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Old 15th March 2015, 11:51   #1
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Default Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!

"To those who believe adventures are dangerous, I say, try routine...that kills you far more quickly" - Paulo Coelho


Disclaimer: This travelogue is not about a roadtrip to Ladakh, but an adventure journey that I did with a group of like-minded people to tick "that" item off the bucket-list.

Ladakh, a small part in the map of India, is probably the most beautiful place I have ever been to. This small cold altitude desert is a magnificent paradise, far away from modern civilization. The bluest skies, lovely lakes, winding mountain roads, stark and harsh climate, monasteries that are perched alarmingly over hillocks for thousands of years – this Land of High Passes has left travelers awestruck since decades.

Post-October, the access roads to Ladakh are covered with thick sheets of snow, making it inaccessible. I always wanted to see the splendor of Ladakh during the winters. Having read adc sir’s travelogue about the Chadar Trek, I was always fascinated to visit Ladakh during the winter months of January and February. Frankly, after reading the travelogue I just wanted to pose for the lens next to a frozen waterfall.

What else would have been a better option than to do the Chadar Trek in these months. So like many others, I also booked a slot for myself for the Chadar Trek 2015. I had booked my trek with Mr.Abdul Qayoom from Altitude Adventures, zeroed on to Mr.Qayoom’s agency as I had read good reviews about his services from Team-BHP and elsewhere too.

I am no mountaineer, just a casual traveler who wanted to do the Chadar Trek. However, nature had something else in store, thanks to the massive landslide that blocked the Phutkal River (one of the tributaries of the Zanskar river) flowing at Marshun near Shaday Sumdo.

With the Chadar Trek scrapped for this year, I had no choice but to opt for an alternative trek. The alternative trek that we opted for started from Lamayuru and ended at the base camp of Konski La.

With a couple of spare days in hand, I could explore the city of Leh and could also witness the beauty of an entirely frozen Pangong Tso. The maximum temperature during the 10-day trip was -4° Celsius at Leh and the minimum temperatures during the nights were around -35° Celsius during the trek.

Before I begin with the travelogue, allow me to share a few pictures from the trip.

Breathtakingly beautiful aerial views of the mighty Himalayas
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Leh, the erstwhile capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, now the district headquarters
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The frozen Pangong Tso
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Roads or Runways?
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Campsites during the trek
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Frozen waterfalls !
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The very picturesque Lamayuru moonlands
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Just before sunset at Ursi
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The frozen river near Hinju
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A walk to remember, over a frozen river !
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Yours Truly !!
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Last edited by //M : 17th March 2015 at 21:58.
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Old 17th March 2015, 21:55   #2
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Default re: Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!

7th Feb 2015, Day 1


The best part of taking a flight to Leh during the winters is the breathtaking views that one can see outside. I ensured that I have a window seat so that I can enjoy the views of the snow covered mountains.

I landed in Leh at about 10 am, the temperatures were hovering around -5° Celsius. I saw a person waiting outside the airport with a placard reading “Altitude Adventures”. I introduced myself to the person and was driven down to the hotel in a Toyota Qualis which had done over 3,00,000 kms on the odo in such terrains. I was shocked, as the car felt like it had rolled out of the showrooms just a week back !!

I reached the hotel and introduced myself to my fellow trek mates, a very lively group from various parts of the world. We were told to acclimatize for the day, so we thought of exploring the town. For the first time ever I saw an Ice-Hockey match, that too a National-Level Mens Ice-Hockey Championship match. Teams from various parts of the country were there, never knew such games are even played in India !

We strolled around the Leh Market and then climbed up a fleet of stairs to see the Shanti Stupa. It was a mesmerizing sight to see the aerial view of the Leh city from the Stupa.

All the trek mates bonded well and shared experiences from their previous trek experiences. Having no previous trek experience, I shared some of my solo motorcycle trip experiences.

We all planned to see the Pangong Tso the next day, hoping that the Chang La will be accessible.

The breathtakingly beautiful views on the way to Leh
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Got Leh'd !!
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Ice-Hockey !
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Shanti Stupa
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On the way to Shanti Stupa
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Aerial view of Leh city
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Shanti Stupa
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Last edited by //M : 17th March 2015 at 22:27.
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Old 17th March 2015, 22:21   #3
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Default re: Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!

8th Feb 2015, Day 2


We left Leh early in the morning for Pangong Tso, some 150 kms away. We saw the first rays of the sun somewhere near Shey. We stopped at one of the dhabas at Karu for some pipping hot Paranthas and Chai.

