Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Knockin' on heaven's door: My voyage to Ladakh



It wasn’t the first time in my life that I’ve felt ‘small’, but this time, the enormity of the surroundings made me feel minuscule – almost like I was insignificant. And perhaps I was; after all, who is bigger than Mother Nature herself? I believe the ideal time to take a holiday is when you’re in a state of confusion or in the need of rediscovering yourself. It could result in two things: One, you come back refreshed, sorted and all set to take on anything that comes your way, or two, you have discovered yourself to an extent that you outdo yourself. Either way, it works for you.

When I had visited Andaman in October, the boundlessness of the ocean bowled me over. At that stage, I was exasperated with work and needed a break desperately and it came in the best form possible. The negativity gushed out of my system by the mere force of the waves that hit me and I saw a new perspective. Things changed, outlook restored, inspiration returned and I was good to go.

This time however, it was another aspect altogether. Having lived by myself in Bangalore, the year had been a wave – with ups and downs at regular intervals. Perhaps a little introspection was essential – not of the situations, but of myself. I had wanted to visit the Himalayas another time since my last trip up there for various reasons, but having already been to Srinagar and around, this time I wanted to visit the other feature – Ladakh. On learning of the various attractions it comprised of, it was too enticing a proposition to let go.

With the assistance of Rohan – my crony, we had a rough sketch of our blueprint in place and we were going with his friends. I was going on this holiday that I had been wanting to forever with a bunch of people who were acquaintances: that was the first challenge for me. Unversed situations are a test of character and how you fare in those is a fair judgment of character.

When we headed out of Delhi, we knew we were in for a long journey ahead – one of 630 miles. Although we did encounter some roadblocks to begin with, we passed them unscathed. When we reached Manali, the snow-clad mountains amongst all the greenery was a sight – but we didn’t know at that point how much we’d crave for foliage soon. The route from Manali to Leh is desolate: either we would encounter periods of snowfall or winding barren lands. We’d drive from one white mountain to a stretch of barren land, akin to a desert, and onto another colossal barren mountain amidst the biting cold. We are trifling when compared to the real things in life – for one; we can never be greater than nature herself. Initially the journey was great and fun too, but eventually it started taking its toll on us – the winding roads and varying altitudes induced queasiness and headaches.

Individually, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the gargantuan mountains. Bounded by ranges of barren mountains shielded by snow-clad ones at higher altitudes, beneath a crystal-clear blue sky on an isolated path with nobody but us, was a sight I’d never forget. It was gorgeous. It occurred to me then, that we [humans] can change the world and mould it the way we like, the one thing we can’t come close to doing is recreating anything as perfect to nature. It is flawless.

Leh, the city, is just like Srinagar – surrounded by beautiful mountains – the only difference being, the absence of greens. We headed to Stok Palace, Khardung-La (the world’s highest motorable pass), Pangong Lake and went white-water rafting. But, Pangong Tso, as it is called, was what I was most excited to visit and it did not disappoint.


The quaintness of the first glimpse of the lake was prodigious – the water was a striking blue! The moment I stood facing the waters there, I estimated this is what people brand as utopia. The different shades of blue that the water reflected made me feel like the water was adulterated with blue dye, but disproportionately. The water was so clear that the pebbles beneath shone like coloured diamonds in the upbeat sunbeams. The mountains surrounding the waters were pretty mustard that complemented the blues perfectly: that was the closest to perfection that I had ever been. The experience of witnessing that spectacle made all the effort worth it.



What summed up the entire trip was the river-rafting, paragliding along with river-crossing that we undertook and with that, I not just accomplished I had set out to at the outset, but much more. I made new friends, I had overcome inhibitions, conquered fears, evidenced toughness and adapted to defying conditions. That was victory, and the sole purpose of undertaking this trip.

What seemed like a tough cookie to crack at first, by the end was one of the most fulfilling journeys I had undertaken with a brilliant set of people who I got better acquainted with, without whom in hindsight, it wouldn't have been the same.

I found hope in an inspirational place.



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