Ukti Travels: The Ladakh Experience Part 1

Ladakh Photo Story travel uktitravels

Landscapes & Prayers

Ladakh was a trip many years in the making. My plans for a Ladakh tour were always postponed in favour of comfortable holidays. I worried about handling the cold, the food, the long hours of driving on some of the world’s most dangerous roads, the erratic weather, the oxygen levels as we crossed some of the world’s highest motorable roads. I worried some more about being late to explore Ladakh after I heard about the sudden influx of tourists (thanks to a blockbuster called 3 idiots)..

And yet, I had to experience Ladakh. Now I am often asked - “Why would you visit Ladakh twice in a span of a year?”

A mani stone carved with a mantra. Typically ‘Om Mane Padme Hum’ is the most common hymn found carved on the mane stones.

The answer isn't quite simple. 

Ladakh is my test. Ladakh is my sanctuary. I am mesmerised by the majestic presence of mountains, the limitless blue skies and the sudden sighting of an oasis in an otherwise barren desert,

Little settlements comfortably nestled in the loving shade of mountains, monasteries placed precariously in austere addresses, night skies with stars scattered like confetti at a parade,

The soundtrack of flowing rivulets; freshly melted from the gleaming path of glaciers, waking up to the meditative chants of ‘Om Mane Padme Hum’, faces crinkled by harsh weather and a happy state of being,

Being greeted with a heartfelt ‘Julley!’, where kindness is not just a quality, but a language & currency.

For a place so close to recurring conflict, Ladakh exudes a sense of calm that many seek to disconnect from the madness of our respective cities. Everywhere you look is nature at it’s glorious best. Shaping mountains, skies, rivers and humans like a master sculptor tirelessly chipping away at a piece of rock, to create a masterpiece that none can replicate.

The young monk climbed up the ladder, and proceeded to throw stones at his friends as he sat up there, unconcerned about being hurt by anything they could throw his way. His friends proceeded to remove the ladder and let him stew in the sun for some time. He profusely apologised and begged to be let down. But his friends were only willing to help him down, when it was time for them to return to their classes. Just another day in the life of these young children.

Stakna monastery, on the banks of the Indus river. Stakna literally means tiger’s nose, named . Look closely and you might see a resemblance between the tiger’s nose & the hill.

Tourists ride the Bactrian camel (double humped camels) in Hunder, Nubra valley.

The sun shines it’s spotlight on a monastery while the mountains play hide & seek.

Lamps lit at the entrance to a monastery, while a monk is reflected in its glass

Tea shops such as these are the lifeline of road travel in Ladakh. Steaming cups of tea (whatever type you fancy!), with boiled eggs or maggi noodles were often our staple diet on the road.

The first glimpse of Pangong Tso is one that remains with you long after you’ve left it behind. The shades of blue reflecting the moods of the sky, the mountains creating a natural frame to showcase nature’s mastery at it’s best and the winds howling at you to beware.

Pangong Tso, situated at a height of about  4,350 metres, is one of the coldest places I’ve been to. Admittedly my threshold for cold is nothing much to write about, but Pangong Tso is brrrrr-cold. So cold that it freezes completely in winters, despite being a saline water.

A young girl looks out her window, with prayer flags flying above her home. A friend once commented that this picture looked straight out of the 3 idiots movie where the girl reprimands Chatur for peeing on their walls.

While the Leh market area has everything a tourist generally needs, with loads of souvenirs, cold weather outfits & coffee, little shops like this one (selling the local style of shoes) can surprise you! The pictures at the back are of Indian gods & goddesses.

A lady serving aloo parathas and chai, with the majestic mountains reflected on her window

As you drive around Ladakh, these glimpses of local settlements are akin to finding an oasis in the middle of a desert.

P.S: This photo essay was previously published in Roam Magazine.

This post was authored by our co-founder, Supriya Suriyanarayanan. You can follow her visual storytelling journey on instagram.com/supriyasv. 



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