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Old 18th April 2017, 13:31   #1
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Default Ladakh - The Second Reckoning

My thoughts and visuals, is a travel diary in which photographs and expressionistic narrative attempt to dwell upon the frame that Ladakh is; a world which is unfamiliar to the traveler but never strange. Travelling through this countryside nestled in the towering mountain ranges, often many a wanderer to this land passes from being an outsider to a participant.

The real journey to Ladakh and not the touristic variety becomes not only a crossing of physical and social boundaries, but a passage across another boundary that renders defunct the traditions of city life which has been acquired and shared.

What is Ladakh, where is this fabled place that has mystified people across the world. Nestled high up among the Himalayan Ranges reached through narrow passes, with each passing day the region is opening up to those willing to make the effort to come out here, braving physical discomfort and banking on their mental will in order to experience something that still is different from what they would have seen till date. It is my personal belief that no one can see Ladakh only once and not make the resolve to see it again. Many succeed in this endeavor while for some it remains a resolve that is yet to be fulfilled. Then there are those who do the journey by road starting from all corners of the sub-continent braving diverse conditions and passing through the length and breadth of the county till they reach the base of the region from where the far boundaries of this region actually begin to manifest in the visuals that are presented. I guess I belong to this cadre, for me to come to this place it has to be by the Road imbibing all that the journey presents and covers me with. With each passing mile, a portion of my thought and soul gets uncovered so that by the time I reached Leh, I had been lain bare. My soul and thoughts were open to be covered with experiences that would find a place in my sub consciousness molding me, influencing me at those time when I have returned back and found myself surrounded by humdrum of city life and its trappings.

This is a visual expression of journey to Leh and beyond, my second homecoming if I may say so. I know there will be many more, for each visit I leave a bit of myself behind or shall I say that with each visit a bit of my conscious being is permanently taken over by the mountain and its radiance and eventually I will become a part of it, till such time it happens completely I will keep coming back.

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This time the journey began from the hills of the Western Ghats where I was based and I motored along though the twisties of the Western Ghats before finally rolling into and merging with the giant network of fantastic highways that now criss cross quite a bit of the subcontinent.NH52/AH47(Asian Highway 47) twisted themselves through places like
Idgundi,Yellapur,Dharwad while NH 48 thereafter surged ahead through the towns of Sankeswar,Nipaani,Kolhapur,Karad,Satara merging onto Pune offering me the opportunity to cruise at decent speeds bypassing majority of the towns/cities of Maharashtra till I reached my destination for the day; the vibrant alive metropolis Mumbai, an epitome of what I meant by the humdrum of city life. Mumbai traffic showed me how much out of touch I had become when it came to navigating through the opportunistic hordes of vehicles moving along in the late evening rush hour. Thoroughly exhausted by the effort I gratefully parked the Indomitable at the end of a long tiring day when I had reached my stay for the night.

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Hotels dotted along the highway reminded me of something that I had read written by an author called Conn Iggulden on the legendary conqueror Genghis Khan who had by the force of his personality conquered vast swathes of lands from Chinese territories to the middle Asia including parts of Russia and Mongolia had established something unique known as Yam Stations, which were small way points which provided a hot meal as well as fresh horses for dispatch riders who were on business of the State. These interlinking stations stretched into the conquered lands in desolate regions forging links in a chain for those who ventured ahead. For me small hotels on the big and obscure highways in the sub-continent represent the Yam Station providing a small relief to the weary traveler.


The skies had opened up by the time I was ready to depart and NH8 was the epitome of bleakness. The grey vistas and the concrete structures all around made me realize how much I had moved away from this kind of a habitat. My spirits ebbed seeing the frames all around me and it felt that even the humans living here were caught in a web of close confined alternate universe, the real earth was somewhere else.

Thoughts moving around in my sub conscious I eased the Indomitable on the busy NH 8 and turned Northwards, wipers clearing away the oncoming sleets of rain, eyes staring into the distance while the mind subdivided into two compartments, one involved in the business of driving whilst the other opened itself to the various thoughts that drifted in and out. As the Kms sped by the rain too was left behind and soon Gujrat welcomed me. The NH 8 traverses through the entire length of the state of Gujrat moving along famous and historic cities like Surat, Ankleswar, Barauch, Vadodara, Ahmedabad and then finishing at Himmatnagar where the traveler then enters Rajasthan.

