Sarchu-the name itself sounds sinister.We did not know what awaited us when we halted at the Mulkila adventure camp enroute to Manali from Leh.This is a one of the stopovers on the Leh -Manali route and is open from May to October.It took us 7 hours to cover the distance of 257 km from Leh.As we had gone to Leh from Srinagar, we were already acclimatised and none of us had any symptoms of acute mountain sickness though Sarchu at 14,070 ft is higher than Leh.The camp site was picturesque and the tents are well kept with attached bathrooms.
MULKILA ADVENTURE CAMP
By 6 30 it was dark and we started to hear and feel the howling winds.It was getting bone chilling cold and uncomfortable.The temperature was 20°C and it was little comfort to know that in winter it drops to -35°C.It was the longest night of my life.Nothing could induce sleep and I was looking at the watch every 5 minutes.Got out of the tent at 6 and went around the camp .I found this delightful flock going about their morning activities.
Their masters were nearby in their make shift tent .
These shepherds- Ram Lal and Krishna told me that this is their summer camp and during winter they will take their herd to Manali.
Soon I was witness to a glorious sunrise.It was a real treat watching those goldren rays coming down and lighting up the whole mountain.
So Sarchu was an experience I don’t intend forgetting.After coming back I had discussed my spine chilling night with veteran Ladakh travellers.All were of the opinion that one should camp either at Keylong or Jipsa which have hotels and guesthouses unlike Sarchu with its tented accommodation.
One of the highlights of the visit to Nubra valley in Ladakh was the trip to Hunder valley to see the Bactrian camels.
Other than the distinct anatomic feature I did not know much about them.So it was interesting to learn later that they belong to the critically endangered species.The humps are used to store fat which can be converted to energy and when the fat is used up they become floppy.
As it was the peak tourist season there was a long queue for the mandatory rides.I chose not to do that and was happy just being there and observing these gentle animals.
A TENDER MOMENT
Spotted this charming fellow on the way back to Leh from Nubra valley. In no time he had attracted a lot of people who were documenting his every move and also offering him biscuits and bananas.He must be used to people gaping at him and seemed impervious to the onlookers.After sometime he got bored and went back to his burrow.
There are about 14 species of marmots in the world and In Ladakh one can find two -the long tailed and the Himalayan marmots. They live in colonies and their burrows are exceptionally deep ranging from 2 to 35 m.They hibernate for 6-8 months starting from late september and live on roots,shoots and berries.
Wish I could get inside his cosy burrow and meet the rest of the colony members.
The houses are built to suit the harsh climatic conditions in this cold desert. They are made of sun dried mud bricks,stones and timber and are well ventilated with mud and straw.Most are two storied with flat roofs as there is hardly any rainfall.There are
also storage areas for firewood and fodder.
Many houses have an adjoining pen.Found this charming sheep pen on the way and the lady of the house was gracious and invited us inside.
This is a relatively new house.
The hotel we stayed in also has the characteristic colours.
One of the highlights of the Ladakh trip was the day and night spent on the Pangong Tso .It was an enchanting experience.Where does one see such riot of colours and reflections?Where can one find such tranquility and joy?
This is one of the largest brackish lakes in Asia and two thirds of the lake is in Tibet.The lake is completely frozen during the winter season.I met a local family there.The living conditions are harsh but they seem to be content.
Left the place with a last look at the shimmering lake and the cairns.
Whenever I think of Ladakh the first image that comes to mind is the magnificent Thiksey monastery. This is the largest monastery and is about 18 km from Leh.It is also known as Mini Potala as it closely resembles the Potala Palace at Lhasa,Tibet.This is a sprawling 12 storey complex in dazzling shades of yellow,ochre and maroon.
The most striking feature in this place is the massive 15 metre statue of Maitreya or future Buddha.It occupies two storeys and is made by the local artists.
I was enchanted by the serene and spiritual aura all around and left the place feeling blessed and content.
I have found a way to bounce back whenever I feel out of sorts and it has always helped me. What I do is very simple-think of a place I have always wanted to visit ,read about it and see the images .This is a sure way to get the endorphins rolling and I am back to normal in no time.
Yesterday I was going through my Ladakh pictures and made a promise to myself that I would go there again.
Ladakh is fast becoming the most favoured destination for Indians.I was happy to see “desis” of all age groups when I went there in August 2014. This was on top of my wish list for a long time .Whenever I read a Leh travelogue I would tell myself that I am going there at the first opportunity.Well ,finally I found myself in this magical land and it was a dream coming true after months of frenetic planning and unanticipated delays.
How can one process so many emotions ?Can anyone do justice to its beauty?We can take zillion pictures but can we capture all the moments?You have to be there to experience the magic .I wish this land retains its purity and charm and that one never gets to see a KFC or Pizza hut there.
.You may go there with minimum expectations but I assure you that you will return a different person.I have read that many got the wander bug after being there once.As for me,I want to go back and explore more .Are you a wanderer? Do you have a dream destination?