So you know, why this travelogue is taking such a long time..? its 32 days guys, and its getting way,,,way too difficult to compile and edit and publish the whole entire experience :-/ Yeah yeah. take it, I never had an "over one month trip" to any place ever. :P and then there is another thing going on in parallel (atleast thats' regular and not been ignored as this blog, Sigh!!!) and that is flickr photo updates.
If you've n't seen any photographs, I have brought from ladakh yet, do visit my flickr collection here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/poonamparihar/sets/72157624338608062/with/9968117316/
(I am updating it daily. you can also see all recently updated work in above slide show, clicking any photo will take you to the flickr site) Do let me know what you feel about 'em.
Now since its gonna take a bit longer for me to publish my book with whole entire collection of notes and pictures, Let me do a quick recap here and share few tit-bits from my trip with you all and here I fly.
15th June 2010
Yup you had witnessed all the developments before the trip, that my trip is delayed for 15 days and that now I am going alone finally deciding to take a flight to leh on 15th of June, 2010, and hell ....it was not a bad idea. because I am just loving whats' outside the window and its nothing but magical -majestic and magnificent Himalaya, just incomparable.
I put my first foot on the roof of the world, and I say, hell, this is what you should earn and live for.
16th June 2010
First day I just gift it away to the acclimatization and second to the old city of leh. walking around in the old town, in narrow lanes, few in deep sleep and few awaken, to the stadium where akon is rocking (Leh loves to rock FYI) and to a Yellow color Maani, which I think is a temple and take 2 rounds to find the door to enter inside. lol. I enjoy the archery competition near polo ground , do some curious talking with staff of JnKSRTC about the bus schedule, and end my day with a tibetan meal at himalayan cafe ( I love the place) after spending some time exploring main bazaar bustling with tourists at 8PM in the night.
17th June 2010
So now that I have the bus schedule in my hand, and I have felt a little of the place and I am acclimatized too. I decide to venture out, and my first visit out side leh is to be Thiksey Monastery, the most beautiful monastery of all, Shey palace and monastery, which I dont explore much, because i choose to spend time with lovely kids of Drukpa Institute in shey village.,who voluntarily take me around their art class, science lab and even the place where Chatur Ramalingam learned, "water is good conductor of electricity. yes this is the same school where bollywood movie, '3 Idiots' was shot.
18th June 2010
Today I meet Minguen and together with Pravin whom I met a day before, we plan an evening at Shanti Stupa. Ming visits Leh palace while I am exploring Upper Changspa and walking stairs of Shanti Stupa. Yes I decide to come early, to have some handsome amount of time for myself and my camera. Ming and Pravin joins me later, and however hard we want to have a camp stay here tonight, we walk back to Pravin's guest house for an awesome dinner and then to our places and close it for the day.
19th June 2010
Ming says, take it slow you're on vacation :P and I say I dint go anywhere yesterday except in the evening. :( She had a hectic first day climbing leh palace and shanti stupa carrying her oxygen cylinder, yes she flew down yesterday. and we have plans to take a bus to lamayuru this morning, and when we reach the bus stand, we find no bus. we take it easy, have our breakfast (best milk tea in leh at the bus stand restaurant) and hire a taxi to Lamayuru, likir and Alchi. stopping every place and point exciting us and actually there was plenty to be stunned by, including the village Basgo which I just adored :)
We return to Leh only by 8:30, and head straight to the Himalayan cafe, here everyone is gloomed on TV while India-pakistan cricket match goes on. Pravin joins the wagon and we all cheer to Bhajji's winning shots. Its overwhelming to see local people love for sport and trust me, upcoming FIFA gets no different response.
20th June 2010
This day I had kept specially, for the practice session at Hemis monastery. but yesterday left us tired and I couldnt' get up till 11. so all I did was to catch up with everyone, for breakfast, lunch and dinner and do lots of chit chatting.. no photos today, no sightseeing today. just resting, meeting people and having some good time.
21st June 2010
The Big day, which i was so excited about, attending the most popular festival in ladakh, The Hemis Festival, and I am off to hemis at 7AM alone since Ming and Pravin wants to leave at 11 which is too late for me.
A historical day this should be, in my entire trip, since I experience everything, shivers of the drums, thumping of the feet of lamas, the scary faces both with and with out mask, the worst press experience ever and such a huge gathering, far away from the peace of mountains and desert, left me stranded so much that I decided not to go to hemis for the second day of festival. I have had enough.
