Tour Date: 17th May to 24h May
1. Suresh Mittal and Parmita Mittal
2. Suresh KT , Pushpa Suresh and Neha Suresh
3. Jayanth , Sridevi and Shivdeep
4. Prasad, Latha, Nikhil and Geetha
5. Naveen, Sandhya, Vishruth and Vishak
6. Suman, Vijay and Ankit
7. Kiran and Shilpa
8. Prakash CJ , Aaron, Andrea and Jolly
9. Vadiraj Madhwaraj, Shubha Madhwaraj, Adhokshaja and Aprameya
10. Poornima, Ashok and Anirudh
11. Mantha, Padmaja and Ujwal
12. Vilas Kadival, Anjana and Madhusudhan
Day 1: 17th May – Arrive at Leh and check-in to hotel. Later in day, visit Shanti Stupa and Leh Palace and Museum.
Day 2: 18th May – Visit Lamayuru monastery enroute visit Hall of Fame, Sangam of Zanskar and Indus, Magnetic Hill. In the evening, stay at Ule Ethnic Resort at Uletopo.
Day 3: 19th May – Reach Leh after visiting Alchi Monastery
Day 4: 20th May – Visit Hundar by travelling through world’s highest motorable road at Khardung La. Then visit Valley of Flowers and reach Hunduar. Checkin to hotel / resort and enjoy camel ride.
Day 5: 21st May – Return back to Leh and in the evening, enjoy the cultural activities
Day 6: 22nd May – Start to Pangong Lake and reach by afternoon
Day 7: 23rd May – Return back to Leh and visit Lotus school, Hemis Monastery, Thiksey Monastery and Shey palace.
Day 8: 24th May – Start back to destination in the morning
Day 0 : 16th May 2014
Our flight to Leh was on 17th early morning at 5:15 AM and had to leave the previous day to Delhi. We had booked Indigo Air flight to Delhi and were very eager to catch the flight to Leh. Some of us took 8:35 pm flight to Delhi while some of us by Jet Airways at 10:35 to Delhi. We reached Delhi and relaxed a bit at the terminal. The problem was that T3 in Delhi has good facility to sleep but not available in T2 as our flight to Leh was through GoAir and starting at T2.
Ashok and Poornima along with their son Anirudh along with Vadiraj and Shubha with their children Adhokshaja and Apremeya had reached a day earlier itself as while they wanted to book in the last moment, the flight on Go Air for 17th were totally sold out.
Day 1: 17th May 2014
At last our wait was over when we started our journey from Delhi to Leh. Again here some of us managed to get on 5:15 flight and some of us the next flight at 6:45 AM. Those on 5:15 flight landed at Leh at 6:45 AM while some of us reached at 8:15 AM. This day was reserved for rest for the first half after breakfast and then sightseeing towards the evening. We met the other families Ashok and Vadiraj when we reached the hotel. In the evening, we visited Shanti Stupa, Leh Palace and market area and finally reached the hotel for a good night sleep.
Day 2: 18th May 2014
This day our itinerary showed that we need to visit Lamayuru monastery passing through fabulous route of Sangam – Zanskar and Indus (Sindhu), Magnetic Hill, Alchi, Moonscape and reaching the fabulous monastery. After the visit, return back to Uletopo for stay in a resort called Ule Ethnic Resort. We were informed that this is supposed to be the best resort in this area and were very excited to see it. The advantage of this resort is that you have Indus river flowing behind the resort thus making it possible to walk around.
Our first stop was at Hall of Fame where they have lot of artifacts of Kargil War. After spending considerable amount of time, we stopped then at Sangam of Zanskar and Indus. Further down, we stopped to enjoy the breathtaking views of mountains along the Magnetic Hill. It is said that the vehicle defies gravity. Then we reached hotel, enjoyed the lunch and followed our tour to Moonscape where we stopped to click lot of photographs. Finally we reached Lamayuru which is oldest monastery in this region. After that, we reached hotel for enjoying rest of our evening.
What had happened is that since we were 34 people in all, the hotel had difficulty of having all of us in one resort. So he split 24 in Ule Ethnic and 10 people in Ule Adventure Resort run by the brothers.
Day 3: 19th May 2014
This day, we were to return back to Leh. First thing we did after getting up was to have a nice walk and fun down the Indus river. The previous evening, it seemed easy to walk down on the rocky and pebbled surface, but sooner we realized that it is slightly a challenge to get down the boulders with ladies and children. Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience to get down and take a walk along the banks of Indus. What a feeling indeed !!!. Children started playing games on water while we adults took a stroll and discussed lot of things as most of us had met after a good gap of around 5 plus years or more.
