As a global solo traveler, I take pride in my vast travels and despite moving back to India, I would enjoy extensively traveling the world. However, I had not made a conscious effort to travel across India as much, and the pandemic gave me that beautiful opportunity. So, while I was the last person I knew who went to Ladakh, I believe I was also the most blessed person to have witnessed, India’s crowned jewel, Ladakh.
Ladakh’s impeccable mountainous views, monasteries and terrains can cause a loss of words for the most potent speakers, let alone me! But in all honesty, I had seen enough pictures online to know it was as marvelous as India can get but, I was not prepared to gaze, gawk, stare and be in trance simply by being in awe at Ladakh’s holistic esthetics, as they were truly beyond words. It’s another thing that the entire Union Territory of Ladakh is also an eco-tourist spot for snow leopards and its pristinely maintained sights, but just being surrounded each sight by glorious sierras, was incomparably fulfilling.
Since it’s a remote place, there is a lot of driving across mountains through delicate infrastructure, so I decided to ditch solo traveling and join a group of like-minded women through the famous travel company, Thrillophilia (www.thrillophilia.com) . I had never been a part of group tour before and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I will give Thrillophilia an 8 / 10 for being extremely organized, making us women feel safe, giving us safety guidelines and instructions and their wonderful drivers who were friendly, accommodating and even went out of their way to enjoy our trip all while being extremely helpful.
I was warned about the lower oxygen concentration than usual and of Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS), and like any loving mother, mine gave me a few handkerchiefs along with camphor to smell if I felt dizzy and nauseous. However, I was able to get through the trip without it and was glad I carried it, as others did need it at some point.
20.9% oxygen concentration meant that we had to be acclimatized to the place and while I landed at 7 am ish, I spent half the day in bed and the other half in my beautiful hotel’s garden, reading, admiring the views and enjoying their cabbage and flower fields, which was kind of like the calm before the storm of inscrutable exquisiteness.
In the evening, we were picked up and driven to the Shanti Stupa, which is a Buddhist white-domed chorten. It was built to celebrate 2500 years of Buddhism and to bring peace and prosperity to the people of Ladakh. The drive to the Stupa was as if watching what heaven would feel like on earth and by the time we reached the top of the mountain, the panoramic view of the entire city and Chanspa village, felt even more surreal. This was the 1st time I was noticing the magnanimous mountains across Ladakh placed on the western side of the Himalayas – and man was I gobsmacked! Anyone who knows me, knows my mountain obsession, so for me, this was as if I was placed in my most beautiful dreams and was allowed to infinitely witness the majestic sturdiness of peeks mostly unclimbed. On top here, we could see all 4 Ladakh ranges – The Great Himalayan, Zanskar, Ladakh & Karakoram. These granitic ranges varied from charcoal black covered in snow to beige undulated ranges and varied colors depending on the sun’s rays upon them versus not. But to the bare eye, they all looked like visionaries that we would want to conquer, one climb at a time!
The Shanti Stupa itself was a masterpiece in itself. The detailed gold and multihued designs with the Dharmachakra with deers on either side and the Buddha statue in the middle in the sheltered shade, as a standalone monument far away from everything else, radiated a pure, peaceful, and rather windy qi. What made this visit even more unique, was to witness the sun going down one by one on the mountain ranges, the city and finally the Stupa, giving us a hyper-lapse experience.
Inside the Stupa was a divine art gallery, detailing Buddhist history, its heroes and cultural nuances, which was situated in almost maze-like connected homes on multi-levels as if we were on a pirate expedition to find gold! This beautiful trip ended with a trip to the Leh market that was lit up with only pedestrian walkers on either side to ease shopper experience.
I had a vegetarian Thupka (a must-try) for dinner, at a local restaurant and went straight to bed after, eagerly awaiting the next day’s exciting adventures.
Wait for Yogini's next week's Ladakh adventures. In the meantime, check out a quick glance of our entire Ladakh travels on Instagram:
Also, check out our first YouTube short on Yogini's Ladakh adventure: