Its 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 Shangrila’, Moonscape, Little Tibet and so many others – all of which ring true, is a land that seldom fails to baffle or surprise.
The inhabitants of Ladakh are simple smiling people who greet one and all with the all-encompassing which could mean hello, bye, thank-you and please! So if there is a word of Ladhaki that you must learn. The stark and rugged landscape is situated amidst multiple-hued mountains, some smooth enough to rub your cheeks on, others scraggly as though termites have had a go at them for breakfast. Miles and stretches of this never-never land, surprised by quaint little vibrant green hamlets oozing wild roses and lavender, fringe the life-giving Indus River.
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 at 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
Mountaineering is the ultimate challenge, the trial by fire, for the spirit, the mind and body. Striving to reach for the pinnacle, is essentially an urge to reach within, to discover the essence of one's being.
The land of rugged rocks and serrated glaciers, Ladakh offers a challenge to mountaineers that not many can resist.
The Susu and Zanskar Valleys are adorned with a number of spectacular mountain peaks that attract climbers from the world over. In particular, the Nun-Kun massif serves as the focus of increasing mountaineering activities in the region. Its easy accessibility by road and shortest possible approach march to reach the base camps makes the Nun-Kun massif one of the most attractive mountaineering destinations in the Western Himalaya. Nearby is the Zanskar massif with several challenging peaks surrounding the majestic Drang-Drung Glacier, adjoining Penzi-La. This massif too is accessible by road up to the base of the glacier and the approach trek to the base camp is at a day's trek from the road.
THE ZANSKAR GROUP
The Zanskar massif lies adjacent to the Nun-Kun massif. Most frequented area in this group is along the Drung-Drung Glacier below Penzi-La, on the Kargil Zanskar road. Its base camp can be approached in a day's trek from the road head. The best known peaks in the group are Z-2 (6175m), Z-3(3270m) and Z-8 (6050m). In addition there are many unnamed peaks in the area in the altitude range of 5000m to 6000mt.
The climbing period in the region extends from early June to mid October, the main climbing period being June-August when most of the Himalayas remain inaccessible due to the monsoon elsewhere. The Ladakh Himalaya however remains unaffected.
The ranges of the Great Himalayas- Zanskar, Pir Panjal (or Shivalik) and Dhauladhar provide the State its mountainous character.
The main peaks of this region include, Leo Pargil (6791m) above sea level, Kinner Kailash (6050m) with Jorkaden(6473m) to the immediate south and Raldang(5499m) and Phawarang (6439m).The twin peaks of Gushu(5607m) and Pishu(5672m) are situated between Sarahan and Pin-Parbati Pass.
This 17 day trip encompasses exciting activities. Arrive in Delhi on the first day and take a trip by car or air to Manali. Enjoy a wondrous trip from Manali to Lespa by jeep, while you cross the famous Rohtang pass and the Baralachal and Baratacha La passes. Camp overnight at the picturesque Nallah. On day seven, visit the Tsokar Lake camp overnight near the lake. On the 10th day, visit the Shey Hemis and Thiksey monasteries, and spend a day of leisure the next day. Move on to Uletopko and visit the Lumayuro monastery. Leave for Delhi on the 15th day and go sightseeing to various exciting places including Agra.
The most difficult but exciting option for river running is on the Zanskar along its spectacular course through the gorge in the Zanskar mountins, between Padum and Nimo. 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.
Though Himachal has a number of rivers, it is only the Beas and the Chandra River in Lahaul that have been used for river running. There are regualr runs between Shamshi and Aut on the Beas. the 20 km stretch has exciting white water and class 3 rapids.
The Chandra River flowing through the exotic mountainscape 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.
With 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.
Apart from the thrill of charging down tremendous waves and swirls, a white water trip on Nepal's waterways provide splendid views of the landscape and river died flora and fauna. Descending from the mountains to the plains, a river trip also provides a cross-section of Nepal's ethnic diversity. You traverse a variety of terrain. lifestyles and climatic conditions in a few short days. Some rivers rush through scenic canyons with sheer rock walls on either side while others course through uninhabited wilderness to offer varied scenery and excitement.
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, clear 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 Niemo, the confluence of the zanskar and Karakoram ranges. Or combine a scenic and white trip on the run from Niemo. 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.