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Moving along the Indian Highways offers the traveler an insight into the myriad life that grows and thrives along the Highway , its future so intrinsically linked to the wellbeing of the highway itself , right from the old huge banyan trees that grew along the highway spreading its branches in a knowing way that they did not obstruct the vehicles that passed underneath to the various tea stalls and lunch houses that mirrored their existence to the tunes of those who transversed these highways.

My destination for the day was the Lake city of Udaipur but the dynamic circumstances of road travel meant that by late evening I had just crossed Ahmedabad and a long drive of around 260 kms was still remaining. It is important to have a plan but then it is more important to be flexible and hence the journey was shortened till the busy town of Himmatnagar, the last big town prior to leaving Gujrat and entering Rajasthan . A well maintained highway hotel catered to my needs which were as it is few in number and I slipped into a deep sleep waiting for the commencement of the next day.


The early morning chai as the world slowly awoke, whisps of fumes from the hot cup rose upwards making abstract patterns before finally blending into the vast atmosphere, while the fingers warmed themselves by the touch of the cup itself. A cup of tea in the morning is a ritual in itself of many out here and I am no exception to this.

Soon the time to roll was upon and the I’LE was as ready as ever. The target set for the day was a forgotten town called Behror, forgotten because earlier its call to fame was eminent personalities through the ages who were instrumental in participating in monumental events like the fight against the British in the year 1857 but now it is a highway town catering to the needs of a floating world, waiting and longing for the good old days to come back in a hope that fades ever so slowly.

As the town of Udaipur was crossed and then NH8 was left behind as the journey took us into the network of National Highways venturing inside the Rajasthan countryside. The route involved way points of Chittorgarh , Bhilwara,Nasirabad,Kisangarh,Jaipur bypass and finally Behror. The network of highways involved the NH 76 followed by the NH 79 and finally we meet up the faithful NH 8 again at Jaipur bypass. A note on the traffic on these routes, originally these highways were the Trucker Highways; on my last visit I hardly crossed any light vehicles but this time the number had definitely gone up. But still these roads are a pleasure to drive upon as they meander through the core of Rajasthan state. Tea was served in a road side stall and the guy out there decided to offer fresh tea hence the entire cutlery including the tea jug was first cleaned and the detergent used was brick finely grounded to a fine powder and then put to use as a cleaning agent. Definitely took me back to my childhood days of enacting the children games that we all used to play!!!

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Behror was eventually reached by 2000 hrs and the RTDC Guest House was a very welcome sight indeed. Bookings had been done online but the staff, steeped in age old customs opened up a huge bound register which probably had the name of every guest who had stayed in the premises since the first day. There is a lot of stories in that register, mute testimony to the multitude of identities that have their names etched in its yellow pages. Mine too were added along with the requisite booking form and was then given he key of the room.

Long road trip on road generally follow these patterns which involve covering immense distances during the day light hours and then letting the body and machine rest for the night prior to commencing the next day. The goal remains the final destination and all the intervening are just way points in the effort to culminate in the final destination.


The harshness of the land hid its richness, yes the lands of Rewari, Kurukshetra, Bhiwadi are icons upon themselves, these names have been there since time immemorial and they will remain long after the memories of my foot print on this earth too wither away. As I made my way through the National Highways bypassing Gurgaon and Delhi in totality I was surrounded by lush fields and wide Highways, cutting through the land moving Northward which would then eventually meet GT Road (Grand Trunk Road)

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A few words about the Grand Trunk road that we were travelling upon is I feel most essential for it is one of South Asia’s oldest and longest major roads. It has linked the Eastern and Western region of the subcontinent for over four centuries originating from Chittagong in Bangladesh, entering India through Howrah and then cutting across North India reaching the Wagah Border where it enters Pakistan towards Lahore and Gurjanwala and then entering Afghanistan through the Khyber pass and finally culminating at Kabul, a single continuum of over 2500 kms.As Rudyard Kipling has put it “such a river of life as nowhere else exists in the world”.

