Friday, August 19, 2005

Visit to the land of the La, Jammu & Kashmir

Ladakh is Tibetan for ‘the land of the La’, which translates to the land of high passes. It is not a place that photographs or words could describe. Everyone has to experience its beauty. I’ll try to make it short and leave the pictures to describe the rest.

First was the travel to Manali through Delhi and Chandigarh. The Manali-Leh road is one of the world’s most scenic, toughest, adventurous and challenging roads. Scenic because it goes through some of the worlds highest passes; toughest because of the road conditions – being open only for 4 months a year, it’s tough even to maintain something resembling a road at those heights; adventurous because it takes guts to drive in those places, letting the non-existence of roads, crossing streams, snow passes and landslides aside; and challenging because many get Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) because of the altitude.

We took a Tata Spacio and Chevrolet Tavera for the drive. The following picture was just before we crossed the Rohtang La pass (13050 feet). We were stranded for 15 mins due to this typical everyday-type landslide blocking the road.

One of the many lakes en route…this is a starting point for a Himalayan river.

These are the kind of roads you need to pass through… perfect SUV material.

Barlacha La… at 16500 feet was the most scenic pass of all the passes, with snow capped mountains on all side. But the approach road is also the worst of all.

At the end of the first day of the journey, we had to stay in these tents overnight. There are no permanent buildings here since the road is motorable only for 4 months and this is a cold barren desert – no vegetation, rains etc. The stay was one of the toughest things. Half of my company (4 out of 8) had breathing problems due to the altitude. Many experienced severe head aches.

This is one deep, scenic gorge by the side of the road - a run for the money to the Grand Canyon.

Following pix shows the 50 miles flat highway amidst all the mountains, at above 12000 feet; This one that has been featured in many ads including the latest Avenger ad. The people were Pashmina tribes, the only two people in the 50 miles stretch. They travel through foot! We had to stop since they were begging for water...

Jam and I at Tanglang la (17582 feet), the second highest pass in the world.

After two days of travel, we reached Leh, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir - a dream come true. Leh is amazing – a green patch amidst all the plain barren mountains around, as though a place had been allocated by destiny for this purpose. It’s an amazing place with last traces of Tibetan culture in the world. We were surprised by the number of foreigners there since we were the only Indian contingent everywhere we went. It almost resembled a foreign country...

We then made it to Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable pass at 18380 feet. I learned that this pass is the only route to Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield.

That’s me at Khardung La showing in the direction of the Siachen glacier.

At Hemis monastry, the oldest in the region. It is one of the most religious with 500 monks living, and is also a center piece of Buddism since Ladakh is supposedly one of the three remaining regions with vestiges of Tibetan Buddhism – the other two being Bhutan and Sikkim.

A view of the most beautiful Thiksey monastry, built on the style of the Potala in Lhasa, Tibet.

We also made it to the Siachen hall of fame in Leh. Awe inspiring stuff, with all the captured Pakistani guns, identity cards etc, along with heroic stories. Siachen is also one of the coldest regions in the world, with temperatures hovering between -5 to -50 degree centigrade. The temperature in the deep crevices, I learned, could go below -200 degree centigrade!

After two days at Leh, we made it back to Manali, and did some paragliding on the way.

We hired bullets - another dream - and ventured in the ghats from Manali to Kullu through what is called the Timber trail, through scenic apple orchards and villages like Naggar.

As Jam said, the whole journey was truly a photographer’s nightmare because every frame was worth capturing and the limitations are the time and the number of photos one is willing to capture. In the end, however hard you try, nature always wins; photos rarely capture the magnitude of the beauty, tranquility and the vastness of the space. However, we did try hard to capture the best pieces. We took 1800 snaps and 3 hours of video. If you are a person liking travel, this is the place to go. I would most likely visit the place many times again, hopefully riding a bullet or a vehicle myself. It’s worth every penny one spends.

P.S: Apologies for the delay in posting. Viruses, hard disk formatting, reinstalling etc took the toll.


At Friday, August 19, 2005 10:57:00 PM, Blogger Ravi said...

so u guys back @ I ...

At Saturday, August 20, 2005 2:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thot wud write jus one word..but cannot choose among....Rocking, Fantastic, Sexy, Fundoo n the list is too big...but mus say.....some adventure in life!!

At Saturday, August 20, 2005 3:50:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

Yep back at I.

Truly... its all that and much much more. Really spellbinding...

At Saturday, August 20, 2005 10:24:00 AM, Blogger Rajakumar said...

Awe-inspiring! Hoping that We should also be able to make it one day.

At Saturday, August 20, 2005 10:31:00 AM, Blogger Chandoo said...

"In the end, however hard you try, nature always wins; photos rarely capture the magnitude of the beauty, tranquility and the vastness of the space."

Coldnt agree more.

At Monday, August 22, 2005 4:45:00 PM, Blogger Arunkumar said...

Must have been an amazing adventure. Gr8 going guys !!
I must make it once to these places.

At Wednesday, August 24, 2005 9:40:00 PM, Blogger Krish said...

Looks like you had a swell time almost touching the roof of the world.

At Thursday, August 25, 2005 2:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a place!! breath-taking!!! (and quite literally too!)


At Thursday, August 25, 2005 8:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

machan u gota big fan in my dad for ur blog da. he reads each and every of ur posts and Jams blog too :):) gets to know each and everything bout our college from ur blog. kudos machan :)


At Friday, August 26, 2005 9:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Its really nice to roam around such an adventurous place that is amazingly same as of touching the sky of our India.It is giving me the feeling that i also have covered this journey after following your blog with marvellous collection of your Snaps and information about the places.

Sandeep Garg

At Friday, August 26, 2005 11:22:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

It truly is all what I saaid and much more!

@Venkat: That adds some responsibility on my shoulders! ;-)

@Sandeep: Thanks for visiting. :)

At Saturday, August 27, 2005 7:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Govar ,
Your blog is in rediff Get ahead on an article Why I like to Blog ? ;-)


At Sunday, August 28, 2005 5:07:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

Hi Lijo,

I was aware of it.. Rediff sent me a mail sometime back. Thanks for noting though...

At Thursday, September 01, 2005 2:17:00 PM, Blogger rahulr said...


Some of my friends and I are planning to visit shimla, Leh and Ladakh.

So please let me know what would be the best time of the year to plan a trip there. We also wanted to see snow fall and also avoid getting stranded there.

Your advide would be highly appreciated.


At Thursday, September 01, 2005 5:51:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

Hey rahul,
Sure would say whatever I know. Gimme ur email id or sth. I couldnt even comment on ur blog...

At Wednesday, September 07, 2005 8:49:00 AM, Blogger rahulr said...


This is in reply to ur response,
my mail id is

As far as my blog goes, i have just started one.

As I love photography, I thought of putting up photos i take on the blog.

I'm yet to get used to the Blogging culture.

Do mail in.

- Rahul

At Wednesday, September 14, 2005 9:15:00 PM, Blogger jack said...

Nice writeup, wish you had writen more :).

At Wednesday, July 27, 2011 5:10:00 PM, Anonymous Register Domain In India said...

It's rocking places in Jammu & Kashmir. I like every places in jammu.

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