Ladakh, "Land of High Passes"

India

by Shishir Dhulla

Ladakh has become a very popular travel destination in North India. However, most tourists begin and conclude their trip in and around Leh (visiting the usual monasteries, Pang Gong Tso, Nubra Valley and Tso Moriri) which too, is undoubtedly a lovely circuit.

However, Ladakh also comprises of the relatively lesser explored Zanskar Valley that is a pristine destination for nature lovers. It is an out of the world experience to travel through the rugged terrain with glaciers, bare mountains and fierce rivers. We travelled to Zanskar (a 9 day trip from Srinagar) by a road journey starting from Srinagar --> Kargil --> Panikher --> Rangdum --> Padum and returned by the same route.

After entering Kargil region, one would witness the endless lush green beauty of Suru Valley followed by large tracts of pastureland with panoramic view of Nun-Kun massif glacier peaks and Drang-Dung glacier in front of Rangdum village and monastery. And finally we would cross Penzila Pass which serves as a gate way to Zanskar valley, various remote villages of Zanskar valley can be encountered along the way stretching up to the Padum, capital town of valley with modern administrative office.

The people of Zanskar are very hospitable - several homestay options are available in the villages that you may pass through (we chose to setup our own tents though). The trip can be made more memorable going slow, stopping at remote tea shops and chatting up with locals. They live in harmony with nature, maybe thatís why they belong there. They are farmers and shepherds and depend entirely on the glaciers surrounding the villages for their water supply. However, the story is quite different in the winters. The natives stock up for the long winter and virtually go into hibernation once the cold sets in. They donít step out of their warm houses and as one of them says "it is not good for our brain. We donít do any work for seven months of the year. Just eat and sleep."

Go to Zanskar but be prepared for the unfamiliar. Go there for the innocence of the place, for the age-old culture that still runs strong and for the natural beauty of this earth.

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