There are some journeys that you wait for your life to happen. Such journeys are so important to you that it doesn't matter whether you cover them alone or with companions. One such incredible life defining journey is my latest visit to the arid lands of Leh Ladakh. Ever since I understood what Leh Ladakh is, I had harboured a dream of visiting the coldest desert. The feeling was nothing less than your first love. Your first kiss. Your first night out. Your first salary. Your first holiday abroad.
After looking and sighing at other's Leh Ladakh pictures for years, making and cancelling innumerable plans with friends, I finally decided this is it. It’s time to visit the place of my dreams.
Keeping the long weekend in mind, the week of Independence Day was finalised for my travel. Only thing to be worked out was how and with whom I will travel. So the discussions with various friends and groups started. But none materialised except for one. I got myself tagged along with a backpackers group. As per the organiser, we were a group of seven people who were to travel by two motorbikes and one SUV.
However, when God has a bigger and better plan for you then smaller plan falls out-of-place. So out of the seven people, everyone backed out at the last moment. And the best part was, I wasn't even informed about it until the last-minute. Anyway, let's not delve deep into it because as they say all is well that ends well. 🙂
Since I have truckload of stories to share, so I am going to divide this mega long blog post into several chapters, each talking about a unique FACE that has left an everlasting impression on me.
So are you ready to travel the Leh Ladakh journey with me?
Get. Set. Go!
FACE NO. 1 – THE PATIENT EXPLORER
Day 1 and 2 - 14th Aug to 15th Aug 2014, Delhi to Manali Journey
So the D-day has arrived. I was excited like a child but perhaps the traffic was more excited. A Gurgaon to Sarita Vihar journey which usually takes forty-five minutes took more than two hours. My bags were not packed. My tickets were not issued. Was booked on a wrong bus. Was running terribly late. The incredible Delhi traffic was too much in love with me. Taxis were refusing pickups. Hunger pangs were sending frequent reminders. Food supplies were not in place. Basically my trip has begun on an adventurous streak. Anyways Uber came to my rescue. I finally managed to board the 8:30 pm bus to Manali.My co-passengers were mostly young people, friends, couples, solo travellers – from India as well as abroad. During the journey, I met up with this cool dad, John from Britain, who was travelling to Manali with his two sons – Jacob, 17 & Marc, 10 years old. The best thing about them was that unlike Indian travellers they were not at all complaining kinds. They were the PATIENT EXPLORERS. They were patient with delays and experimentative with food. Instead of opting for a bread omelette they ordered Cholley bhature and kadhai paneer at a local dhaba. In fact I was so worried about them that I asked the dhaabewala to not make their food too spicy but he surprised me by saying that they have asked for a spicy Indian curry. John and his sons were such a breath of fresh air as compared to the Indian travellers.
When the bus got stuck in a day long traffic jam then instead of whining about it they chose to know more about India and its people. They got down from the bus and their shutter bugs didn't stop clicking. They chatted with everybody, right from the bus conductor to the chaiwala. They didn't raise their eyebrows on the practically absent roads. They were enjoying whatever they were experiencing.
I had got into the bus thinking I'll be at Manali by 9 am. But nature has its own schedule. Incessant rains and landslides at Pandoh created a havoc on the Chandigarh-Manali highway. There was about 20 km traffic jam. The day went by in more of waiting than moving ahead.
After a long journey of 24 hours, I was dropped on the outskirts of the city, where there were no autorickshaws. I was carrying two heavy backpacks. And to make it worse, it started raining. I was completely drenched but I was more worried about my DSLR. Somehow I managed to reach my guest house at old Manali. After a long road journey, my heart was fully contented to see the hot daal-chawal and warm bed. That night I slept like a log.
So the first day of my '11 Days in Leh Ladakh – 11 faces of Beauty' taught me how be a patient explorer.
To be continued...
Chapter 6 - Day 9 to 11 (still in the drafts folder)