Saturday, August 15, 2009

Of salad days in Srinagar and lingering summers in Leh

| pagudhi moondru (part III) of the kashmir varalaaru...

Leh GateLeh, a city set amidst the vast barreness of the Ladakh plateau, besides the meandering Indus river; a city filled with tourists from all over the planet, with Tibetan handicrafts and culture all around, and nice smiling people. The most backpacker-ish destination I've seen in India - milling with European, American and Asian crowd - almost reminded me of Thailand.

The Leh palace, a beautiful multi-tiered, though dilapidated, structure overlooking the city, with a further steep climb up to the Namgyal gompa. The Hemis monastery, with its stunning views of the city, its environs and the airport.

The Khardung La, the world's highest motorable pass, covered in snow even during summer. The sweet kashmiri-ladakhi kahwah. The yellow mustard flowers adjoining meandering rivers.

Nubra Valley, LadakhThe Nubra valley. The ride along the river bed enroute to Siachen. The tall monasteries in the middle of nowhere. With smiling, red and yellow covered, monk kids. So intensely quiet. Why do people live here? So far away, yet so happy?

A camel ride on bactrian double humped camels on white sand-dunes at 10,000 ft, beneath the snow covered mountains. Meeting school kids from the US doing social service and backpacking women from the Netherlands, in the middle of nowhere. The long discussions and debates late into the night, on life, universe and everything, beneath the star studded lucid night sky.

The Chang La, the world's third highest motorable pass. Its smiling Indian soldiers who serve free kahwah and biscuits to the worn-out traveller. The ride along meandering dry river beds to the Pangong Tso. The sighting of the Himalayan marmot.

Pangong Tso, LadakhThe Pangong Tso, the world's highest freshwater lake (why is everything the world's highest in something here?). Crystal blue and hued in myriad colors as the sun passes by. Incredibly quiet, and icy cold. The hot maggi served to the parched throat by the restaurant beside the lake.

Thikse Monastery BuddhaLeh is a place at peace. Despite its bustle, it has an omnipresent feeling of eternal peace, that permeates everyone who passes. May be its the people, maybe it is its isolation and barren beauty, maybe its the monasteries. Om Mane Padme Hum.
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