“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you,”
These words by David McCullough Jr. describe Ashwini’s desire to fly free and feel nature.A government employee by profession, Ashwini H is always on a lookout for a getaway from the everyday hubbub. She travels to meet new people and learn from life experiences. It is her love for mother nature that makes her go places and explore various cultures. Having travelled serene places like Kerala and Andaman with her husband, Vinayak, it was now time to do the numero uno trip which was very much on the cards since long.
The adventurous couple was full of enthusiasm to go on a bike trip from Manali to Leh, which is considered as one of the most exciting terrains in India to bike on. Having booked their expedition with Thrillophilia for a trip in June, the couple felt that everything about this place is loveable: from the people to their culture, from the dramatically changing landscape to climate in the mountains.
Strolling in the Lap of Nature
Having explored a few treks before, the couple had their hopes high from the high mountains. Encountering a traffic jam in Manali wasn’t the best way to start the journey, but they got out of it soon, only to be enchanted by nature. As they crossed waterfalls from melting ice along the way to Jispa, lush green mountains mesmerized them and gave a gist of how beautiful the land is.
The camping experience at Jispa was a much-needed refreshment after the bike journey through majestic mountains. The first bonfire here ensured that they shared time to recollect the riding moments and await the excitement that the following days had in store for them.
After the relaxation that night, Ashwini, along with Vinayak, was all geared up to travel to Sarchu the next morning. The Jispa-Sarchu stretch could not get any better as dead-white snow on both sides of the road at Baralacha La welcomed the visitors. Having reached Sarchu, the AMS had now started getting on their nerves. Gulping down some hot soup in the camp that night ensured that they fight the bone-chilling cold.
The Ever-changing Landscape: A Uniqueness of Ladakh
The third day of the journey was a long one, where they had to cover almost 250 km in the mountains. Describing the stretch between Pang to Leh as the “most exciting”, Ashwini was awestruck by the dramatically changing landscape along the road. The mighty Tanglang La embraced them with freezing temperatures, but they kept up their spirits as clicking pictures in the adorably beautiful place kept them entertained all the time. After an exhausting yet enthralling journey that day, it was time to rejuvenate themselves with a warm stay at a hotel in Leh.
The fourth day had less of travelling and more of exploring in Leh. The local sightseeing gave them an insight of the people and their interesting culture. They visited Sangam and Pathar Sahib Gurudwara, where they sensed tranquillity on this adventurous trip. Riding through the popular Magnetic Hill was one of the highlights of the day as they looked towards the endlessness of the road as it met the horizon. In the evening, they tasted a delightful dinner at the hotel, which was a perfect end to the day.
Waking up to scale the mighty Khardung La the next day, the couple set off early in the next morning. While the stretch was full of defense vehicles, the place was thronged by tourists who waited for their moment to click pictures alongside the milestones.
On their way down to Nubra, they also visited the popular Diskit Monastery, which is a popular hub conserving the rich Buddhist culture. They witnessed the snowy terrain drastically change into a desert by the time they reached Hunder, where they rode on the double-humped camel. A night stay at the camp in Hunder amazed them with the cold climate in the desert land.
The next day, they set off to the mesmerising Pangong Tso Lake, which is a popular tourist attraction in Ladakh for its pristine blue colours against the backdrop of majestic mountains. On their way to Pangong Tso, they rode past the Agham and Shyok villages, where they got an opportunity to explore the local culture and village life in the mountains of Leh.
The sight of the Pangong Tso was as majestic as it can get, the camp gave the best view of the Pangong lake and that was so soothing that they just couldn’t get enough of it! The hues of the Pangong Tso waters kept changing with the intensity of the sunlight. The captivating lake has also been a popular tourist destination for the camping sites it offers right opposite the lake.
Ashwini and Vinayak spent the night in a camp opposite the lake. It was cold and beautiful there as they recollected each and every moment of this trip on the last night of the sojourn. They returned to Leh the following day and spent a day exploring the town and shopping while tasting some authentic cuisine.
It was a journey full of ups and downs as the couple lived in every moment on this trip.
While the couple garnered lifelong memories from the trip, it was the ever-changing terrain that kept Ashwini hooked throughout the journey. While they savoured once-in-a-lifetime moments from their most-awaited destination, they also recommend travelling with people who love to explore and are high on spirit and courage.
A Word We Stand By, and a Pledge We Must Abide By
As they look back on their journey, they realise that they were the most enthusiastic of the lot, and there was never a dull moment all along. Ashwini also points out that we should preserve the nature at all costs, and people who litter and spoil the beauty of such places should not travel and ruin the fun for others, for if we pollute our surroundings, it will hit back at us, and it will hit hard.