Ladakh

Ladakh Panoramas

I’ve been wanting to visit Ladakh for quite some time. I came to know that Youth Hostel organized a mountain bike tour through ladakh and jumped at the chance.

Day I:

Initially I was hoping to fly into Srinagar and then go to Leh, however with the ongoing problems in Kashmir, I decided to fly directly to Leh. I landed to a splitting headache and spent most of my first day resting and trying to overcome Altitude Sickness.

Day II:

Felt slightly better today. The day starts at 6 am with the youth hostel staff blasting loud music. Tea is served at 7am followed by breakfast at 7.30am. By 8-8.30 we are done with food and have the full day in front of us. We did a group walk through Leh market, Polo grounds and Leh palace in a bid to acclimatize ourselves to the altitude.

Day III:

This was our first bike ride. We decided to ride past the airport, stop at Army’s Hall of Fame and take lunch at Spituk Monastery. Getting there was a breeze as it was all downhill. Coming back was a completely different experience. My breathing wasn’t yet normal and the constant uphill battle was extremely laboring. I started having my first doubts on whether bicycling in Ladakh was such a great idea. The stretch from the new bus stand to Leh gate was the most brutal and I walked the entire route (The walking technique was well employed on future rides)

Day IV:

After finishing tea and breakfast, we started for Basco Camp. We were promised that the ride would be on a flat path. Of course no one mentioned the wind. The head wind was so strong that the bike would stop whenever we stopped pedalling. We stopped at the Patthar Sahib Gurudwara for lunch at their langar. Post lunch ride was downhill and we reached Basco fairly quickly. What we did not know was that Basco town was fairly long and the camp was a further 5km uphill.

Basco Camp gave our first reality check. We had left most things back at Leh, assuming other camps would be adequately stocked. The bathroom was a ladakhi style dry toilet. Drinking water, washing, bathing had to be done by the stream and obviously no hot water available.

Day V:

Compared to the last couple of days, the ride from Basco to Nurla was fairly easy. We travelled along the Indus river for the most part. Nurla camp was beautifully situated on the Indus River. There was a scenic rope bride behind the camp as well.

Day VI:

We left Nurla for Lamayuru. The road from Nurla to Khalsi was pretty straightforward with few uphill climbs. A little past Khalsi once you reach a monastery on the stream, the road took a steep upward climb to Lamayuru. I walked most of the uphill route. We all stopped at Moon land for a scenic packed lunch. Lamayuru was a beautiful place, almost like one of the forbidden places in Tibet. The Lamayuru gompa overlooks the town and we even had a bit of sleet snow at Lamayuru.

Day VII:

We headed back down towards Khalsi. While the trek/bike up to Lamayuru, from the base, took 2-3 hours, we reached down in 15 minutes. Once we reached Khalsi, youth hostel had a bus ready and we put the bikes on the roof of the bus and drove back down.

Day VIII & IX:

Once we were done with our bicycle ride, we rented a couple of Enfields to head into Nubra Valley. The ride to Hundar was beautiful, while the views from Dikshit Monastery were amazing.

 

All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable trip. I met some funny people from Pune and Mumbai and while I’m enjoying the down time, it might be fun to start dreaming of the next adventure.

A genuine ashram

A lot of people have told me on the effects of detoxification and how well you feel. I’ve never done Yoga and detox before, now was a perfect time to try it out. Since both my mother and Mahatma Gandhi (not together) had previously visited Nisargopchar Ashram at Uruli Kanchan, it seemed a good place to try out.

Ashram garden

cottages

The ashram has a typical village setting. However its not very professionally run. Plan on losing your first day trying to figure out how things work and where you need to be.

I started the next day with a yoga class at 6 am. The class was generally filled with older people having joint problems and they spent a lot of time practising Shav Asana. After yoga, I eventually succeeded in tracking down a masseuse who had a slot free. As luck would have it, my masseuse Vikram Jadhav, was one of the oldest serving people and as I later found out that my new tormentor-in-chief was well aware of all pressure points in my body. Later that afternoon, I went searching for my “neurotherapy” session. While walking to his office, I could see a door open and a gentleman was sitting at his table staring at the wall ahead. Being brought up in a multitasking environment, I know how difficult single tasking is to me. However doing no task while sitting and concentrating on nothing was completely out of my comprehension. I thought he was asleep but when I walked into his room, I noticed his eyes were well open and he introduced himself as Satish Sonawane. Apparently neuro therapy is Satish sir standing on my body while I’m lying down. Digging his heels into my thigh, he exploited all the pain points left alone by Vikram Jadhav.

After a very painful night’s sleep, I decided on trying out another yoga class at 6.15 am. I was the last person to enter the class and noticed it was satish sir taking the class. Immediately I noticed a change in tempo. If he had impressed me with his ability to control his mind yesterday, today it was his amazing control over his body while doing yoga. Sweating and panting after class, it was time to get back into the grind and experience pain during massages.

I eventually settled to this general schedule:

6.15 – Yoga
7 – Get tortured in the name of massage by Vikram Jadhav
8 – Drink Kadhe
8.30 – Matti lep (putting cold mud pack on your belly and lie in the sun)
9 – Drink carrot juice
9.30 – Alternate between steam and tub bath
11 – Eat something loosely termed as edible food (1 bhakri, vegetables boiled together without salt, spice or oil)
Walk after lunch
2.30 – If I had blocked out the pain from my morning massage, it was brought rushing back by Satish Sonawane.
3.30 – Drink Kadhe again
6 – eat dinner (the same crap as lunch)

After a couple of days, I started detesting the food served and voluntarily went on an all fruit diet. I personally never believed I could eat only fruits (and drink kadhe) but when the alternative was so detestable, you’d be amazed at what the mind can do.

Would I go back?

Its an interesting question. I do most things, one time, for the experience and then I’m done with it. I had put nisargopchar under the same category. I know I can’t stand the food. The ashram resembles a fat camp with most people there trying to lose weight (I lost 1 kg, but with my body size thats a drop in the lake and most of it was water weight), so it’s not a place I would generally frequent. However Satish Sonawane intrigued me. In my brief interactions, he had the mind control that I dream of and he seemed an incredible genuine person. So yes, when the time is right I might go back to learn more.

Now I need to get my body back to normal as I have to start my new adventure next week – Bicycle through the highest desert in India – Leh, Ladakh.