Julley! Thanks for stopping by! Every journey is packed with adventures and lessons that should be made note of. And so was this trip to Ladakh in the end of August, for me and my folks. To give you some background we set out on a 10-day road trip starting from Srinagar (Flight from Mumbai to Srinagar) and then spending one night on the way in Kargil to finally reach Leh. We spent two days in Leh and then started out road tripping in Ladakh driving through the most scenic roads and discovering a totally different world that’s hidden in the hills. Just to reinstate the fact – Ladakh is mesmerizingly beautiful! And this trip was considerably budgeted considering we decided to not book anything in advance or take help from travel agents and pre-planned tours. So it was just four of us (Parents and us! Yes, we do annual family holidays and totally enjoy them) and a return ticket to Mumbai from Leh that was due in 10 days! So let’s begin with the lessons.
- Julley! Hello, in ladakhi is a great way to start a conversation with people of this region who are extremely kind and helpful. On every step you’ll come across people saying Julley in the sweetest way and always with a smile on their face. So start saying it, you too!
- The first day in Leh, for travellers is advised to be spent in the confines of their hotel rooms so that you can acclimatise to the high altitude. Do not take this lightly. We did and ended up going for a walk in the market the first day in Leh.
We got a little over-confidant as we drove from Srinagar and didn’t face any trouble at all (Even though I have severe road sickness). So while in the market I began to have a slight headache which I passed off as tiredness first and then a side-effect of not wearing my glasses. But the pain continued, spreading to my neck, shoulders and eyes in a way that I could hardly hold up my head after a while. When we got back to our hotel the headache was unbearable coupled with difficulty in breathing and uneasiness. Obviously my folks were super worried, so after waiting in the hotel for a few hours for the pain to subside and having pain killers that didn’t help I was then to the hospital which by the way is a super neat, clean and big facility just 20 minutes away from the city with a special travellers ward that sees more that 2000 patience come for low oxygen issues during season time. September isn’t season time so there weren’t a lot of patience there and the check-up section was shut. So we went to the regular section and got checked – which is simple – put your finger into the machine that tests your heartbeat, pulse, and oxygen levels. Mine of course was a little low (70 as compared to the normal of 90-95). So I had to stay up in the hospital for a night and was put on oxygen mask. A night stay in the hospital along with medications, an injection and two cylinders of pure oxygen all cost us not more than Rs. 350 plus the travel charges. I have to mention that the people in the hospital and our hotel were really sweet and helpful and this did not turn out to be as bad an experience as I had initially imagined.
Tip: If in case you face such an issue in Leh, the main market or chowk has a free hospital where you can check your oxygen levels and be put up with oxygen masks in emergency. This is open only till 7PM in the evening though after which the government hospital is the only option. We also noticed some shops that would let you check your oxygen levels for a measly sum of Rs. 20 which in emergencies is great.
- Breathing is going to be tough so a lot of people suggested we carry camphor with us as it helps in breathing. Although we didn’t take it along we saw a lot of people using camphor and it worked for them.
- Electricity in Leh is unpredictable to as you go further expect no electricity and wifi connections and be prepared for the same.
- Once you get ahead from Leh it makes sense to pack a one day bag (especially in villages like Turtuk) as some places will have really difficult terrains where you will have to pick up your own bags and super small rooms only fit for a night’s stay.
- Airtel and Vodafone networks work fine only in Leh. In all other remote areas nothing works better than good old BSNL so arrange atleast one BSNL sim for coordination purposes and calling back home.
- Campsites in Nubra are quite useless as all you’ll get to see are treas. Rather skip it in Nubra and stay in the camp in Pangong Lake as that truly is a once in a lifetime experience. In Nubra after checking out some campsites that were also highly over-priced we settled for Hotel Karma Inn that was very comfortable with great food, good view and a decent WiFi connection 😛
- In Pangong we picked a campsite and although it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience the weather suddenly changed and it started to rain which made the temperature go down quite a bit. Needless to say, we spent a sleepless night waiting for dawn so that there could be some warmth. And all this was with 3 layers of clothing topped with a leather jacket. The unbearable cold made us regret the camp as the cold wind kept seeping into our tent and the tent itself kept fluttering all night. That’s when we thought maybe the cottages would have been better but you can surely take your pick.
- Book your car via your hotel and ask them to give you a good discount (hotels in Leh take a 20 % cut which they can easily wave off). We chanced a good deal via our hotel (Sia-La Guest House) and paid 21,000 from Leh and back to Leh for 6 days.
- In Nubra, the two hump camel ride can be painful. And that my friend, is the only attraction other than the scenic and long road journey. So don’t keep your hopes too high.
- If you have extra days do visit Turtuk, a small but scenic village that will transport you to 16th century life. The hotel we stayed at there – Hotel Ashoor was amazing and so was our host. Also great food and the village is frequented by foreigners.
Quick fact: The village was part of Pakistan and was captured by India in the 1971 war. It is also simply 20 kms away from the Pakistan border and their check post on top of the mountain can be seen. Pretty cool stuff, right?
- We also spent a peaceful night in Dixit village and totally enjoyed it. If you have extra days, do so too. Nothing much to do just simply relax and enjoy the mountain view from your comfortable room. We rented rooms for simply INR 1000 for rooms with the perfect view.
- If you want to experience Ladakh on the bike, an easier option is to hire a bike from Leh. Bikes are easily available and all it top condition. This would be cheaper than you transporting your vehicle all the way to Leh! A Royal enfield for a day is rented at Rs. 1200 while an active at Rs. 800. Take your pick.