I was reminded about a thought that had formed some time ago, it goes something like this; the journey through a familiar/unfamiliar world is sustained by the pause, and the pause is sustained by such a journey.
Travelling solo on long wide roads presents a void of silence which yields an experience of loss of presence and also yields a need for a meaning of presence. At times such as these, the absence of others frees me to be spatially suspended, no monitoring of speed or coordination and above all no spoken words release me to “drift in my thoughts “ .

As I moved ahead, by lunchtime I took a diversion towards Anandpur sahib, for this one has to take a right turn from the Sambhu Barrier , after Ambala on NH 44. Eventually one would reach the township of Mohali and then moving ahead we would reach the holy towns of Kiratpur and then Anandpur .

After checking into the hotel at Anandpur, I wanted to visit the gurudwara at Kiratpur Sahib known as Gurudwara Patal Puri, as in my last visit I had arrived late and could not visit it. The weather was heavy, still in a peculiar manner and it was the indication that heavy showers were on the way as the earth prepared to receive the onslaught and deluge. No wonder by the time I started the skies had opened up and the roads were flooded by swift moving water. Somehow this deluge made me feel lighter within as though the heaviness of the uncertainty and listless had been washed away. It was a warm heart that reached the abode of belief, Kiratpur Sahib gurudwara glistened in the after showers and beckoned me with open arms.

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The Lake @Kiratpur Sahib

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Evening Splendor

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Gurudwara Kiratpur Sahib

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Kiratpur Sahib established in 1627 on the banks of the Sutlej, was founded by the sixth Guru Sri Hargobind Sahib. It is a revered gurudwara as many of the Sikh gurus had visited here as well were born. There is also the Gurudwara Sri Keshgarh Sahib, nearby at Anandpur sahib which is very revered in the Sikh community. This is the place where the “Khalsa” was born and is one of the five holy takths of Sikhism. These two places are in my opinion a must visit for all those who travel through these towns.

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Gurudwara Keshgarh Sahib

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What is the meaning of Khalsa.If we dig deeper, the tale goes like these , the tenth Guru Gobind Singh addressed a congregation of his followers out here wearing a naked sword and demanded that the sword needed blood and asked for volunteers. One by one five people volunteered who were one by one taken inside a tent turn by turn each time the sword coming out red with blood. After the fifth person had gone gone inside , the Guru bough five Sikhs from the same tent dressed in blue turbans , long yellow shirts, a waistband and loose knickers with swords dangling on their side. There were then known to the Sikh community all over as the “Panj Pyaaras “and offered them immortality. These five panj pyaaras embraced the five symbols of Sikhism, the kes, the Kangha , the kara , the Kacha , the Kirpan. The place which this incident occurred on Baisakhi day is the Gurudwara at Anandpur Sahib, where was born the “Khalsa”.

By the time I was returning it was dinner time and night has descended, tomorrow was the start of the mountains and somehow I knew within myself I was ready, I was open to meet them.

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Old 18th April 2017, 13:45   #2
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The morning after, I eased the I’LE out through the gates of the property. The mist still hung in the air and the world was awakening ever so slowly. I was going into the mountains and an early morning start was the best way to pay my respects. The destination was dreamy eyed vibrant Manali, 258 km away and the NH 154 was going to get me there. The famous National Highway covered key way points that included Swarghat , Bilaspur,Surendernagar,Mandi,Kullu.

Over the years the condition of the highway has improved. Performing the role of a crucial lifeline, it has taken all that has been thrown at it, by Nature as well as Man emerging battered but strong. My second journey on it and I was amazed by its resilience.

On the way came the diversion to Maa Naina devi temple (one of the 51 Shakti Peeths) , beckoning me like it did the last time but then I had said to myself on that day someday I will and this is what I said this time too , “Someday I Will”.The highway snaked and made its way and as the mountains enveloped me, my thoughts were lost in the familiar feeling of being in their midst and the thought came again n again “This is where I belong “.If each twist and turn of the Highway is not thoughtfully done, the Highway will chew one up , I was aware of it yet somehow instead of feeling overwhelmed , I was more affected by its warmth . It was homecoming.