The Leh-Upshi road is a blast, terrific tarmac and scintillating vistas around. However, from Karu we took the road to Chang La. It was a bright sunny morning, and the snow capped peaks looked straight out of picture-postcards. We were around 12 people in two vehicles, who crawled up the mighty Chang La. We could see nobody around, not even locals. The Chang La was spartan and we thought of stopping there for a while on our way back to Leh.

The first stopover we did after Karu was Tsol Tak, an army checkpost just after Chang La. Tsol Tak was absolutely serene, washed in white after a heavy night’s snowfall. We proceeded towards Pangong Tso, popularly called the “3 Idiots Lake” amongst the tourists in Ladakh.

The roads were amazing surprisingly, hats off to BRO for maintaining the border roads in such harsh climate and difficult terrains. We saw some Kiangs and Yaks on the way to Pangong. It took us almost 5 hours since we started off from Leh till we saw the first view of the Pangong Tso. We gradually descended upto the lake and what awaited us made us glee in delight.

An entirely frozen lake !

While we could not see the blue waters of the lake, but this was a different experience. We jumped, played and had lot of fun at Pangong before the strong winds and the biting cold forced us to get back to our cars.

On the way back, just a few miles from Pangong, our Xylo suffered a puncture. We had spent quite sometime at such an altitude with strong winds blowing past, and slowly we could feel the AMS creeping in our minds. Thankfully the puncture was repaired and we proceeded towards Chang La.

It started snowing heavily, the Qualis got stuck in snow and had to be rescued with a little help. By the time we reached Tsol Tak, we could not recognize the place at all due to a thick sheet of fresh snow everywhere. We ascended the slopes to reach Chang La. The outside temperature read -35° Celsius !

While most of us decided to stay back in the cars, I somehow wanted to click a few pictures at the Chang La Top. So finally I gathered courage to venture out. A couple of other guys joined me. It was snowing heavily, we could barely move against the winds and it was cold, nail-biting cold !

We clicked a few pictures and rushed to our cars. We did not run, the wind pushed us probably.

We descended down towards Karu, the roads were washed in fresh snowfall. It was such a beautiful sight all around but sadly the windows had frosted completely and the power windows switches didn’t work. It was so freezing cold that I wondered if I try to open the window to savor in the views, my fellow passengers could very well kill me !

Gradually we descended down and the snowfall had stopped. It was rather a sunny evening at Karu. We gobbled up some delicious momo’s and dived into a bowl of soup just to feel the warmth.

I realized I had survived the cold along with others !!

The surprising thing was even though the climate was harsh, the conditions inhospitable but still all of us were rejuvenated as if that 10 hour journey never happened. The vista of the frozen white Pangong Tso and the nail-biting cold at Chang La were the talking points for the remaining part of the day.

On the way to Pangong Tso
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Tsol Tak, an army checkpost
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Changthang Desert
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Yaks made occasional appearances
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Saw lots of Kiang's along the way
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Cold-altitude Changthang desert
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Prayer Flags at Pangong Tso
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The entirely frozen Pangong Tso
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On the way back to Leh
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The mighty Chang La pass at 17688 ft asl
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The descent down towards Leh
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Last edited by //M : 18th March 2015 at 09:09.
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Old 19th March 2015, 12:48   #4
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Default re: Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 19th March 2015, 14:42   #5
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Default re: Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!

Great log Arunabh, yet again! I saw some updates on FB and was about to ask about the trip to you and here you come up with this log. Mighty impressed with the aerial views of the Himalayas. Must have been a breathtaking sight. Though knowing you, it would have been even more satisfying for you had it been a motorcycle trip!
But then again, you enjoyed to the fullest and that's what matters. Excellent pictures.

Thanks,
Saket
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Old 19th March 2015, 14:47   #6
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Default re: Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!

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Originally Posted by saket77 View Post
Great log Arunabh, yet again! I saw some updates on FB and was about to ask about the trip to you and here you come up with this log. Mighty impressed with the aerial views of the Himalayas. Must have been a breathtaking sight. Though knowing you, it would have been even more satisfying for you had it been a motorcycle trip!
But then again, you enjoyed to the fullest and that's what matters. Excellent pictures.

Thanks,
Saket
Thank You sir !

Motorcycle trip will happen too, now that I am smitten with the terrains of Ladakh. Its too early to comment anything but I am already looking at dates during September and have been trying new tactics to convince my boss so that he allows me to take a longish leave for a roadtrip to Ladakh.
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Old 19th March 2015, 19:14   #7
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Default re: Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!

