Ladakh — The land of high passes

The peaks of snow mountains on bright mornings part the dense clouds and soar into the skies. Beneath the skies like a world submerged, lies a lost kingdom. Ladakh, the roof of the world opened to tourists only in the last decade. At an awesome altitude, this highland is the bridge between the earth and the sky!

Part fantasy, part reality… Ladakh, is where, the forces of nature conspired to render a magical unrealistic landscape… a landscape of extremes… desert and blue waters… burning sun and freezing winds… glaciers and sand dunes… a primeval battleground of the titanic forces which gave birth to the Himalayas.

Ladakh is a region in India totally isolated from the modern world. An authentic land, it is faithful to ancestral customs where life is characterized by intense spirituality. Even an Indian traveler will probably find no similarities in the land and people between the ones he leaves behind and those he encounters in Ladakh. Rich traditions of Mahayana Buddhism still flourish in the purest form in this region, which has often been referred to as Little Tibet.

Ladakh lies at an altitude from 9000 ft to 25170 feet. At these heights, you are on the roof of the world! As the highest inhabited land in the world, it holds a fascination for many, while for some there is an enchantment of seeing mountains which had been under the sea for million of years. Ladakh is like a forgotten moment in time. It is common in Ladakh to come across villages carved out of veritable mountainside, stupas reaching the sky, monasteries virtually hanging from the cliffs and crags. Their interiors are filled with priceless antiques and art.

As the first rays of the sun hit the mountains, the monks blow the large copper trumpets from the rooftops of the monasteries. Below the monasteries, ritual articles are laid out, as monks in vestments and masks get ready for dancing in front of a gathering. As events build up, the music gets louder, incense is brought out and a group of monks in ceremonial dress come out to unfurl the large painted scroll. The night is alive with the illumination of shrines and buildings. A typical monastic festival in Ladakh takes place.

Ladakh means “land of high passes”. Until the coming of the aircraft, the only access into this remote, high Trans-Himalayan kingdom was across several high pass crossings. From the west the Zoji La at 14,000 feet is the lowest. Taglang La to the southeast is 17,200 feet high and a military highway now crosses this coming from Manali. To the north is the Khardung La – at 18,200 feet, the only access into the Nubra valley and the Karakorams. Dead ends now, but important in centuries past, were the northern passes on the Central Asian trade route – Saser La and the Karakorum pass.

Ladakh’s landscape has more in common with the lunar landscape than any other place on earth. Being in a complete rain-shadow region, cut off from the monsoon clouds by the Great Himalayas and a host of subsidiary ranges, it is a cold high altitude desert where the wind, water from the minimal winter snows, and chemical reactions within the rocks themselves, have carved a fantastic, sometimes grotesque, landscape.

Famous Destinations:

•  Zanskar (also Zangskar) is a region in   Ladakh north west   India . It is famous for its stunning scenery and Tibetan-style Buddhist monasteries. It borders on   Ladakh   to which it is almost identical from an outsider’s point of view, only being more remote and less densely populated, with less infrastructure.

•  Nubra valley , north of Leh, located between the Ladakh Range and the Lofty eastern Karakoram mountains , lies Nubra, a region part green, part rocky and barren and part , rather surprisingly Desert and camels too. A region very unique in itself !

•  Pangong Lake , this vast lake , 150km long and 4 km wide , stretches from the north –east of Ladakh across the border of Tibet.There are some interesting birds around the lake shore including a few pairs of the very rare endangered black –necked crane.

•  Tsomoriri Lake , this high altitude lake is situated in the Rupshu region of eastern Ladakh near the border with Tibet. The mountains to the east of the Lake are crowned by two of Ladakh’s highest summits, the Lungser Kangri (6666m/21,870 ft) and to its north, Chamser Kangri (6622m/21,712 ft).

•  Dha hanudownstream from Khaltse along the lower Indus , live a group of people known as Brokpas, an isolated people of the purest Aryan stock who are racially , and in some ways culturally , very different from most Ladakhis. They are the only ones to have preserved their unique form of Buddhism which is mixed with the pre Bhuddist animistic religion, Bon.

Climate:

Ladakh is country’s coldest, highest and the driest zone. Ladakh has a cool and generally dry mountain climate. Much of Ladakh is above 11,000 feet (3,350 M). Therefore, you can expect warm to hot days in the summer and cool nights. In winter the temp may drop as low as

-35*C. There is occasional snowfall in winter caused by “Western Disturbances”. Summer days are generally warm, 25-30*C. Annual rainfall does not normally exceed 10 cm/3.5 in though over the past decade or so there have been occasional spells of unusually heavy rainfall.

Clothing:

Cotton & light woolens in summer and heavy woolens including feather filled wind proof upper garments in winter.

4 thoughts on “Ladakh — The land of high passes

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