There are certain experiences and memories that pictures or poetry cannot carry. The 6 days in Leh was a summary to this. There was a strong urge in me to feel every feeling again, but at the same time I wanted those feelings to be special and just for me. These 6 days I was silently involved in a deep conversation with the mystic mountains, valleys and the rich culture of Ladakh.
Following the family tradition of travelling once every year, we decided to fulfil the dream of my grandparents who always wanted to see what Leh Ladakh had in it. It is said that the flight from Delhi to Leh is one of the most beautiful experiences as you are above those majestic mountains and clouds!
But unfortunately, the black clouds were successful in destroying my excitement of seeing the sunrise between the Himalaya and Karakorum, 2 of the world’s highest mountain ranges at 6:30 AM from the altitude of 39,000 ft. The black clouds had already started destroying my dream trip.
Stepping down form the plane, I remember how the cold winds had greeted me and how the snow clad mountains in the horizon were smiling at me. I shouted out loud to dad about how amazing the first feeling in Leh was, all excited. I started trying to grasp the air! We were at 11,000 ft and the air in Leh was real thin. So, if ever you plan to visit Leh Ladakh, avoid the flight from Delhi as your body has not gotten enough time to acclimatize to the thin air, instead, prefer a road trip from Srinagar or Manali.
The second day started early at around 8:00 AM with a closed mind which was unaware about what it was to be exposed to. All the 9 of us sat in our tempo traveller with a similar thought that the day was going to be beautiful. I sat in the first as usual, talking and fulfilling my curiosity by asking questions to my driver. I was observing the multi colour flags in Leh everywhere, from the market, to cars, bikes, bridges to shops. This ‘unity in belief’ was something that impressed me about Leh. I still could not find what these flag meant.
Amidst these thoughts, our car stopped and arrived at the ‘Hall of Fame’ which is a memorial built by the Indian army dedicated to all the wars they have fought against Pakistan and China. Information, strategies, artefacts, inspirational quotes, pictures all related to these wars was showcased to us there. There were times when I had tears in my eyes reading the letters of soldiers who sacrificed themselves, there were times when my heart started racing when a soldier narrated his story of heroism to me, and there were times when my eyes could not believe what it read about the extreme conditions of Siachen Glacier. We had always known about the power of our army, but that day I understood how adjectives like courageous, dedication, and fearless were characteristics and personality of such soldiers. I never felt so proud of being an Indian.
I was on roads again, more energetic and pumped up than usual. Breathing in all the vibe that this desert was creating, I became completely silent staring at the wonders nature created outside my window. The rare glimpse of green patches littered like paper on a street combined with river flowing and all of that decorated with dark brown rocky mountains that changed hues after every turn on the road made me want to stare at them for hours.
The car stopped between roads so that we could stare at it longer and stepping down I had a strong urge to cry and hug everything that was around me, I wanted to shout and tell these mountains of how perfectly perfect they were even in this disharmony and imperfections.
Then after some time we reached one of the oldest monasteries of Leh, called the Likir monastery. Talking about the importance of monasteries, it is like a living place for the monks and nuns who spend most of their time remembering god and sitting in silence. Other than the location of the monastery and the amazing scenery, what attracted me the most was the silence. I felt nothing and everything at the same time, truly a pure and divine experience.
They believe in Mahayana Buddhism and also that there will be a ‘future Buddha’. I could clearly see the unity that religion had created there! The values of what that religion taught them was practised more than the rituals, maybe that is why this area is pure in all its senses, there is not a single rape case, murder case recorded in Leh. I can’t say that Buddhism is a facilitator to this, but surely the values of honesty and trust were speaking out loud to me from every person I was meeting or every mountain I was talking.
We visited the second monastery called the Alchi monastery after that, the market lined up before the monastery took a lot of our time. We were upset by how there was no one to explain us the culture and history of that place. But I will not forget Alchi because of one experience that touched me deeply.
I spotted a small wooden cafe and read that its Apricot saffron tea is very famous, enthusiastic that I found a pretty cafe amongst the hills I went there and decided to have a local food experience. Entering the cafe, I already started experiencing comfort as the set up was very cosy. I went to the balcony and spotted a lady sleeping; she heard my footsteps and woke up. Assuming her to be the owner I greeted her with a smile. She instantly told me that she loved my earrings. After a bit of chit chat, I ordered the famous chocolate momos and Apricot saffron tea on her recommendation. Both of them were a delight to my taste buds.
The lady again came up to me to ask about how the food was and slowly we receded into conversations about the cultures of Leh. I finally asked her what those flags meant and I was so happy that I got my answer
It means the purification of your heart, mind and body. Those colours reflected the 5 elements of earth in harmony. It talked about the balance and creation of life.
Satisfying my curiosity was the best thing someone could do. I thanked her before leaving and gave her my earrings just to recognise her kind and beautiful heart. She was amazed by the gesture. I went to my car again and after a few seconds I heard a tap on my window. The lady came again with something in her hand, as she offered it to me I realised it was a stone on which the same meaning was carved in the most beautiful handwriting. I was speechless. Stepping down I hugged her and promised myself to never forget the kindness she showered to me.
Leh taught me lessons of love, kindness, dedication and courage. Every experience was such and now I was even more excited about how Leh would reveal itself to me.
Details of my trip
- A private limited organisation called flamingo organized the trip for the 9 of us according to our comfort and requirements.
- We stayed in Sera courtyard, Leh which provided us with great hospitality, food and comfort. Highly recommended to anyone wishing to visit Leh.
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