So here it is! Finally, that twilight you showed us on FB, is shining here on TBHP in all it's glory. Very nice pictures. Carry on the wanderlust. May you reach great heights, even greater than the Himalayas
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Old 21st March 2015, 07:27   #8
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Default re: Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!

The infamous BRO quotes !
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Old 23rd March 2015, 15:34   #9
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Default Re: Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!

Those are some great pictures there and a nice write up too. Actually, the beauty of this place automatically makes you feel like a professional at photography, isn't it?

Will you be also sharing your trek experience with us?
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Old 23rd March 2015, 15:51   #10
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Those are some great pictures there and a nice write up too. Actually, the beauty of this place automatically makes you feel like a professional at photography, isn't it?

Will you be also sharing your trek experience with us?
Thank You sir. Yes, I will be sharing the trek experience soon with loads of pics.
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Old 23rd March 2015, 19:54   #11
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Default Re: Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!

Hi //M,

What you are doing by posting pics like these is making us petty workers look into our souls and question ourselves.

Can I ever quit my job and visit places you have been to?
Can I ever see the nature as it is supposed to be seen? (i.e. live, not on a Television or Laptop.)?
Can I ever afford to risk my health with the amount of hard work you would have to put in during treks at such places?

While unfortunately, the answer to all of these questions is a NO for me, atleast I get to see your brilliant pics and enjoy what you must have enjoyed.

Thats why I love Team-BHP.

Keep 'em coming, brother.
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Old 24th March 2015, 09:27   #12
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Default Re: Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!

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Originally Posted by DevilzzzzOwn View Post
Hi //M,

What you are doing by posting pics like these is making us petty workers look into our souls and question ourselves.

Can I ever quit my job and visit places you have been to?
Can I ever see the nature as it is supposed to be seen? (i.e. live, not on a Television or Laptop.)?
Can I ever afford to risk my health with the amount of hard work you would have to put in during treks at such places?

While unfortunately, the answer to all of these questions is a NO for me, atleast I get to see your brilliant pics and enjoy what you must have enjoyed.

Thats why I love Team-BHP.

Keep 'em coming, brother.
Thanks a lot sir.

I think that is the reason I started the travelogue with this quote "To those who believe adventures are dangerous, I say, try routine...that kills you far more quickly".

We all have to stick to schedules, ditto with me too. Getting a 10-day leave at a stretch is a task in itself. And the risk factor is always there specially in such terrains with low oxygen, no vegetation and harsh climate.

I weigh over a 100 kilos, I am super lazy and I have never thought of climbing mountains but I did it, with ease. I think its just a matter of fact that we break out of our restricted worlds and witness the beauty of nature.

A fellow trek mate who accompanied me on this trek was so mesmerised with the mountains that he finally did what his heart yearned for. He quit his family business and joined India Hikes as a trek leader in early March. He is currently scaling the heights of the Kedarkantha Peak.

I believe it takes little to do what others expect of you, but it takes courage to break out and do what you always wanted to do.
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Old 24th March 2015, 10:44   #13
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I think that is the reason I started the travelogue with this quote "To those who believe adventures are dangerous, I say, try routine...that kills you far more quickly".We all have to stick to schedules, ditto with me too. Getting a 10-day leave at a stretch is a task in itself. And the risk factor is always there specially in such terrains with low oxygen, no vegetation and harsh climate.
I weigh over a 100 kilos, I am super lazy and I have never thought of climbing mountains but I did it, with ease. I think its just a matter of fact that we break out of our restricted worlds and witness the beauty of nature. A fellow trek mate who accompanied me on this trek was so mesmerized with the mountains that he finally did what his heart yearned for. He quit his family business and joined India Hikes as a trek leader in early March. He is currently scaling the heights of the Kedarkantha Peak. I believe it takes little to do what others expect of you, but it takes courage to break out and do what you always wanted to do.
Arunabh, with these lines, you would yourself not know that how many lives you would touch. Very inspiring and encouraging. Thanks for these words of wisdom. They have touched me in a very special way. Grateful to you.
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Old 24th March 2015, 16:32   #14
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So here it is! Finally, that twilight you showed us on FB, is shining here on TBHP in all it's glory. Very nice pictures. Carry on the wanderlust. May you reach great heights, even greater than the Himalayas
Thank You for all the compliments sir.