It was more of a reunion with this big group getting together. After spending an hour there, it was time to reach back to the Resort and then pack our belongings for the next day. We started after breakfast to reach Alchi Monastery. This is again a wonderful and old monastery dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava. It is also oldest and hence retains the charm. After that, we started back on the same route of Magnetic Hill and Sangam and by afternoon, we reached Leh. In the meanwhile, Mantha and family had arrived from Hyderabad and their tour were added with ours. After a brief introduction we all returned back to our bases. Vilas had some more work to do and he headed to Taglang La while his family stayed back in the hotel.
Day 4: 20th May 2014
This day was our most sought out day. We were to reach Khardung La situated at 18,380 feet which is highest motorable road in the world and taking a picture of all of us being there, would be a feast to the eyes. We started by 8:30 AM in 2 tempo travelers from Mahey palace and another temp traveler coming from Hotel Pangong where many of our friends had stayed.
We all met up just at outskirts of Leh where we swapped guide who was hired for Naveen and team with Vilas due to the fact that one of the traveler who had joined us had angio done on his heart and might require oxygenation and did not wanted to add risk. Mr.Mittal, owner of QSIT is really a strong man in his 60’s of not only joining us, but also enjoying the whole journey without much problem. Infact, we were surprised and awestruck at his energy and enthusiasm at Magnetic Hill where he was walking / climbing the mountains even a normal person would not have dared. Mr. Mittal, you are really strong person and there is so much to learn from you. When we reached KhardungLa, many people in other vehicles required oxygen and we could see some girls collapsing and being carried by army people to give them oxygen.
Fortunately, none of our team member fell sick and all the 3 Tempo travelers consisting of 34 people faced any problems. By afternoon, we reached Nubra Valley and then checked in at Hundar. 24 of us stayed at Snow Leopard Hotel and 10 of our friends stayed at Nubra Camp. Later, we left to see the sand-dunes and enjoy a camel ride there.
These camels are double hump bacterian who were brought to this place via Persia when Silk-Route was the most popular route connecting West Asia with East. After that, we had sought of fancy show where some of our friends had good time changing to local costume and clicking photographs. Late in the evening, it was “Yeh Sham Mastani” – Nostalgia of singing and kept all the guests entertained.
Day 5: 21st May 2014
This day, we were to return back to Leh after visiting Diskit Monastery. The weather had deteriorated over the night and it was slightly drizzling in the desert area. We were informed that this drizzle is due to the fact that there has been lot of snow over Khardungla and were cautioned that we might get stuck for hours and hoped for the best. We started after breakfast and spent a good half an hour there. After that, we started our journey back to Leh.
Eventhough we had started by 7:30 AM, when we reached North Pullu, there was a huge traffic jam due to snowfall and the army had cordoned off the area to clear the snow. That gave us ample time to just walk around and most of us spent time in eating Maggie, bread omlet and tea. It was around 12:00 pm the clearance was given to move up to Khardungla and beyond. While we were traversing in the tempo traverller, snowfall started and the entire traffic came to an halt again. This was an opportunity for all of us to play in snow and experience the blizzard. After 1/2 hour, we started moving and then again got stuck in traffic at Khardungla top.
Since many of us were not used to such high altitude stays, there were nausiating and restlessness condition leading to breathlessness. Thanks to the effort put in by Wangchuk who provided everyone with bottled oxygen. We were praying for the traffic to get cleared, but it did not seem the case. Fortunately for us, there was a vehicle with boxes of biscuits and we bought lot of them and started eating. After an hour of spending time at highest motorable road in the world, the snow was cleared and traffic started moving but at a snail pace. By 3:00 pm, we reached South Pullu and from then on, it was a sweet drive back to our hotels.
Vilas and Tundup had organized a cultural show for us. Unfortunately, the other team which were put up in Pangong Hotel could not come over to our hotel as they wanted to take rest. The program started at 5:00 pm and we had never seen such an extravaganza of dance and local music. It made all of us to take turns and dance to the tunes. This program was for an hour and unfortunately, we could not have Vilas and family with us since they had some prior commitments to attend to along with their associate partner. Now that they were the organizers and we could not say NO to it. By 6:10 pm, the artists left the place and we were served with nice eateries and tea. We enjoyed this song and dance like never before and was most memorable.