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The Beas merrily moves

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Prayer Flags in the Wind

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Towns on the Highway

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Meanderings of the rivers

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Road trips shape you, this is what I believe in. The long journeys, silent pauses in between, the ever changing visuals outside strike a chord in the sub consciousness which impart motion to a train of thoughts. Decisions that needed clarity of thought, perspective are thrashed and debated inside the head and a sense to the outcome is achieved.

By 1530 hrs I was cruising alongside the Beas and the multitude of sign boards proclaiming the adventure that white water rafting is were in full strength all along the road , Manali was just on the horizon as I had reached the outskirts. The approach to Manali is very scenic and one must take out time to spend some time on the banks of the Beas prior to rushing into the city and that’s what I did, soaking in the feeling of a destination reached and the sight of the mountains and the sprinkling oyster blue colour of the Beas completed the frame both inside my head as well as outside visually. For those interested the white water rafting is a specialty out here and is worth participating in at economical pricing.

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Pandoh Dam Waters

Manali is like any other developing mountain city, choc a bloc with hotels and resturants. There as soon as one enters the limits , there will be agents offering a best price place to stay , my suggestion do a pre booking rather than searching for a place on location for that gives one the opportunity to relaxe and unwind without the hassle of trying to find a place to stay as the day draws to a close.

In case one needs to enjoy Manali, then definitely spend time in this town and go beyond Mall road. Do visit Hidimba Temple , Solang Valley , Vasistha Baths to name a few. Go for a coffee evening to old Manali, walk in the narrow lanes and take in the free spirit living atmosphere that old Manali is famous for. Do not forget to take home the specialty of Manali, the apple jam and the pickles made from green apples. I have not been able to do this till date because for me the town serves as a staging post for prior to going into the mountains. Hence there is nothing much that I can seek about this town but someday I hope to spend some quality time out here
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Old 18th April 2017, 14:04   #3
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You are back again and I feel this is going to be one of the best logs serving visual treat of the Ladakh region. Subscribed and waiting for more. Ever since I stumbled upon your log on trek to the Mandini Valley, I have been waiting for your thread and pounce upon it as soon it is posted. I also started to dig deep and find more threads started by you. You do have gift of writing coupled with the fantastic photography.

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Old 18th April 2017, 14:45   #4
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An early start, the requisite Rohtang Permit in possession and I was rolling. The road twisted and turning as we went past the sleepy quiet villages of Kothi, Gulaba, Palchan. The occasional individual was up and about starting his day as i swept past, my sights on the rays of the morning sun as they came down and illuminated the peaks of the Rohtang family. I realized how narrow the single carriageway road was, especially till reaching Marhi a steep drop on one side and a smooth rock face on the other, it is a blessing to move on this in the early hours of the morning for every single Km soothes the nerves of one who drives and instils in him the confidence to take on what is going to come ahead.

Breakfast was at Marhi, at one of the many dhabas which enthusiastically beckon each vehicle that stops, business is competitive and booming. After the passable breakfast I moved ahead. Rohtnag lies up ahead. Rohtang La, visited by many but still independent and tamed only as long as it wants. The roads are still broken, the descent steep and the spirit of the pass when the winter comes is still wild, it really does not matter that hundreds visit it, it still remains ROHTANG LA.

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Peaks of Rohtang

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Iconic Road Boards

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The road to Marhi

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Sunrise , dawn

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Sun Star at Rohtang

Koksar was reached pretty quickly as we ambled along, the destination for the day was Jispa which was just around the corner and with no traffic chaos it was reached by midafternoon. The stay was at Padma Lodge and the sun was bright overhead as I shut down the Indomitable and prepared to just relax for the reminder of the day.After a cup of tea in the evening I went for a long walk to the Bhaga River and to the village, Jispa is in the Lahul district and Buddhism is the main religion out here, the village people are simple and friendly. The houses are alongside the highway as well a little beyond the highway in case one wishes to venture.