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Originally Posted by saket77 View Post
Arunabh, with these lines, you would yourself not know that how many lives you would touch. Very inspiring and encouraging. Thanks for these words of wisdom. They have touched me in a very special way. Grateful to you.
I am glad I was able to encourage you in a special way sir. It seems the love for the mountains, the addiction to venture out and the intoxication of the crisp cold air has made me wiser.
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Old 25th March 2015, 00:24   #15
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Default Re: Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!

9th Feb 2015, Day 3


The Pangong experience was surreal, apologies for not clicking more pictures. I really wanted to, but with the freezing temperatures and the strong winds, our hands just went numb. We could barely manage to click a few pictures there and rushed to our vehicles in less than 30 minutes.

However, those 30 minutes will be remembered for a long time to come.
The next day we got up from our cozy bed and warm blankets at Leh, and post breakfast left for Lamayuru. The plan was to spend time at the Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Magnetic Hill and Sangam (confluence of the Indus river and the Zanskar river) along the way.

The roads in and around Leh are designed for petrolheads. Sadly I was in a minibus, but I realized how exciting will it be to be at the helm of a sporting sedan in such roads. I remember few years back, Autocar India had rated the Leh-Nimmu road as India’s best road. Now I realized why it deserved such a cake !

The Leh-Nimmu road has everything to delight a petrolhead: fast straights, swooping corners, serpentine curves, lots of hairpin bends, scintillating scenery, snow-capped peaks, minimal traffic, fantastic surface and the crisp cool mountain air.

The beautiful vistas will beg you to stop at every corner and click pictures. We stopped at a few places on the way, plus at Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Magnetic Hill and the Indus-Zanskar confluence.

I saw tyre marks at Magnetic Hill indicating some serious off-roading. I was suddenly reminded of our very own tsk1979, Tanveer sir’s off-roading escapade at Magnetic Hill. Probably many people tried to break that record !

We had delicious breakfast at Nimmu and reached Lamayuru by afternoon. We pitched our tents overlooking the spectacular Lamayuru Moonlands and had delicious Maggi for lunch.

A few miles before Lamayuru we could see a frozen waterfalls. Needless to say, each one of us jumped with excitement and posed for the lens along the frozen waterfalls. We could barely stand next to it, the ice was slippery but with a little effort, we managed to balance ourselves and stick our tongues to the ice. Whoa, one item ticked off my bucket list !

Another attraction was the Lamayuru Moonlands, absolutely spectacular and definitely one of those unique places across India. We climbed up the Lamayuru Monastery and could see nice view of the Moonlands around. After spending quality time at the Monastery and with the local kids, we descended down.

Lamayuru is a small village, generally the tourists traveling from Srinagar to Leh prefer to stay a night at Kargil. After a sumptuous dinner, we indulged in some card games and went out for a walk post-midnight. It was cold, much more than Leh. We were looking plump, packed in 5 layers of clothes. With a little effort, all of us ventured out just to gaze at the zillion stars shining bright in the sky, to see the bright moon slowly making its way to the top and to see the snow capped peaks glow white under the moonlight.

While we were talking about some spooky experiences under the bright moonlit sky, we suddenly heard wolves howling nearby. A wolfpack, in the adjacent mountain, were howling loud and we could see the silhouettes of a few wolves. Spooky experiences at midnight and howling wolves are not the best recipe to stay composed so we did the next best thing, rushed to our tents and called it a night praying to God that the wolves should not cross the ridge and reach our tents.

As we tried to get comfortable in our sleeping bags, the enthusiasm and zeal to climb the Prinkiti La tomorrow was very much evident in all of us. We wanted to express our enthusiasm but thanks to the sub-zero temperatures, all we could express was some serious teeth chattering !!

Spectacular roads and vistas around Leh
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Gurudwara Pathar Sahib
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Stunning road to Nimmu, National Highway 1
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Magnetic Hill
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Moderator tsk's escapade at Magnetic Hill?
Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0853.jpg

Fabolous roads to Lamayuru
Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0845.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0883.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0885.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0888.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0907.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0931.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0936.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0953.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0965.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0988.jpg

Frozen Waterfalls !
Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_1023.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0015-2.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0032-2.jpg

Lamayuru Moonlands
Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0140-2.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0143-2.jpg

Lamayuru Monastery
Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0154-2.jpg

Around Lamayuru
Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0153-2.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0150.jpg

Where eagles dare: A winter sojourn to Ladakh!-dsc_0151-2.jpg
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