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Ladakh : The Road to Self Discovery

Of all the dusty highways I have conquered The Manali-Leh-Kargil circuit has been my favorite since I first completed it in 2011; since then I have been 4-5 times every year & my heart grows fonder of Leh every time I head there.

  1. THE ROAD-TRIP : “Where the thump of the bullet becomes faster than the pumping of the heart.”A lot has been said about the route & the rugged landscapes of Ladakh, but the one thing that never fades from despite having done several road trips to Ladakh is the earthly joy of summiting a rocky dune to be greeted with a vista of blue & brown. The never ending love affair of the rubber with the asphalt is also my utopia.
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  2. THE PEACE : After having a swim in the icy currents of Pangong Tso on a windy afternoon, I sat back and reflected on the little joys of life : joining a spirited game of cricket with a group of young monks at Jispa, gulping down Maggi with the Jawans at Khardung La, after a long dusty ride, et al.
    Another earthly joy I cherish is squatting in the backdrop of the Maitreya Buddha at Diskit & contemplating my minuscule existence in contrast to the towering Himalayas.
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  3. THE PATRIOTISM : Every trip I take to the Land of Passes, I make it a point to head to the former battle grounds of Kargil. Waking up to the National Anthem echoing in the all directions of the valley, gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.
    Visiting the War Memorial at Kargil or the Hall of Fame at Leh, and reading all the decorated martyrs on the wall, fills me with an unconquerable sense of pride to be an Indian.
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  4. THE RELIGION : On one of my visits to Hemis Monastery, I happened to chance upon a group of devout Buddhist monks who had taken a voluntary vow of silence; one of them had maintained without speaking a word for 18 years.
    I also learnt the tedious process of creating a thangka painting; each painting is made individually by a monk by using a single grain of rice as a brush. The most romantic part I feel is that once they complete the intricate, beautiful drawing (depicting various stages of Buddha’s life) they wash off the organic colors of the canvas & start afresh.
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  5. THE LOCALS : The people of Ladakh have been exceptionally warm & welcoming to me, despite facing the harshest of survival conditions. Their struggle for existence reflects off their Sun burnt faces & wrinkles.
    I generally prefer home-stays whenever I visit, to give back, in whatsoever little way to the upliftment of the community & often take a slow vacation & spend time volunteering & teaching local children.
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  6. THE FOOD : One of the lesser known steals of romping the dusty roads to Ladakh is the Wazwan food stop of Ahdoos to enjoy lip smacking Rogan-Josh, Mirch Korma, located in a cozy little nook of Srinagar.
    A little ritual I have ongoing till date at Changla, is to gorge down a big side of Thukpa with Kahwa, perched on my Bullet in the wee hours of the day.
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  7. THE ADRENALINE : Out of my limited indulgences, one of my most beloved is that of getting an adrenaline rush. Ladakh throws more opportunities than one could handle in an adventure seek-out. White water rafting at Zanskar or trekking at Stok Kangri or undertaking a snow leopard quest at Rumbak Valley; there’s a little for everyone.
    The harsh wind & Sun in your face & sore muscles, Ladakh truly lives up to its reputation of being that only the best of friends or the fiercest of enemies reach here.
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All my friends are either working or getting married
&
I am just like I NEED TO GET LEH’d.

Published by Nikhilesh Pawar

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