Nitish Thakur shares his experience of traveling to Ladakh in the winter months. A solo travel journey that was full of spontaneous decisions, adventure and lots of fascinating landscapes. See more of his work on his Instagram here. Hope you enjoy this real travel story!
His story in his words:
” Men play at tragedy because they do not believe in the reality of the tragedy which is actually being staged in the civilized world ” – Jose ortega y gasset
Some said, it wasn’t a wise decision to visit Ladakh during peak winters of Himalayas but as I write this, I do it with more experience about Ladakh, the places, some new friends and some of amazing sunsets or landscapes, I have ever witnessed. Ladakh in winters is altogether different from what it looks like in summers, when it is buzzing with the sound of enfields in summer.
I booked the flights to Leh in November, around 3 months before my journey to Ladakh. I had been to Leh on a bike trip in June last year but always wanted to be there in Winter. While out on a office tour, I received a message about discounted air flights; 15 minutes later I booked the flight to Leh. Meanwhile, I prepared myself for the winter of Leh both physically and mentally.
DAY 1: Arrival at Leh and search for a place to stay
I arrived at Leh airport at 11 in the morning and as soon as I reached I went out in the town to look for a guest house to stay at. After around 2 hours I found one nearby the Leh market. After I settled at the guest house, I went straight to venture into the market to look out for people traveling solo or groups who are in for traveling around Leh. After some effort, I managed to find a group of 5 cousins leaving for Pangong Lake next day in the morning.
Day 2. :
This say included me being stuck at world’s third highest motorable road without any transport and water for 2 hoursAfter I started out for Pangong early morning, I had no idea how the day will unfold. The 5 cousins in my cab had no water bottle which was a problem waiting to happen. As soon as we reached closer to Chang la, which is enroute Pangong from Leh, the third highest motorable road at 17580 ft. above mean sea level.
The 5 people in my cab were dehydrated as well as unaccustomed to the thin air at the altitude of 5000 mtrs. One of the guy from those five, felt uneasy. As we reached the top of Chang la near the army camps, we had to stop as the guy’s condition worsened. Thus, we had to carry the guy to army camp to provide supplementary oxygen.
After 25 minutes we walked towards our parked car of whom the driver had turned the ignition off, which turned out to be the second problem of day. When we tried igniting the car, the engine gave up as the fuel was frozen since it was -15 *C outside. So, next two hours were spent heating the fuel lines of our car by burning gloves and waste clothes with Kerosene in bone chilling cold.
After around an hour all the 5 guys decided to head back, when they found army buses heading towards Leh. Contrary to them, I decided to stay at the pass and look out for other people heading towards Leh. After an hour, just when we managed to start our car, I found another cab with a group of people who had dropped one of their passenger at Upshi, thus leaving a vacant seat in the car for me. After they agreed that I can join in, I hopped in the car to resume my travel.
The new companions were amazing and I soon found out I was among like minded people. After we reached Pangong, first few minutes were spent to gaze at the eternal beauty of the place. It was the first time I walked on a frozen lake over the cold brackish waters. It was just 8 months ago, I had been to this place and it looked so similar but had a different aura since we were the only ones near the lake that day unlike summer months.
Day 3 :
On the previous day, I had inquired about the buses leaving to Lamayuru and Kargil from Leh. On the early morning of day 3, I boarded one to Lamayuru. Arrived after 4 hour journey in the bus with frozen feet, which stopped after every 20 minutes.
I reached Lamayuru which to my surprise was desolated except a few kids playing around and asking for chocolates and chips. I ascended to the top of the mountain on which the village was spread.
Day 4-5 :
Next day, I visited a friend I had made while on my way to Pangong. We decided to visit Tso moriri, which was a treat to the eyes. I found the landscape to be more enchanting and treating to the eyes as compared to Pangong. I had missed Tso moriri on my last trip to Leh, which I soon found out was a mistake.
The bank of lake was fenced with huge chunks of Ice blocks, as the sunset scattered it’s last rays on the snow capped mountain peaks. Our car driver, Mr. Namgyal had arranged for a stay our phone at Korzok village by the side of lake.
Day 6. When our flight to Delhi almost got cancelled and why I still want to visit Ladakh again
Personally, I wanted to travel to more places during this season but I had to turn back and I hoped to go back there again this summer to visit and capture the eternal beauty of cold and harsh mountains. This trip had no itinerary, I had no fixed plans and the travel unfolded in a spontaneous way every day. From getting a bus to Lamayuru and hitchhiking with strangers, finding and making friends with complete strangers at the height of 17500 ft, capturing some unplanned shots, watching delightful sunsets.
Trips like these must be taken once in your life, where you have no idea what is going to happen next.