A heavy meal of Dum Aloo, Dal Tadka and Roti did everything to satiate the vegetarian me. Conversations with the ever-so-gracious hosts range from Article 370 to the life of the aam Kashmiri to my desire to travel solo. Indeed, it is conversations that make travelling so much more real!
I lay on my bed elated with the day spent at Popo’s Cottage in Srinagar. Sunrise at Nagin (Dal’s lesser known and cleaner cousin) and a hot cuppa kawah later, I make my way enroute Leh.
Suddenly a cold wave at Zojila engulfs an otherwise pleasant summer. A downhill, thrilling sledging ride opens me to my little adventure.
It is interesting how our country is not just bound by culture, but even by Maggi. Yes, that ubiquitous noodle that makes a weary day alright and a cold wave seem warm. Never have I relished it more than amidst the mountains.
Soon, I continue to dabble myself in some conversation with the cabbie and realize that I love being a part of people’s stories.
As we keep at it, we embark upon a landscape marked with arid, brown mountains, standing tall and confident even after years of political turmoil, making it all the more appealing to me. Something about the mountains inspires me. May be their loftiness or their wind. May be their will to stand upright against the storm. Or maybe, the exhilaration on reaching the top.
On arriving Leh, I see a concoction of Ladakhis, Israelis (a whole lot of them) and guest house leasing Nepalis. A closely-knit hamlet, Leh soaks you in its bustling yet humble vibe the moment you get there. A two way walk in the main market at Changspa and everyone starts greeting you.
Thereafter, I make my way to Nubra’s fickle, river-meets-sand dunes landscape. Starry skies and green meadows at Hunder make for a surreal camping experience.
Back in the humble town of Shey near Leh, I am greeted by a canvas of colourful umbrellas. ‘What for?’ I mumble. My question was answered once I sat listening to the Dalai’s sermons. 10 minutes later, my phone gives up and warns with a big ‘Temperature’ sign. A typical July is anything between 38 to 45 degrees!!!
A horde of Budhhists attended, many from the towns around Leh and some who had even crossed the Tibetan border overnight just to catch a glimpse of the Dalai.
With chants of ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ lingering in the background, I carry on only to know it had changed me.
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