Turned 30 while traveling far away
“These are beyond the Swiss Alps” as we described to each other pondering upon the mesmeric topography of Leh while we drove our way down from Khardungla to Nubra valley. After moving our fingers from Russia and Scandinavia on the world map we got our grip at Leh for the reasons we only realized post our visit. Just like every year, we sat down to freeze our travel plans for my birthday but this one was extraordinary indeed. I was turning thirty and it was as exceptional as it was to leave my teens when I turned 20.
Most picturesque landing, Leh airport
Because the occasion called for it I planned this trip with very special companions and for a very unusual place. I wanted to get away with the usual midnight cake fights and answering bday calls, not that I don’t like the attention given by both, but to do it differently was the BIG plan. The other bend was towards having a stress free vacation away from work calls, reach of guests and maybe from that intact tedious life. And while the seek was about getting eloped somewhere there cant be a better place than Leh as once you are here you are not available until you make an effort but who wanted to do that?
Leh is generally marketed as bikers paradise but I and my partner are far away from working hard on vacation and like to get spoiled in luxury. The other reason biking didn’t suit our tribe as it included my parents who would rather sit at home then be having to ride on a trip. So a gang of super spoilt and super lazy vacationers.
Leh terrain for bikers
Making our way
Leh maintains its exclusivity because of the fact that it’s only accessible to travelers in certain months of the year. Leh can be accessed only from may to September and fortunately am a Cancerian. We escaped at the end of June and returned back at the beginning of July. Leh has a small defense airport with limited flight connectivity from Delhi, Srinagar, and Chandigarh. We boarded our morning flight from New Delhi IGI airport to Leh barely a journey of 02 hours.
While we were 100kms away from Leh our pilot gave us a news. “We are unable to land at Leh due to bad weather conditions” This led all call buttons of the flight on as everyone wanted to enquire from the crew what happens next? while the crew requested the passengers to keep calm and get down at the Delhi airport. Disenchanted and worried we got down at the Delhi airport and rushed to meet the airline staff. The airline offered us to book ourselves on next day flights to Leh. We chose to book an early morning flight the next day with the hope that we would reach Leh. This was my first experience of its kind and I was so thrilled to learn that the airline accommodated us on the next flight without any additional charge even when this situation was beyond their control.
We checked in for few hours at a hotel in Aerocity and rushed at 02 am next morning for our 05 am, flight to Leh, our beginning was already exhausted but we knew all this would dab away if we land at Leh.
“Prepare for landing” this announcement gave me jimjams; I looked out of the window and had reminisced of our flight from Venice to Geneva when we saw the Alps underneath us from the plane window. These are beyond the Alps were our words. Oh so far I didn’t introduce my travel partners, glued to the window and shooting the landing video was my boyfriend turned husband and looking outside with broadening eyes and loud praises was my another favorite travel partner, my Mum. My mother and I enjoy traveling together and ensure a trip together once in a year to get pleasure from the room service food and hotel laundry services. What else women want?
Our first words at Leh
I, me and we all as we admitted never saw a countryside beautiful than the one we saw while landing, at the airport and while moving towards our hotel. The air so fresh and the surroundings so virgin. We were awestruck by Leh.
DAY 2 ( Day 01 never happened as we couldn’t land 🙁 )
We checked in at Himalayan Heritage hotel & to push ourselves to sleep got indulged in a heavy breakfast affair. Its important and as many websites would repeat spend your first-day acclimatizing in Leh with appropriate rest while also keeping your body hydrated. Because we had to catch up on our day 1 we planned to step out in afternoon to visit the monasteries in Leh town. I’m a huge fan of monasteries and the peace they envelop within themselves. Our first destination was the Thiksey monastery almost a drive of an hour from the Leh market. My mum already made up her mind while passing through the market that she is spending her evening there as she is a flea lover and so am I without feeling culpable.
At Thiksey Monastery
Thiksey Monastery is a gompa affiliated with the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located on top of a hill in Thiksey village, approximately 19 kilometers east of Leh
“Us” at Thiksey
At Shey Palace on our way back from Thiksey
Shey Palace complex are structures located on a hillock in Shey. The palace, mostly in ruins now, was built first in 1655, near Shey village, by the king of Ladakh, Deldan Namgyal.
View from top of Shey Palace
We left for Nubra valley while crossing the Khardungla pass, while we never had very strong intentions nor excitement to conquer the world’s highest motorable pass. We were definitely looking forward to reaching Nubra. Khardungla, as expected, was crowded with people gluing to the yellow board mentioning “Khardungla Pass, World’s highest motorable pass“. I think that this is the most photographed place in Leh more than the scenic views and monasteries with people combating wild and jumping on each other for a photo and of course selfies.
I couldn’t jump over people to get clicked in front of the yellow board hence the HIGHEST CAFE pic worked for me 🙂
On our way to Hunder at Nubra valley, and I was dying of the views. Hunder is a village located in the Nubra on the bank of Shyok River.
An army camp – Men at real work – Jai Hind
The Hunder Cold Sand Dunes
Camel riding on my Bactrian camel, this was my most loving memory of the trip. They are so ugly and cute and I enjoyed as a child.
And some more….. not camel
Our stunning resort at Hunder, The Hunder Resort, fortunately, a swift drive with no bad climate, reached here in the evening
A walk to remember, I and Vineet explored the Hunder vista.
Left early morning from Hunder , a place I would never want to say goodbye for its divine natural magnificence.
Our first pits stop Diskit Monastery
With the Maitreya Buddha
On our way to Pangong and more than the destination the journey was beautiful, we were in the middle of nowhere and that’s what I wanted from this vacation, to go places never been and never heard
In the middle of nowhere, I loved it!
Pangong lake, greatly more salient than I saw in movies
Changla pass, on our way down to Leh
Checked in at Sangto green guest house, my much attempted AirBnB experience which was just average and something I would not like to repeat.
After the apricot jam and bread breakfast, my mum reminded that we haven’t hit the shopping and she wouldn’t want to go with regrets. I decided to leave aside the planned excursions and just rest for the day and support the Leh economy by shopping as my brother says to make the word “Shopping” sound positive.
I and mommy shopped until we crashed to refuel over a cafe. It’s always so entertaining to share some conversations your mothers hold so much in their heart to wait for someone to listen to them. We spoke, bitched, discussed how good we are at shopping and her bargain skills. The kind of stress-busting conversations I rarely have back at work.
The day and the trip came to an end with three of us enjoying some traditional Ladaki dishes with some Kashmiri kahwa at the Himalayan cafe, a place I recommend strongly.
Next day we flew back to New Delhi and the last leg of my Birthday trip was also one of the most awaited moments as I was catching up with my only friends after two years.
Pre & Post Bday celebrations with my dearest family & friends
So turning 30 was an enlightening experience indeed. I saw places I couldn’t even imagine existed in India, I didn’t have a cake cutting ceremony but no regrets, I lived five days without phone signals and social media with the two most beautiful people. There were no anxieties to lose, to compete to dress up. A trip I would always remember “Being Beautiful and Blissful”. And yes there’s no better detox when you cry out your stress just because you are happy and you find your content space. Turning 30 was graceful, romantic and spiritual.
Towards more memories here on……