard was buzzing with excitement and prayer wheels spinning ceaselessly. Monks in scarlet robes were going over their Cham dances, accompanied by delightful drum music. Every fresco were touched up and figurines too were washed thoroughly. I got chatting with a local help there and he told me in broken Hindi that a 12-meter long portrait would be unfurled in the following week. We had to miss that. Getting crushed by crowds (from all over the world to attend the festival) wasn’t my cup of tea.
I was more excited about the next day. Zanskar. Words fail to justify the beauty of River Zanskar and rafting in it. I have done white water rafting in Rishikesh before. So I wasn’t overly terrified. Post rapids, we found the cruise was pretty smooth, drinking in the sights of canyons and cliffs and wild flowers bloomed by the banks. Predictably, it ended up with all of us falling into the water. Ice cold! Giddily happy! That was how my 10-day adventure camp commenced in the topmost boundary of my country.
This article is authored by Qbera