22nd + 23rd June 2010
I am trying to remember what all I was doing these today, The directories and folders in my mac say, I dint go anywhere, of course the twitter knows as I update my facebook and tweet. but again 2 days of rest and no photos to share for these two days in otherwise eventful two days I'd possibly describe in my book.
24th June 2010
I had decided to go to Nubra on 22nd itself, but sadly there was no bus to Nubra Valley, on either tuesday or wednesday. So today I am up early and catching a bus to Nubra at 6AM. Its awesome to be be at 18380ft and I too get carried away for a change and get myself clicked with the famous signboard of Khardungla. slowly Nubra unfolds infront of me and I wonder how different a series of mountain can be from others. Nubra looks like sketched by painters. The deltas created by shyok river in the valley are equally enchanting. I was wishing for lots of snow, I have forgotten it by now.
25th June 2010
Yesterday I met Patrick and Summer, who came in the same bus as me, and as they both insisted, convincing me Sumoor is more beautiful than Diskit, and for the hack of their company, I came to Sumoor with 'em. it indeed was, but not to have stayed there for longer than a night and a morning. I am still not sure if I should be going to panamik and so I visit the monastery and the village, where preparation for Dalai Lama's visit are in full swing and go back to diskit.
A little rest, and brainstorming on whether I should go to turtuk alone or not, I finally take the plunge and get on the bus to turtuk, on a long and scary ride, to visit the place not been visited till now, and meet people who''ve seen the world outside ever. At the edge for all 12 hours that I spent in Turtuk and 7 hours on the way, I was, but Now when I look back, It feels like one of the best experience of my whole entire trip.
26th June 2010
Morning 5 AM I was at a distance 7 KM from the India-pakistan border, with the villagers who were still not able to grasp the fact that an indian girl can travel all the way to the border alone and continuously asking me questions, conversations which I quite liked, and 9AM I was in Hunder Valley, playing with the baby bactrian camels and shooting 'em. It was fun-filled 2 hours, except seeing 50 bikers riding suddenly finding a desert out of nowhere and zooming their bikes with freedom, scaring the little camels away and few minutes spent on the road side and witnessing that Army behaviorism seeing a girl sitting on the road side alone waiting for the bus.
27th June 2010
I had been thinking all night whether or not, i should go to panamik, as thats the only one left to see in Nubra valley. and Now this morning, I am at the diskit bus stand, catching the bus back to Leh, happy and satisfied. I meet summer again, funny that is, she was in hunder all this time ;-) the journey back is even more satisfactory, and this is probably the first time I realized, back in Leh, I feel at home. I enjoy Khardungla, but dont come out of the bus, seeing the crazy crowd and dirty muddy road on Khardungla-top.
last 4 days I was totally disconnected with not even STDs working, forget the mobile and internet, I couldn't talk to my family and felt really insecure. now I am back in leh, active and happy again :P
28th June 2010
The Next destination is Pangong Tso. I wanted to reach the lake from Nubra route, but I couldnt' find the people there to arrange a taxi ride via agham. so I get another permit and now I am checking for the bus which is only on Saturday and Sunday :( and I dont want to go to another mountain area before seeing the deep blue lake. :-?
So another 4 days in hand and I wonder what I can do, trekking, some camping, some volunteering work and if not that, some more places around Leh? Today I spend some time at Chokhang Vihar, and attend the function there, take rest of this day easy.
29th June 2010
30th June 2010
I had white water rafting pending to.. did I remember? today was the day, since I took yesterday easy not being well, eating too much of thukpa, thenthuk and momos. Yes thats the tibetan menu, and I dont want to touch it for rest of my life :P had way too much lol.
So I head toward chilling for some river rafting in river zanskar, boy what it was, some experience should be left untold specially in these short posts.. This is my second experience rafting and I had lot to tell, later in the book.
1st -2nd July 2010
July arrives and so arrives the thought, that the countdown back home is soon gonna start, which makes me both happy and sad. I am wondering there is so much still left to do, including a big trip to Zanskar.
