Summer ’17 — turns out to be the last summer in India for me (for at least next few years). What could have been a better way to sum it up than to spend a nice long vacation backpacking? India — the birthplace of backpacking, enjoys quite a few locations that lure a traveller. May it be the majestic, towering Himalayas, awe-inspiring deserts and sand dunes of Rajasthan or the calm, soothing backwaters of Kerala. But in my heart lied the daunting proposition set in front of me by Leh-Ladakh.
After all, “The essence of life is in overcoming fears and pushing the frontiers of comfort.”
Getting Leh’d isn’t new. Thanks to 2013 block-buster –3 Idiots commoners like me and you have heard of it and end up visiting it. But still, the fact that it is an uncharted territory makes it a mouth-watering challenge.
I have heard people say — “It leads you to find your own self.” “Unshackles you from the daily grind.” “Enables you to try and find the real purpose behind life.” “Assists you in searching for inner peace”
Beatles did it, and so did Jobs..
Land of Lamas.. they are nothing short of a Bible or Quran or Geeta. To every person in search of its meaning, it has a different insight to offer. All in all, there are many secrets yet to be unravelled about this Magnifique.
For me personally it remains a tour of revelations..
In retrospect, I’m surprised to find myself overachieving what I set out for. The name Leh-Ladakh was on the cards since a few years then. However, due to procrastination and lack of intent, it remained an unfinished business, an undefeated conquest (so to speak).
And now, here I am — Pangong Lake, Nubra Valley, Zanskar river, 3 highest motorable passes, monasteries- Diskit, Hemis — it feels like I have conquered it all.
But that’s not that. It would have been an ordinary Leh Ladakh outing if the above-mentioned places were the only things I did.
However, in reality, I take back home — 12 jewels, a gutsy Hungarian traveller, 1–2 hr conversation in Spanish with a Spanish couple in a state-run bus, white water rafting, Delhi tour and visit to Taj Mahal.
Team forward, backward, stop down — an exhilarating adventure rafting on Zanskar river gave me the much-needed adrenaline rush. It can safely be called one of the best edge-of-the-seat thrillers I have been a part of. Ice cold water, picturesque background — the setting was utopian. Buoy, it felt great to be in the sweeper raft. Not just that, we saved 2 people while rowing in unison and near-perfect synchronization.
As is rightly said- some things can never be captured in phone/paper and rightly so. Conversations, banter with Spaniards, Hungarian friend or my 12 jewels will be etched in my mind. The taste of hot momos, Halima aunty’s chicken dishes, “Kahwah” the Kashmiri local tea will continue to linger reminding us of the richness of the Kashmiri cuisine.
So what do I take home?
Biggest life lesson learnt — Don’t waste your time or time will waste you. Life is a gruelling tussle, it really is a race against time. (I kept postponing this trip and it never happened. Finally, I hit the panic button and I’m glad I’m done with it!)
Here’s how I see my jewels.
- Siddo- my travel companion who was part of my first solo travel to Delhi. First-person I met on this trip, Sid reminds me of calmness. His organizational skills are worth emulating.
- Vithal- a bubbly, helpful and caring guy. For the most part of our trip, jokes were shot on him from all quarters. It took immense tolerance levels and great sporting nature on his part. Love you for that! I’ll treasure our mutual love for Gym + Fitness + old Hindi music + bikes.
- Amos + Aishwarya = these 2 names had to come together. Our triad will remain one of the cornerstones for me personally. As if to balance it out, Ash is elder to me by one year and Amos younger by the same margin. True to her age, Ash is more sound emotionally than I am. On the other hand, Amos keeps the energy levels high thanks to his prompt jokes and unique dialogue delivery. Lots to speak about these 2 folks, better left between 3 of us.
- Sharon – puking queen, budding graphic designer, sweet gal pal.
- Neha – my Spanish classmate. Damn, it felt good striking a conversation out of nowhere with Spaniards. Your love for wine… I’ll try bringing you Chardonnay some time!
- Mehul Singh Tomar – lawyer by profession but a true patriot at heart. Bring any topic on the table, the captain has some story to offer. He chases people rather than money. Sir, hats off to your networking capabilities!
- Poonam -mellowed version of fire. Only girl to withstand the atrocities presented to us by the grandiose mountains. 15,000 feet, speedy winds, bumpy roads, crowded vehicles -it didn’t deter her one bit. P.S. thanks for the treat and long live the new-born baby. (Manali)
- Simran? Shimni? Shivani? Damn… 12 days and I still falter! Mommy of our group! Takes care of each one of us reminiscent of a doting mother. Her name -Simani. Awaiting to eat your handmade biryani!
- Amit Tiwariji -the face and grace of Jio. He might not have got cellular network, but definitely managed to build strong connection with the 12 of us. Sir, I bow down to your drinking capacity!
- Ashwin – fatherly figure. Commonly called as the HR. Took the pains of waking us up (terrible ordeal my parents undergo), made sure we were well-fed, happy and had a comfortable journey. Daddy, got a lot to learn from you. Cheers!
- Sherwin Rebello – the last person on this list, but definitely the first person to deserve credit, applause and acclaim. Your idiosyncrasies born out of your experiences in life are the metaphorical pages of the book called “Life”. Every time I am hit by obstacles, problems your story would be my guiding star. A reminder that light does exist at the end of the tunnel.
I consider myself lucky to have lived the past 12 days with you all. Everyone played a role in the making of such a wonderful journey to Ladakh and back. Thanks would be a shame! I pray for the well-being of you all. Like every time people part ways, I hope that we stay connected and relive the fond memories of Summer ’17.
For more information about travel group: The Land of Wanderlust
Chaitanya Prakash Bapat
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