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Ladakh - Planning The Trip

Over 2000 Km by road, in around 10 days. Stunning landscapes, wonderful people. That sums up our Ladakh trip. But how did it actually work? How did we make it happen? Read on to find out!  Leh, the capital of Ladakh , is accessible by air and road. Flying into Leh is the easiest, and time-saving option, while the road is the time consuming one, but with the added advantage of driving past some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country. Each option has much to recommend it, and we chose the road for just one reason – altitude sickness. Altitude sickness was one of my biggest concerns, since I suffer from motion-sickness. Yes, I do travel a lot, but that is despite my condition, and, over the years, have learnt how to handle it. I struggled with it when we visited Nathu-La in Sikkim, and wondered if I would be able to manage a week at the even higher altitudes that we would encounter in Ladakh. This was the reason we stuck to a basic plan, of only 9 days in Ladakh, though we
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Ladakh Part 10: The Last Stretch - Mulbek to Srinagar

The spectacular landscapes of Ladakh continued to astound us as we continued on our way past Lamayuru.  Somewhere along the route, the Wakha river joined us, and along her canyon were stunning natural rock formations, which reminded me of the ancient temples of central India. This continued all the way to Mulbek , where we stopped to see the colossal Maitreya Buddha carved into the rock. We had seen many colossal statues of Maitreya in Ladakh. But this one is different. Those are made of clay and stucco. This one is carved into the rock, and is dated to the 9 th century CE. It is considered one of the finest such figures seen in the region.  The figure of Maitreya is carved on a huge boulder, standing in the middle of the village, right by the side of the road. He is shown with 4 hands, and richly adorned, holding a lotus stalk and rosary in his upper hands, the lower hands in varada mudra, and holding a kamandalu. There has been a lot of speculation regarding his identity, but t

Ladakh Diaries Part 9: Lamayuru

Lamayuru is one of the most ancient monasteries in Ladakh, the oldest surviving structure dating to the 11 th century CE. What makes this monastery particularly fascinating, is its location, amidst what is today called the “moonscape”, for the spectacular natural rock formations, which truly are “out of the world”! As per legend , there once existed a huge lake in this area, populated only by the Nagas (serpents). It was prophesized that there would be a great monastery built here. This prophecy came true when the great acharya Naropa (756-1041 CE) arrived. He emptied the lake, meditated for many years inside a cave, and built the first monastery here. The present structure is a new one, built around the cave where Acharya Naropa is said to have meditated. This legend seems to fit well with the geological formations seen in the area, which suggest this was a paleo-lake, which disappeared around 1000 years ago. Lamayuru is about 130 km from Leh , and the Indus River flows along th

Ladakh Diaries Part 8: Pathar Sahib and Saspol Caves

Our final morning at Leh began with a rather long wait for a new driver, who had gotten lost within the maze-like roads that led to our homestay! Why a new driver? Because most drivers in Ladakh don’t like to drive into Srinagar! Besides, we would be driving through Kargil and entering Srinagar on the 15 th of August, Independence Day. The date wasn’t intentional, and had we known, we would have altered our plans, but apparently tensions run high around the date, even when situation was as normal as possible. More about that later. For now, there’s a lot more that I have to tell you about Ladakh and the places we visited. Because yes, despite our intention to take things easy, we planned to make a lot of stops on our last two  days in Ladakh! Our first halt of the day was the very interesting site of Pathar Sahib. The Gurudwara here commemorates the visit of Guru Nanak to this region, on the way to Tibet, in the 16 th century. As per the legend, during Guru Nanak’s visit here, a