Updated: May 10
As a commune of women devouring delicious homemade breakfast at Lonchay Villa Sankar Hotel, on Day 2, we all exhaled an excitement to not only be ready literally but to actually be ready to experience Ladakh in its true form, nature, and poignant beauty. Being an 18hr-faster, I skipped breakfast and was awaiting in the cabbage and littered plants and vegetable growing garden, reading Rumi’s assortment of poetries in the book, Bridge to the Soul to prepare my romantic heart to fall in love with Ladakh … and who knows, even write a verse or two in its regard ☺
Hall of Fame
In the same quixotic sentiment, we were taken to the Hall of Fame, which is the Indian Army Museum exhibiting real-life dauntless stories of our Jawans, and their fight to protect our freedom and lives in India throughout the history of our country. Being especially patriotic, I was wholly immersed in this space and conscientiously listened to a Veteran as he took us through the museum narrating bravado stories with much pride and exultation. These altruistic stories were moving while Jawans walked past us every now and again saluting us back bringing a sense of discipline, somberness, and dignity to be an Indian. The story that particularly choked my throat was the sacrifices made during the Kargil war and almost immediately took me back to the masterpiece Mahabharata’s opening act where Arjun contemplates war while Krishna, the visionary understands its importance in the bigger picture. Walking out the other side of the Hall of Fame, we arrived at a beautiful open space with basketball seating and a clear center stage where martyrs receive honors, after successful missions and for their exemplary and sacrificial passing for our country. It was a beautiful day out and the feeling of paying respect to great icons played paradoxically on our minds as we walked towards the saluting-parade area. The ticket also included a light show later that night, which I missed as I was fatigued from the day ahead.
Gurudwara Pathar Sahib
For me, no trip is complete without Langar food and or Sewa and here we received the opportunity to do both. But, as the Langar was managed by the military, we were instead blessed to be served by our very own Jawans (soldiers), while eating absolutely delectable food including, Sindhi curry, lentils, rice, roti, and mixed veggies along with kheer (an Indian sweet delicacy). The Gurudwara Pathar Sahib is 25 miles from Leh, made entirely of stone, and serves as an outpost for the military and an opportunity for visitors to enjoy a free home-cooked meal while worshipping the almighty. There is a vineyard of a legend surrounding the Gurudwara about the demon who was unwelcoming of the Guru Nanak Dev Ji and plotted to kill him by throwing a stone at him, only to discover that the stone instead transformed to molten wax taking the shape of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The shock of this metamorphosis angered the demon to avenge with more grit and he kicked that molten wax stone onto Guru Nanak Dev ji once again, imprinted his foot on the molten wax, leading to the enlightening of his defeat to Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
Almost like we forget history so easily, the rock too lay unnoticed for centuries until the 1970s, when it was discovered again, hence moved (literally bulldozed,) and put in its rightful place, creating the Gurudwara Pathar Sahib once again. While our demons might have changed today, our Jawans aka our 21st-century heroes are still protecting the magnificent Gurudwara Pathar Sahib with the same valor as any heavenly creature would.
Leh Magnetic Hill
After our stomachs and hearts were both full, we went to feel dizzy at Leh Magnetic Hill. Funnily enough, before this trance-like feeling begins, there is a yellow board to warn us saying, “The Phenomenon That Defies Gravity”. In fact, the road itself is called the Magnetic Road! For those wondering why reverie is feeling, well, it’s because the terrains and slopes in the area, create an optical illusion of an uphill which doesn’t actually exist. Also, the zig-zag dune formations on the slopes make you see figurines and images that might not exist either, as the brain starts forming patterns to identify them. What I experienced thinking it a matter of Lassi from the Gurudwara (it wasn’t!), is what most others envision too … This hill forms the delusion that cars and objects are rolling uphill defying gravity, when in fact, they are rolling downhill! It was extremely surreal, hilarious, and also a teaching moment of how what we can see can set us free but also captivate us with deception!
Post this dramatic experience, I was all set to quadbike my way into the hills whether I rolled upwards or downwards, it didn’t matter! As a lover of extreme sports and having done it before, I raced to get a ticket and arrived 1st in the queue to experience dun-ing in these terrains if you know what I mean! Alas, this manual quad bike was more difficult to ride than I imagined, and I kept failing to take control of the steering wheel for the 1st 10 minutes, becoming a cautionary tale to the rest of the women who followed! Not giving up, I rode it come rolling high or low (get it!), and made it back safe and sound! I took another shot at it with friends and only got better at it but also almost crashed into another once briefly and fell off the bike completely once too! But ‘tis all in good merriment and fun and nothing a few good laughs couldn’t help get over!
Sangam View Point
We don’t realize how much we are in awe of nature until we are truly in it and realize the darndest of its workings to enable our planet and the Sangam View Point was where I realized this for the 1st time when I came to Leh. Sangam View Point is the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar river where you can observe them separately and witness them merge into one. While Indus is a pure and shimmering blue color steadily flowing river, the Zanskar is a muddy brownish-green rapid water body flowing distinctly each season, changing flow types accordingly. As you might already know, Indus is one of the longest rivers in the world originating in Tibet, the Zanskar is a local river starting out from the Zanskar valley.
I was mesmerized by witnessing their separate properties while even more mused by their seamless gathering, merging, and flowing together as one. I spent a lot of quiet time here putting my feet and hands into the pure yet icy waters and wondered if as people, we could seamlessly engage, immerse and rise richer in love, beauty, and peace. I also took several pictures here, fed dogs, drank cutting chai, and meditated to be more one with mother nature. Since the tide was low, we all opted out of river rafting but it is an extremely well-known spot for the same.
As we passed, stopped, admired, and photographed the Leh Zanskar Bridge watching the river flow on both sides, we all realized that the day was well-spent in the presence of heroes, gods, nature’s phantasms, manual machines, and immaculate congruence of the outback’s delights.
Check out the Ladakh Part 1 blog:
Take a quick glance of our entire Ladakh travels on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cq2iOgsKl_o/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y%3D Also, check out our first YouTube short on Yogini's Ladakh adventure: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/eJIVj-7y018