Ladakh landscape, sky shooting stars, silence, wizened faces,
rosy cheeks, dragons and Zen everything makes ladakh
a quite place to visit. This ethereal cold desert that goes by
names such as ‘The Last Shangri-La’, Moonscape, Little Tibet and
Ladakh is a land like no other. Bounded by two of the
world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the
Karakoram, it lies athwart to two other ranges, the Ladakh
range and the Zanskar range.
The start and rugged landscape is situated
amidst to multiple-hued mountains, some smooth enough to rub
your cheeks on, others scraggly as though termites have had to
go at them for breakfast.
In geological terms, this is a young land, formed only a few
million years ago by the buckling and folding of the earth's
crust as the Indian sub-continent pushed with irresistible force
against the immovable mass of Asia. Its basic contours, uplifted
by these unimaginable tectonic movements, have been modified
over the millennia by the opposite process of erosion, sculpted
into the form we see today by wind and water.
Yes, water! Today, a high -altitude desert, sheltered from the
rain-bearing clouds of the Indian monsoon by the barrier of the
Great Himalaya, Ladakh was once covered by an extensive lake
system, the vestiges of which still exist on its south -east
plateau of Rupshu and Chushul - in drainage basins with
evocative names like Tsomoiri, Tsokar, and grandest of all,
Pangong-tso. Occasionally, some stray monsoon clouds do find
their way over the Himalaya, and lately this seems to be
happening with increasing frequency. But the main source of
water remains the winter snowfall. Drass, Zanskar and the Suru
Valley on the Himalaya's northern flank receive heavy snow in
winter; this feeds the glaciers whose melt water, carried down
by streams, irrigates the fields in summer. For the rest of the
region, the snow on the peaks is virtually the only source of
water. As the crops grow, the villagers pray not for rain, but
for sun to melt the glaciers and liberate their water. Usually
their prayers are answered, for the skies are clear and the sun
shines for over 300 days in the year.
By Road and Air : Journey to Ladakh is quite fascinating,
though overland route is by far the better
alternative. Alliance Airways operates a daily return flight
from Delhi to Leh. The town has also air links with Chandigarh,
Jammu and Srinagar. The tourist season is from June to August.
Get your tickets booked well in advance if you are planning a
trip in the June-August period as the limited number of flights
tend to remain overbooked during the tourist season. There are
two overland routes to the region – one from Srinagar (only open
from June to October) and the other from Manali ( from July to
September). It takes 2 days by the overland routes to reach
Ladakh. A regular bus service operates on the routes; cabs can
also be hired from both Srinagar and Manali.
Cutting across the lunar landscapes of Ladakh, the Indus river
begins its 2,000 mile long journey, biting through a land few
men have seen. Often called the 'lion river' the Indus roars
across great hams of mountain and earth, bridging both in a roar
of thundering foam as she plunges across untamed countryside. As
she passes through Leh, river runners congregate to navigate her
waters, ice-cold and offering infinite variations to occupy all
grades of enthusiasts. Options include a half day scenic run for
amateurs on low waters from they along fast currents through
canyons and along spectacular mountain views to Nimmu, the
confluence of the zanskar and Karakoram ranges or combine a
scenic and white trip on the run from Nimmu. Water-skiing on Dal
and Nagin lakes is a popular sport and for those who are trying
it for the first time ten-day water ski courses are available.
Canoeing too may be attempted at the high altitudes lakes, while
diving in the lakes has still to catch on.
most difficult but exciting option for river running is on the
Zanskar along its spectacular course through the gorge in the
Zanskar mountains, between Padum and Nimmu. This is suitable
only for well organized white-water expedition, prepared for
several days of river running and camping in absolute
wilderness. Participants are required to be trained rafters
themselves while the arrangements should be assigned to a
dependable professional agency. Adequate arrangements for rescue
coverage is an essential pre-requisite for embarking upon a
white -water expedition on river like the Zanskar.
Himachal has a number of rivers, it is only the Beas and the
Chandra River in Lahaul that have been used for river running.
Chandra River flowing through the exotic mountain scape of
Lahaul is another interesting area for river rafting. The other
rivers of Himachal, namely the Ravi and Sutlej also have
possibilities for rafting and canoeing.
the sky-high Himalaya in the north and the sea-level jungle in
the south separated by a mere 200 km of hilly terrain, the
entire country is like a steep incline. The rivers that flow
down from the mountains towards the flatlands, therefore are of
the high speed kind. Brimming with glacial melt, the raging
rivers charge down from the high mountains and as they twist and
roar through the narrow gores the waters churn into white
foam-answering the prayers of every river runner.