‘Gar Firdaus Bar Rooh-e-Zameen’ ast
Hameen-asto Hameen-asto Hameen-ast!
These famous lines were written for Kashmir, and they ring equally true for Leh-Ladakh regions of JnK, now a brand new Union Territory.
Leh-Ladakh – The roof of the world – the most amazingly diverse landscape I have ever seen in my life – from snow capped mountains to cold deserts, from shining blue waters to flowing streams with lush green patches and hilltop serene monasteries – from the cool bikers on the highest motor-able roads in the whole world to the proud Indian Army jawans guarding our borders – Leh/Ladakh offers you a journey and memories for a lifetime! If someone is confused about where to go for a vacation – just go to Leh/Ladakh since it offers a slice of everything!
We started our trip from Leh and got lucky to be in one of the best hotels I have been in – the simple, homely and yet very professionally run ‘Chantsa’. Its one of the only pure vegetarian hotels in Leh run by a meditator himself. Awesome food and very comfortable rooms. 10/10 to this hotel.
After seeing the beautiful Shanti Stupa and enjoying shopping at the Leh market (in our interaction with the locals we found they were happy with the UT decision), we drove to Nubra Valley via the famous Khardung La pass, which is the highest motor-able road in the whole world at 18000 feet. The snow fans in our group had their share of snow and pics but some of us did struggle at the low oxygen levels (and hence a 2 day accomatisation in Leh is highly recommended).
We spent the night at our beautiful camp site with comfi tents at the feet of a gigantic mountain. Evenings were marked with bonfire satsangs and meditations that gave this whole trip the most amazing spiritual flavour and recharged the whole group every evening. The monastery in Nubra Valley is worth a visit and the camels and the sand dunes in the cold desert are worth a look.
The best part of the trip was undoubtedly the Pangong Lake! Shining blue waters from a 140km lake (more than half of this is in China) offers you breathtaking sights and a thousand photos still won’t do justice to what the eyes see. I thought I had seen enough of the lake and was very satisfied when I went to bed that night in a small cottage right on the lake. But I was mistaken. At midnight, I ventured out of my cottage and what I saw then was something I will remember till my last breath. The lake was silent and the waters were still and the moon was shining away to its full glory lighting up the lake in a cool white sheet. The mountains stood tall and old in the background with their snow peaks glittering in the moonlight. And the sky was ablaze with a million stars in a secret night party! My friends even saw shooting stars but I wasn’t fortunate to catch one. Time stood still – there were no sounds – even the mind froze. We chanted an old sanskrit prayer before going back to our cottages and I felt goose bumps all over my body. I prayed that this part of India remains away from crazy development and human pollution that might happen soon!
Next day we drove back to Leh but little did we know that Krishna had planned a surprise for us, which would make this trip super special for each of the 31 group members! At post, we were stopped by an army jawan. We thought there must be some kind of checking going on. However, the jawan folded his hands and told us that since it was Janmashtami, they had made prasad for all passers-by and requested us to eat some hot prasadam! We were thrilled and jumped out of our vans and hogged on the hot pooris and halwa. And then, in our typical happy Art of Living style, we did a rocking satsang right there at the outside the little temple they had. We were carrying our portable sound system and guitars etc so we were fully prepared. Soon everyone joined in and bhajans climbed the mountain peaks and echoed in the valleys. Dance, music, laughter filled up the atmosphere. We ended by singing the national anthem and there was not a single heart there not bursting with pride for our motherland and not a single eye which did not have tears of gratitude for the Indian Army!
Back to our Chantsa hotel in the night, we took a deep dive into the Patanjali Yoga Sutras and had a lovely session on how to integrate the Yamas and Niyamas into our daily lives. When you follow knowledge, fun follows you
The last thing we did in Leh was the super fun rafting over the Sangam of Sindhu/Indus and the Zanskar rivers, a stop at the Magnetic Hill, the desert bike rides and the amazing amazing darshan and langar at Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. Our bus got particularly lucky as we had the honour of giving a short ride to one of the Indian Army jawans and what he shared with us about his life and about the Indian Army really made me feel that I am lucky to be born in India and I am forever in debt of the army! We once again had an amazing meal at the Gurudwara thanks to the Indian Army. I felt sad for the armchair activists who sit in their AC offices and tweet rubbish against our forces! Later in the day we visited the Kargil War Memorial and saw the sound n light show about the Kargil War. I realised how little I knew about the Kargil War and about the army in general! Do you know we lost 1700 army men in that war! Kargil war deserved a high quality movie to educate the masses about the miracles our forces achieved in that war!
6 days flew away in no time and we boarded our flights to Srinagar. We had an 8 hour halt in Srinagar and realised on speaking with many locals there that the situation was peaceful in Srinagar although mobile network is still not available. Finally, we landed in Mumbai and it took just a few hours of this city to make us feel we had never gone anywhere!!
The one reason why this trip was so so special for all of us was that fun was mixed with spirituality – lots of meditations and every evening satsangs along with discussions on Yoga Sutras were the hallmarks of this trip! We had the right balance of sightseeing/fun/sing n dance etc and sadhna/satsangs!
Plans for the next trip are already on. If you would like to be a part of the next trip (which will be in 2020), please whatsapp me now. Shadow bookings have started and we only have limited seats. Another mind blowing trip awaits us next year!! Destination shall be revealed when you contact me
Sharing some pics of the trip. The descriptions in this write up above will mostly tally with the pics.