My holiday last year was from Srinagar to Leh. While driving we halted at Hambotingla, at a height of 13,202 ft with a breathtaking view. Standing tall were mountains shaded in brown dust, with vertical structures resembling Egyptian temples.
The endless winding snakelike roads lead deeper into the valley where we came across a village called Darchick, an Aryan Village remnant from the time of Alexander the Great with people having features similar to erstwhile Aryans like sharp noses and light eyes. To see an actual bloodline trace of our history still prevalent in our country was interesting.
En route from Drass to Leh was a beautiful monastery called Lamayuru, also the name of a small village with the 1000 years old monastery set amidst an area known as ‘Moon Land’ (as it resembles the topography of the moon) and a ravine.
Other interesting visits were to the Magnet Hill, also called ‘gravity hill’ as it produces the optical illusion of a vehicle moving on its own without being started. Near the hill is the Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, a Gurudwara famous for a stone placed within the Gurudwara which bears the mould of Guru Nanak meditating, and this has its answers in a mythological tale.
While in Leh the Shanti Stupa is a peaceful place, at a high altitude where a lesson in the history of Buddhism can be undertaken. It is built by Japanese for world peace & inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 1985.
The Thiksey monastery, few kilometres from Leh had a lot of old scriptures and a golden three story high Buddha statue in the main prayer hall. I also visited the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) where scientists had undertaken a successful plantation drive, driving up oxygen content in the region and even helping farmers produce vegetables (of massive size) when transportation routes from the valley seize during winter months.
A fascinating fact was the organised cultivation of seabuckthorn, a plant better known here as Leh Berry, which earlier grew wildly and was considered useless, now being used to produce a number of products, helping in economic and self sustainment of the people of that region.
Visit the Hemis Monastery, the largest & richest monastery in the region and the Stok Palace– the residence of the Royal family.
Ladakh is unparalleled by any other landscape in the country, a rare example of an intact historic Tibeto-Himalayan urban settlement.
(c) Photographs by Ritika Sabharwal