Today and tomorrow were dedicated for volunteering at Mahabodhi Centre but the seminar and seasonal tests ruins my plan. So I visit Stok palace with pravin and have some good time back in Leh with friends. remember what Ming said.. take it slow, your'on vacation.:)
3rd July 2010
And the D-day arrives, I am off to pangong tso, in a very slow bus with no tourists except me but locals and their cylinders supplies filling up the roof the the bus. as I approach chang la, I wonder how the vista changes and how this valley looks so different yet beautiful from Nubra Valley and lamayuru Jalebi road views. today for the first time I sleep on my way to somewhere, might be the lack of sleep I had last night, Changla passes and I am in another set of mountains, a glacial stream going deeper and away from me, shadows of clouds playing with the mountains, and the far visible end of the valley where the village durbuk and tangste lies.
Its one more opening from the mountains or if the lake is close, I am skeptical while my bus passes by green lands and gazing cattle. and there i meet that moment, when my wandering eyes catches something blue. you should 've seen how i was jumping and giggling then, I was the only one in that bus of regulars who must be seen it a thousand times. I am still happy. happy to have chance to sit alone at the lake side, grasping it all in me, for rest of the day.
4th July 2010
I was going to merak, but locals tell me that, there is no accommodation there except if I knock few doors and get a homestay. weather is not great and I had to sit back here till 3 o' clock till the bus to chusul arrives which leave me not much time to spend in merak but just on the way.
I'd give it to cold and cloudy weather which took away the color from the water, that I take the bus back to leh at 9AM. this is not the last time i am here. I am coming back to explore again. on the way I see many taxis and bikes going pangong way. weather is still bad, and I am doubtful if they'd get to see the best of pangong.
5th July 2010
Zanskar is all up now, but well, I have no ticket available in bus and no taxi directly to padum either. I would have had some plans, but then I meet Deep and Ben, and we along with Pravin and Namgyal join 'em for a visit to Phyang village after the breakfast.
and Unplanned day came bundled with amazing joys of sharing the lunch with monks and kids in phyang monastery to be the first. we visit sekmol the school started by Sonam wangchuk (the real hero of india on whom the movie "3 idiots" is based), and the village phey, where pragya the NGO Deep raj works for, runs a nursery growing medicinal plants.
6th July 2010
I love this day, perfect weather, very friendly start and awesome performances by n fun with kids from Dalai Lama schook in choglamsar. Its Dalai lama's birthday and the function is organized at Mahabodhi grounds with many of cultural programs in offering, including dances from various part of ladakh.
I am happy that I dint go to zanskar today and rather came here and attended this festival.
7th July 2010
I am heading to kargil, in the last seat of a xylo with some very unfriendly people, but thats not the sad part. what is sickening me the most is that I am not able to click anything and that this taxi is not going to padum but only till kargil. I cross Fotu la and Namika la, stop at Mulbek and Wakha for a while before reaching kargil at 3:30PM, and there is no good news until 8 PM when I finally manage to get a taxi to padum after almost loosing hopes of reaching zanskar in this trip.
and yes, I do not like Kargil and do not shoot any picture there either, leaving it for the future times.
8th July 2010
A very dramatic start at 1AM in the night, and am off to padum for a long 12 hrs long journey. suru and sankoo goes in sleep. Panikhar and Parkachik dont interest me much in the hours of dawn. its only after parkachik when the real, unspoiled beauty of Zanskar valley opens up to me, leaving me mesmerized. I love rangdum and pensi la. how could I have ever missed it.
4 Valley ways to Padum takes me in a different place altogether. I would have loved to stay, but karsha festival is canceled, ( I knew before) and there aren't much ways around to the monasteries 8-10KM away from padum each. there is no bus for next 3-4 days except tomorrow. so I am leaving back to kargil tomorrow, (yes you need a halt there anyways) and I am happy be here in padum for this evening, the place for once free from maddening crowd and batches of tourist.
9th July 2010
3AM, I catch the bus outside J&K tourist bungalow where I spent the part of the night, and going forward is a memorable journey. its hard to describe (did i say that again? ) how beautifully dawn broke in the morning and how the glacial mountains looked, I am keeping the poetic write up for later. today again brought another example of how a society should be and how we should be "people for people and people by people".
I also meet my friends in the making, Peter, Fanny and Regis, whom I speak up later in kargil and plan my trip to Tsomiriri along with.
And did I mention I see how that Kargil side part of zanskar valley is growing up? and how those tiny little kids spit on people and throw whatever they get on every taxi and bus passing by... (who's teaching 'em n what???? )
10th July 2010
Though I never opted, I had to spend last night here in kargil uneventful. now I am on the way back to Leh. I wished to take the batalik route and visit Gharkon, Dha and Hanu, But I so wanted to get away from kargil and that I carry on with rest of my journey thinking I'll go to Dha from leh itself.
