Ladakh is a land where culture resides in the heart of everyone. It is the land where the feeling of peace and happiness is visible on every individual’s face. The best part of being in Ladakh is that you get to see and experience many things which are not there in any other part of the world, other than the Himalayas. What comes to mind when you think of Ladakh? I get only one-word ‘adventure’.
The place has an amazing landscape which you can’t see in one single frame. There are a lot of activities to do in Ladakh – right from trekking in the valley to camping under thousands of stars, from bike riding in the mountains to spending time with lamas in a monastery, you name it and it’s there. Every step is a new experience in the land of yaks and lamas.
When I got to Ladakh for the first time, it was a completely different terrain. I used to roam around green mountains and much wetter terrain. This kind of terrain was a new experience altogether.
Initially, when I started my journey from Manali to Leh, I felt like my back is going to be broken into pieces. I was in a state transport bus heading to Leh. So the journey was around 16 hours from Manali and I had seven travellers with me suffering the same.
First of all, the road conditions are horrible and secondly, state transport. Yes. You can imagine now. It was a good experience of bumps and curves, but I forgot my cribbing when I saw the terrain of Ladakh, once we entered from Sarchu Pass around 4 pm. The landscape was perfect with sunshine. The more I saw, the better it got.
We reached Leh by 9 pm and got into our homestay. This was the first time for me in Leh-Ladakh where I was interacting with the locals.
Later, on the next trip, I saw another magical thing over there, is their culture. Art, literature, and music all contain elements of the prevailing Buddhist beliefs, and Buddhism itself has adopted a unique form, influenced by the Bón tradition and other local beliefs.
The culture is so colourful that if you are really a curious person, you can go in deeper and deeper inside the ancient tales of gods and their protectors. The humility in the nature of every person is because of their culture and upbringing in Ladakh.
People are so humble and caring in Ladakh, that if you fall sick there, you will get a lot of attention and natural therapy which they believe are remedies for any illness. The knowledge of medicine and natural herbs are very interesting to see in the terrain of Ladakh.
I don’t belong to the mountain terrain but the thing that always helped me when I fell ill there was the local beverage called Kahwa. It has a medicinal benefit which helps your immune system to develop and maintain good blood circulation inside your body.
The beverage is a mandatory offering whenever you visit anybody’s house. It is a tea which is made up of tea leaves, yak butter, water and salt called butter tea. It is mostly the preferred beverage of the Ladakhis. I loved the variety of tastes, the different recipes in one single cuisine. Ladakhi cuisine is a whole new experience to share.
For the ideal breakfast, you get butter tea and local chapati called Khambir which is made up of barley. At lunchtime, you are served with Thukpa, a local soupy noodle dish with the spices of Ladakh. In the evening, Momo – a snack with juicy stuffing is served. In the nighttime, they prefer eating simple dal and rice in their own unique spiced taste.
Trip after trip, I kept on moving. When I was towards the end of my third trip, I observed a little but important thing in our lives is happiness. We were in Hunder, Nubra Valley. When we were staying there, it was free time for me, so I went out for a walk and I found some kids playing football in the nearby field. I asked them if I can play. They all agreed and happily included me. We played there for more than two hours till it became dark, later we talked.
I asked them how is life here in Nubra Valley. They just said a single word without any hesitation or nervousness, “Happy”. I couldn’t ask anything more because I was overwhelmed by the fact that a place where they live has no internet access as well as proper amenities but still they live a happy and peaceful life with their family members. The life is really simple in the valley.
Later on the fifth trip, I realised something called compassion. In simple words, we call it “Understanding”. The Ladakhis believe in making a good bond with any person. The best part of Ladakhis is their mindset.
The first bullet rides in the Himalayas, first river rafting in Zanskar, langar at Pathar saheb Gurudwara, the first snow in the valley, the first ATV ride in Nubra Valley and being near Pangong Lake for the first time, these all define my journey in Ladakh, where the land is full of an experience of something new at every step.
By going to the same places, again and again, I was falling in love with the terrain and the beauty of the landscape. I was asked at the time of the interview for this job, what will be your motivation when you’ll visit the place again and again. Without even thinking, I had an answer in me that even though the place is the same but the people and the time will be different which makes a lot of difference in working here for 100 days.
There’s a reason why Ladakh is different every time you visit. The people who are living there are constantly developing and keeping alive the local feel of their culture, traditions and beliefs. From my first day to my 100th day, I felt like my journey was a lesson to me how to be non-materialistic and how to be happy in whatever you have.
And that’s how I got Leh’d.
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