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Bhaga River @Jispa

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Sissu sparkles

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Keylong beckons

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Bhaga Sparkles in the dark

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The Milky Way rises

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The road towards Sissu

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IOC @Tandi

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@ Tandi

The village still clings to a simple life yet I was happy to note that education is given a high impetus out here, there are small general stores that cater to the requirements of the village folks and it stirred deep memories in me of my childhood. A stroll in the village can be full of sights and sounds in itself. There is a small Buddhist monastery too. The evening passed and dusk settled in by the time I was back, there were other travelers who had arrived by this time and everyone was looking to have a good time in the evening by the camp fire and hot dinner. For me though, the lure of the night sky and astrophotography was too great to pass.
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Old 18th April 2017, 15:10   #5
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An early start, this was the schedule most of the days and for many city dwellers, this is a detoxification phase wherein the body follows a sanctified schedule. The shade of the incoming dawn was blue, this was a period before the golden rays of the sun are visual wherein the shade of blue dominates just everything. By the time we crossed the check post of Darcha and thereafter the diversion to Shingo La, the visibility had crept in and at Deepak Taal, the Sun rays were kissing the peak tops. The still waters of the lake reflect the image of the surrounding peak and the glacier that feeds this lake. During the months of May-Aug, this lake wows everyone with its greenery and reflective visual The temperature was biting cold and warmth of the car was comforting. IOC tankers were on the move, amongst many legends of the Manali –Leh Highway they have carved their own niche.

They are those who have seen Ladakh and the highway grow, they have seen the travelers transiting increasingly over the years but they have been there from the early beginning braving the Highway on machines that give their heart out to pull themselves through this unforgiving terrain. Kilometer by kilometer they serve the region earning an honest pay for all their efforts. After Deepak Taal we were on our way to the Lake of the Sun, Suraaj Taal. As we were still in Himachal, the lakes were called Taal instead of the Tibetan word Tso. The road went on and on twisting and turning as we climbed higher and higher into the Pir Panjal, a red Logan in a world of brown mountains and white snow beneath the electric blue sky. The vistas were spectacular desolate and often breathtaking.

As I moved on, zing zing bar appeared though this time the tea hut by the GREF camp was missing while I was looking forward for a tea break out here. I like the view that the landscape offers from Zing Zing bar with streamrunning down below and a gorgeous eyelevel view of the distant snowcapped peaks, it is one of my prominent landscape location.

Suraaj Taal came and once again I had a break out here for some photography, the road is quite narrow out here so parking of vehicle is not very advisable. . Welcome to Suraaj Taal, the second highest lake in India at an altitude of 4883 mts. The beauty of the lake and its sudden appearance surprises the traveler and leaves a long lasting impression. Do pause for some visuals however caution that the road is constructed on the mountain slope and is very narrow hence a stationary vehicle can create problems for those coming from ahead or behind. The lake is the source of Baga river which flows and unites with the Chandra river to eventually form the Chenab river as it passes through Kashmir Soon after we were at Baralacha La, our second pass of the trip situated at a height of 16040 ft. Baralacha La was totally empty, devoid of any human presence other than us and the Indomitable. It shimmered in the morning sunlight as the sunrays reflected off it and the towering peaks of snow all around. A extremely lonely and lovely place it definitely leaves its mark on all those who visit. This pass decides the fate of this highway and the closing time of the highway for any particular year. Not one to be taken lightly at an altitude of 4890 mts, this pass stands tall and mighty overseeing the entire landscape.