Back on the way to leh and I remember this should be the last day of Phyang Festival and I hope if I could get an hour there, but bus reaches phyang around 1:30 PM and I see most of the people returning and I drop the idea.
11th July 2010
Was it a bad day?, that I have this unwanted and uncalled meet with this crazy brainless local lady. I should be mentioning the least right now. I am in the guest house clicking local flowers , enjoying some nice Kahwa tea and U2 and later joining some friends for dinner.
12th July 2010
13th July 2010
7AM sharp and we are off to Tsomiriri on a good road to changthang via a gorgeous narrow valley passing through some very enchanting villages, kiyari military station to mention specially, and then taking a right from mahe bridge towards tsomiriri-korzok passing through sindh and thangskaru/kiager tso and few nomad camps who moved to this side of the mountain just a day before.
Also here I meet Patrick again, who reaches korzok completing an amazing trek from rumtse to tsomiriri via tsokar. the evening is well spent walking around the lake and shooting.
14th July 2010
Today is the practice day in korzok monastery and the major program is ON tomorrow, there are few locals, very few indian tourists/travelers, and close to 50 foreigners, yet if you see tents along the stream, you'd find many bikers, trekkers in that area. some of the tents are permanently fixed up too. I watch the lama dance which I am guessing going to be a replica of Hemis but only the crowd, and then I am on the mission to find and explore a nomad camp up-hill and share a cup of tea with nomad family, no matter if that's kinda forced on 'em and guess what, I am successful in my plans.. 200% done :)
15th July 2010
I remember a local saying, korzok looks alive today! yes I agree, the very small one road village and quite a number of tourist, the place is happening. Nomads along with local are arriving in their traditional attires and are enjoying the festivities and monk dance which let me tell you is nothing but similar to hemis dance. I am glad that the the masks are different here. :P
close to the end of the festival, and I walk to the left side of the lake and take a short nap at the lake shore, also get a fantastic opportunity of shooting some wild horses. Gaurav and Sandhya spot me there and bring me back to the festivity, and this time its the local people dancing and singing.
The monks meanwhile are performing later part of the pooja and soon the whole village walks to the lake side where they do the effigy visarjan or burning marking it as the vicotry of good over the evil and end of the festival as well.
16th July 2010
Another spectacular day, while the scenery is not what is supposed to be, since I wanted to take up the route tsokar, pang and rumste to Leh, but had to return via the same route passing chumathang because of vehicle being an omni ( yup, I was bit kind and stupid that when driver almost begged me that he wanted to go himself and make some money, i allowed him to come in his omni, and hence I had to pay the price of not trying the tough route risking my return to delhi.) so that part remains unexplored.
But I am feeling alight, today everything is looking extra gorgeous, I in fact am looking up and clicking clouds and blue sky. nothing less magical than that song "cant take my eyes off you". may be its the last day syndrome. I am guessing.
when I reached Leh at 11:30, I dint know I am having a heavy itinerary planned up for me. Devansh was cursing me as I was supposed to reach back on 15th night. I ended up the night at 1:30AM with lots of things undone, including the shoot for Rahela, daughter in my guest house family and shooting Tsoma gompa at 5:30 tomorrow morning.
17th July 2010
But I am not complaining, I had no energy left and I was happy to catch the flight back, If I had to mention one thing I dint like, than that would be weather. not even 10 minutes of me enjoying the beautiful view of the mountains, and that I spotted nun-kun also from the plane, heavy clouds came surrounding my plan and in matter of few seconds the view was all gone and next I remember I was in Delhi, which if nothing better than looked green atleast.
So well this was round-up of my journey to the highest mountains in the world. I can not help but treasure this trip for not one but many reasons. many i couldn't express in this post. I have to express how i felt about nature, I have to bring out my memories with the people I met, who were the most hospitable in the world, I have to tell to everyone how one would long to cherish this if this place and people are not been taken care of, I wish to mention what I want to do with all of it.. and most of all I want to share more and more pictures which might save be few thousand words I would have to write in extra otherwise.
So wait for more, there might be a travel book in the writing stage full of my feelings, a photo book with colors you' would love to see and much more...!
Image work in this post- just picked a random few, not post processed, hence not available for PP evaluation. of any sort, and is just used to go with the story. Here is the Actual Gallery - http://www.flickr.com/photos/poonamparihar/sets/72157624338608062/