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Anshul Jain is an avid traveller and adventure enthusiast. He takes us out on a journey to Leh... torturous heights, long drives and mesmerising sights, holiness, stunning views and more. 


Traveling is my fascination. My journey to explore a variety of places took me to Leh… one of my most sought-after destinations. I have been craving to visit Leh for 10 years now and finally I was there: a spontaneous plan, affordable tickets and perfect weather combined to boost my craving. Though it is positioned as an oasis of peace Leh is also a great base for treks into the Himalayas!! March is the time to head to Leh as the winters are so fierce the snow closes the roads for months. In the summers, temperatures may go down to -10 degrees but  the region has its charm of empty streets, small markets and few restaurants. That is the beauty of the place… away from city life. If you aim for peace you will get it here. Your best bet is to stay at Oriental Guest House run by a Ladakhi family who offer rooms for different budgets... from a basic stay to a luxurious week. Central heating, running water and food to die for!! It has a library, Internet and custom treks. Ideally a week is enough to explore this region. 


You can fly in or drive down. Both have its own charm though the former is advisable as roads open mid-May and weather is unpredictable.  We spent the first day in Leh relaxing to get used to the change in climate. Oxygen levels are low and saving energy is important. Our second day was spent visit Old monasteries like Himes, Thikse and many more. Their beauty is the architecture. It is a different feel altogether… one where you feel immersed in the Buddhist culture. The old monks, the chanting and the fragrances are mesmerising… By the third day, we were all set to head to Nubra. The views were mesmerising: after miles of valley you cross over to the Highest Motor-able Road. I felt victorious being there and why not? I was there… passing through Khardungla, one reaches to Nubra Valley, which is at app 10,000 feet above sea level!!! There were miles to drive … crossing Sand, Greenery, Water, Rocks and Snow … all at one place! If you are lucky, sighting the two-hump camel might be the icing on the cake! The hot water spring at Panamik and overnight stay at Diksit are brilliant… with its clear skies and falling stars and little tornados of sand that have the power to amaze you every now and then. The fourth day sped by and Leh called us back the following morning via another crossing through Khardungla. Evenings can be spent browsing the half-opened Leh market… and Punjabi delicacies at the lone dhaba there is worth trying! 


On our sixth day we visited the Pangong Lake after a 150-km drive. The view is indeed brilliant! The lake changes colours as you drive past it. It has deepest hues of blue when the sun is high, with a turquoise shade near the bank and deeper hues in the middle. It turns dull as the sun begins to set and at times when there is no wind, the clear surface of the lake reflects the mountains surrounding it. Sitting and gazing at the expanse of the lake and watching small waves hitting the shore is a great time for meditation and reflection alone. There is water and snow everywhere… the two hours we spent there seemed too less to explore the region to our satisfaction but sadly it was time to head back.  On our seventh and last day in Leh, we spent the afternoon scouring around the marketplace for trinkets and visited the kings palace and the stupas. The Spituk monastery is the most impressive. This was also our introduction to the torture of monastery stairways that is tiring and the walk upward can be extremely exhausting… but once you make it up there the view of the sunset is extraordinary!! As is the quiet temple housing a goddess in demon attire. Next up were the monastery of Thiksey [trivia: it was featured in the movie Dil Se] that has a 15-m high gold statue of the Maitreya Buddha. PS you may get snowfall at any point of your stay, cancelled flights and no communication with the outside world. It is all possible out there. Warm clothes with warm inners and thick socks are a must. Basic medicines are important. An asthmatic patient should take special care as Oxygen levels can go real low. Our journey ended there but if you have time on hand you can drive down to Kargil Drass Srinagar through NH-1. My recent adventure in Leh is one to be remembered forever. The treks, the crazy roads, the seven different types of mountains, the snow, the clouds, the river, the food, the people and the overall beauty: the ultimate travel!


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Photographs — ANSHUL JAIN
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