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Deepak Taal

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The road ahead

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Suraaj Taal & Highway

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IOC legends

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Suraaj Taal

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Sun Star

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sunrise morning at Deepak Taal

Next up post Baracha La was Sarchu, an iconic settlement, harsh in the night but mellow in the mornings, this season the narrow bridge prior to Sarchu was weak and hence constantly under repair leading to waiting time out there, I experienced this on both occasions on this trip. A quick tea at Sarchu and then we were zooming off for the landscape ahead of Sarchu is apt for some great landscape visuals, the Tsarap Chu in her turquoise color winding her way towards the Zanskar region mesmerizes the traveler who reaches this point after the harsh roads that he has travelled on. The quirky yet iconic bridges of this section like Twin Twin Bridge and the bridges on Whisky and Brandy nullah ae steeped in folklore and tales woven around their existence. The section from Sarchu till Gata Loops is landscape at its widest frame and leaves a deep impact on to the traveler for till the time this section has not been reached, the highway has wound its way through steep narrow and pinched landscape.

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Baraclacha La

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Tsarap Chu

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The Loops @ Gata

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Post travelling few Kms the loops of Gata show themselves and here the Tsarap Chu is seeing departing to the Zanskar The 21 hair pin loops make the traveler gain an altitude of 1500 feet. In the early days there were a number of enthusiastic off roaders who used to cut thru the loops making their path but thankfully with the betterment of the road, that has reduced. It is interesting to note that even the truckers do not hesitate to use the short cuts while ascending down and rumble downwards at a precarious angle. It is quite a sight to see a truck rumbling down at a steep angle with its rear end bouncing all over the place and a dust cloud being generated ominously behind it .
After the Gata Loops comes the second Pass of the day - Nakee La, at a height of 4750 mts . We were now in the area surrounded by high mountain peaks on all sides. The terrain and the roads were dusty and harsh with the winter sun beating down and the wind speed substantial. After 22 km one approaches Lachung La the third pass of the day at a height of 16000 ft.

The terrain deteriorates substantially after this section and it leaves the vehicle rattling and one proceeds at a slow pace till Pang which is reached after 23 km. This sector in my opinion is the most taxing and extracts a toll on each rider. Pang situated at an attitude of 4600 mts is a welcome sight for sore eyes and is a compulsory rest stop for almost all. The state buses also have a substantial halt here and so do the taxis and riders. For me this is the default late lunch stop and I take a magnanimous break out here to recharge myself post the long drive since morning.

What comes next is an absolute reversal of the terrain that one has been driving through the last two hours or so. Pang is one of the highest transit camps of the Indian Army. The high altitude 4600 mts makes the soldiers acclimatize very well, for the Army believes in acclimatization and does it very gradually and methodically unlike the travelers who just move ahead. So as soon as one crosses the settlement of Pang, the road curves upwards and after a continuous climb, one lays sight on the smooth tarmac stretching all the way into the horizon with a huge plain on the right side. The MORE Plains, stuff of legend itself; many term it a runway in the middle of nowhere, in the early years it was not so, there was no proper tar road hence the vehicles used to move on mud trails billowing huge clouds of dust as they reached fantastic speeds, and now with the advent of the highway, many let go on the throttle and zoom ahead, on the roughly 40 km road flatlands of MORE. One has to remember that the road does dip suddenly and in case the vehicle loses control, there is serious risk of damage and injury, hence one has to be cautious.

It is so easy to imagine and lose sight of the worlds from where we have come when we enter places like these. I paused out here, among the steps of my journey, I became witness to images brought about by solitude and distance, created by passion and stillness.

It is amazing to realize that I was the only person out there in the fading afternoon, there was just space and nothing, just me and then there was nature. It is a totally different feeling. My culture, people everything became totally irrelevant, there comes a different way of relating to the earth.

As the afternoon sped by, I moved ahead towards the grand old man of all … Tanglang La, my fourth pass of the day. It has been a long journey and I have transversed through mountain ranges on a spectacular and magnificent highway, have seen marvels and an earth like no other and then I reach the door step of Tanglang La, at that height of 5328 mts, I can see a long way way in the distance end I realize that I would go way beyond what I can see and when I look back I cannot even see where I started and this realization hits me so deep and makes me look at this different perspective.