Day 6: 22nd May 2014
This day, we were to reach Pangong Lake as scheduled. Most of us heard of Pangong Lake only after watching 3 idiots and had liked the surroundings. And it was also very interesting that we are going to sleep in the tents at 14,500 feet which was first time for all of us and we were not sure on how our bodies would perform with such high altitude travel all the days. Infact, the previous day was terrible with more than 3 hours of travel above 16,000 feet and today again reaching 17,500 feet at Chang La and then staying at 14,500 feet.
We started again by 8:30 AM and we were to reach Pangong Tso by afternoon to have lunch and stay at Pangong Retreat. The other team consisting of 10 people staying at Pangong Hotel were also to reach Pangong Tso but stay at Tser-Bum Tso which was somewhere near the lake. Also, since Ashok, Poornima, Vadiraj and Shubha with their children were to catch flight next day morning, they did not join us but left at 7:00 AM. Due to that reason, we could not at all meet up with them when we reached Pangong Tso.
The route was filled up with fun with lot of jokes and discussions happening around. Our stop at Chang La was very exotic experience not only from snow point of view, but also met some Army folks and had tea over there. Then, it was turn of clicking photos with the Army folks.
We kept on driving and not able to see Pangong for long period of time was driving us crazy. We were scheduled to reach by 12:30 pm, but then reached only by 2:30 pm where each one of us were hungry. As soon as we saw the lake following its path for around 12 kms, all our anxiety of being late and hunger vanished. The next thing we thought was to jump into the water, but were cautioned that the water is -5 C and we cannot get into the water. Anyways, we reached Pangong Tso and had a hearty lunch. After checking the tents and relaxing a bit, it was time to visit the lake which was the main idea of coming so far.
In the meanwhile, Vadiraj and family along with Ashok and family had already left back to Leh while we enjoyed our stay at Pangong Tso. Sad that we could not see them, but what they did was best since we got stuck in blizzard the next day.
Day 7: 23rd May 2014
A very unexpected thing happened when we slept in the night. It was around 9:00 pm or so, we started hearing lot of winds. Infact, when we had been to Pangong Lake the previous day, there were lot of storms and in one of the storm, we had to take cover since all the sand was coming towards us. This was the first signal that the weather is going to be bad sometime later.
After dinner, we slept in our tents and by midnight, the air was very thin and some people experienced breathlessness. We never knew that the weather had become real bad and had been snowing all night long. We had planned a walk at around 5:00 AM and when we unzipped the tent, it was a horrifying look !!!. The entire lake has turned into almost frozen and snow everywhere. The vehicles were fully submerged into snow. Then, the next question was how do we get to leave the place and then what about toilets and other early morning chores? The resort people were very courteous. They not only offered to give us warm water, but also filled up the buckets as entire pipes were frozen and not a single drop to drink or to do anything rather. As you could see in the photographs, the entire lake is frozen as well as the path. By 7:30 AM, we started back to Leh with prayers that nothing should happen to us enroute and reach safely.
As expected, we encountered traffic jam at Chang La. The snowfall had put entire stretch into layers of snow and without Army clearing it, there was no way to reach the place. We reached at 10:00 AM to Chang La and then had to wait for 3 hours before the snow was cleared. After that, by 4:30 pm, we were nearing Leh. Due to this delay, we had to skip Hemis Monastery, Shey Palace and Thikse Monastery and above all, we were pretty tired of waiting in car endlessly for the traffic jam. But it was fun too. Then, we visited Lotus School which is the same school where 3 idiots was filmed. Since there were plenty of procedures indicated by the school staff, we thought that it is wise to leave the place as it was getting late also.
We had also planned to visit Pashmina shawl manufacturing factory, but again since it closes by 5:00 pm, we skipped that too and reached straight to the hotel. In the evening, we spent time with the hotel folks and got ready for our onward journey back to Bangalore.
Day 8: 24th May 2014
After saying goodbye to the hotel staff, it was time to board the vehicles back to airport. We remembered lot of time we spent with each other and infact the entire team had become like a family. It never seemed to us that they were not known to us. Hopefully, next time we all meet up with such large gathering and have informed Vilas of Himalayan Fantasy to keep us updated on the tours so that we can join back again. Thanks everyone for accommodating us as part of your team and making us feel really memorable.
Hope that you would like what I’ve written about this tour.
Thank you very much for reading this travelogue.