After the decent of Tanglang La, I sped towards the villages of Rumtse , Sasoma, Gia,Nato, Miru as the darkness came fast , my thoughts were flying in front of me as outriders guiding me as I moved ahead to reach the gates of Leh City , which were reached by 1930 hrs , a good four hours from Tanglang La.
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Old 18th April 2017, 15:30   #6
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Let me continue with few more visuals of Day VII , the journey towards Leh

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Nakee La

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Flags in the wind

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The Highway looking backwards

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Moving towards Lachung La and upwards to Pang

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Kangla Jaal

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The plains of More coming up

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sunset near Rumtse

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Leh Welcomes

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Old 18th April 2017, 21:35   #7
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Default re: Ladakh - The Second Reckoning

Yet another stunning travelogue from you. The pics are just marvelous. Am becoming a fan of your photography and traveling. Rated 5*.

I some times feel one must visit Ladakh every year just to enjoy the clear blue sky!

Your travelogue reminds me of our Ladakh road trip from 2015!
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Old 18th April 2017, 21:59   #8
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Default re: Ladakh - The Second Reckoning

Stunning pics swsumit and Samba! Ladakh never fails to impress, no matter how many travelogues are penned. I have been to Ladakh twice but it will take me another life or more to take pics like this. Keep travelling and sharing!
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Old 19th April 2017, 15:29   #9
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Stunning visuals and absolute delight to watch the long exposure of Milky Way.

Very inspiring travelogue swsumit. Kudos.
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Old 19th April 2017, 16:03   #10
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Honest confession, I clicked on your travelogue the moment I saw the Logan. The smaller mirrors indicate that this is 2007/2008 model.The fact that you are able to maintain it in such a pristine condition and use it as a regular commute is amazing. Amazing pics too.
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Old 19th April 2017, 19:20   #11
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Leh, (latitude :34.00 North Longitude : 77.00 East ) a city all too easy to fall in love with , the easy going manner of the inhabitants and the proximity of the mountains all around somehow have a calming effect on all this who visit . The fragrance of the incense in the prayer halls of the Gompas, the serenity of the evening sunset leaves a profound impact on everyone who gets connected to them.

The city is dotted with brick houses and prayer flags, the old town is dominated by Leh Palace and the Namgyal Gompa situated on a high ridge, the lighted palace in the night presents a very powerful impact on all those who pause and look at it.

There is a lot to do in Leh and one should spend at least three days out here, divide the time between taking adequate rests to acclimatize your body for the high altitude and also pay a visit to the spiritual monasteries known as Gompa. The recommendation is to visit Thiksey, Hemis, Phyang Gompas.These are some of the most famous and revered monasteries in Ladakh dating back hundreds of years.

Thiksey Gompa is one of the largest and resembles the Potala Palace of Tibet, it houses the largest Maitrey Buddha statue in Ladakh. Visiting it takes a considerable amount of time. Do also visit the Tara temple out there. There is a coffee shop and souvenir cum book shop which houses some delightful merchandise.

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Thiksey Gompa

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Entrance @Thiksey

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Chorten and background

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Monochrome beauty

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Maitrey Buddha

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Tara Temple

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Phyang Gompa is an off the tourist path monastery and houses some delightful thangkas and scripture books. There is touristic element out here and the atmosphere is more serene and rustic. Hemis once again is one of the most revered monasteries and receives thousands of visitors each year. Do visit the museum in addition to the main temple as well as the souvenir shop. The monastery has many different shrines including one dedicated to Maa Kali too.

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Hemis Gompa

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Main Prayer Hall

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Main courtyard @Hemis

Shey Gompa and Palace too is on the tourist circuit and for me it is a must visit , though not as grand as Hemis or Thiksey it does house the largest bronze chorten in the ladakh region.

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Bronze Chorten @Shey

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Take an evening sunset serenade at Shanti stupa built by the Japanese architects and people of Ladakh which is a must visit and watch the city come alive as the sun sets. Spend some time at the Hall of Fame maintained by the Indian Army. Take a stroll in the main market and savor a hot steaming bowl of Thupka in the cold winter evening and spend some hours browsing the multitude of books and coffee table books at Leh Ling Book Store. Leh has something for practically everybody and one visit is never sufficient. Once one has done all the above it is time to move in to the vast expanse of 38000 sq miles that compose the state of Ladakh which will strike a chord deep down inside your subconscious.

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Old 19th April 2017, 22:05   #12
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http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/images...ool%20pics.gif really liked this and this travelogue was key to convincing my better half to take this road trip.

Thank you!!!
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Old 20th April 2017, 12:35   #13
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As this was my second visit to the city, I decided to alter my itinerary and to lose myself in the wild lands of the Changthang plateau. The plateau is characterized by high altitude grasslands and giant lakes bordered by the towering mountain ranges of the Zanskar on one side. It was here that i was headed to and on a cold day I moved ahead , taking the Leh –Manali Highway all the way crossing Tanglang La once again till I reached Debring from where I turned left into the single narrow carriageway metaled path broken down in many places . The grey clouds had been left behind on the other side of Tanglang la and out here the golden grass of autumn welcomed me. The path cut through the low mountains as they welcomed me into their midst, far ahead I could see the path twisting towards the settlement of Tso Kar village which was on the marshy banks of the giant Tso Kar Lake.

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Black Necked Crane

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Birds of Tso Kar

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Flight of Freedom

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Rebels of the Changthang : Kiangs

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Birds of Tso Kar

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Freedom ; it means a lot

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It was late afternoon when i reached the deserted settlement of Tso Kar with hardly anyone loitering around. My first agenda was to find a place to stay for the night. After a few enquires I got a small room for the night as well as food thrown into the deal. Thukje Gompa looked down upon me as I stood on the main road passing thru the hamlet and the wind was a living being out here.

As I made my way into the kitchen cum dining hall of my host, I greeted my host and his wife with the traditional Julley greeting. They were immersed in small tasks of the home including taking care of their small child infant. As I sat in the kitchen for some time I was aware of an aural presence that did not possess a single source within that moment. Within that small space of room, I was aware of a confluence of auras separate yet together. This familiarity of the unknown, it is felt only in specific places I think and Ladakh for me is one such place. The kitchen is the central part of any household in Ladakh especially the homestays. The kitchens also extend into the dining hall and are adorned with all the wealth of the house in terms of silver cutlery, various kinds of flasks and traditional ladakhi utensils. The floors as well as the walls are covered with carpets having bright, bold Tibetan symbol and depictions.

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Tso Kar approaches

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Tso Kar nestled

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The clouds dramatize the landscape

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Settlement @Tso Kar

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Lost in the wild lands of the Changthang

There is so much to explore out here, I knew I was only scrapping the surface of the it, after a while I went out, drawn by the magnificence of Tso Kar Lake. The lake situated at an altitude of over 14700 feet in the Rupshu valley where I stood, returned my gaze as the white shimmered off its banks. The salt that was deposited on its marshy banks dissuades many a traveler from reaching till its banks, however I made the effort drawn by the cachous cries of the birds that had made this lake their home. Tso Kar is a bird watchers’ paradise and is home to Brahmni ducks, bar headed geese and the elusive black necked cranes.

Standing out there all alone, in the shadow of the mountains I could not help but feel that time stood still out here. There was no need to look at the mobile or the watch, the void of silence yielded an experience of loss of presence but at the same time it also yielded an outline for a meaning of presence. In my silence was a discovery of form. I was made aware of facets which otherwise are so fleeting that we never register, as our thoughts are dominated by the vagaries of everyday existence.

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Wonder in wilderness

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In the Wild Grass

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@Thukje Monastery

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Tso Kar left profound experience on me, as I spent the entire afternoon and evening in its presence, without any urgency to go someplace else, calming me down within in a way that was strangely very reassuring.
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Old 20th April 2017, 17:01   #14
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Just one word, AWESOME !!!! Stunning, sharp pictures. Hats off to your photography skills. You need to start a separate thread on photography tips.

Any travelogue to Leh/Ladakh ignites the feelings to just get into the car and drive away to this wonderful place.

Would you mind sharing the expenses & the stay etc. And how did the Logan fare on the route.

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Old 20th April 2017, 17:44   #15
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Simply brilliant! I am out of words to describe this travelogue. Super pics, great descriptions. Eagerly waiting for the next parts Rated a well deserved 5 star.
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