Ladakh in April - Day 5 - A Drive to Taklang La
The reason why we were back in Ladakh withn 8 months of having been here was because a visit to lake Tsomoriri had eluded us the last time. Thanks to the unexpected snowfall in and aroud Leh, that wasn’t going to change this time either. But in Ladakh, the journey is often as rewarding as the destination. With Tsomoriri beyond our reach, we decided to simply drive down as far as we could in the general direction of Taklang La Top. During summers the road traffic from Manali comes into Leh from that general direction. It would be 3-5 weeks before those roads would open and that meant we got practically no traffic on the way.
The mountains just a few kiliometers after leaving Leh rank in my mind as the most interesting creatures of their species. Having travelled all around Ladakh, we were already used to barren landscapes, but these sharp and jagged ranges that we were passing through seemed downright hostile to any life. They came in different colours too - while the more ‘earthy’ shades of brown and ocher are all too common, the colours here had a decidedly mauve tint to them.
Once we were past these mountains, we saw the first, reassuring signs of life in a herd of yak grazing on a patch of pale grass.
While it was cloudy and cold, it was by no means cold enough by yak standards. Indeed, one of them stood on a small sheet of snow - meditating, drawing in the cold.
A few minutes’ drive from the yaks, was a small farming community tilling their fields and sowing wheat. They used horses to pull their ploughs instead of the more common oxen. After a short conversation between our driver and the people here, I was invited to try my hands at sowing wheat (which basically involved throwing a fistful of grain at a patch of just-tilled land). Awkard and touristy as it was, I handed over the camera to the wife, and joined in with a childlike glee. It hardly took anytime for me to realize that this wasn’t the job for me. I took possession of the camera again, and clicked a few pictures.
As we continued our journey towards Taklang La, the landscape turned desolate once more.
The valley of farmers grew distant and the road began to go loop around a mountain. Soon the condition of the road deteriorated to a point that it was impossible for us to drive any further. We got off our car and walked for a bit. We spotted a flightless bird and our driver, seeing our interest, offered to catch it so that we could photograph it. I misunderstood him as offering to catch the bird so that we could cook it and was quite taken aback - not that I would’ve approved of him catching it for something much less sinister like photographing it either. Fortunately, the bird was not flightless in the same sense as penguins and ostriches but more like hens are. It swooped down into the valley and drifted far away from us.
On our way back we stopped at a river which was still nearly frozen. It can be a bit unnerving to stand on a large water body - probably not the best place for reflecting on the meaning of the English phrase “on thin ice”.
For the remaining journey to Leh, we took a slightly different route. We saw endless fields on either side of our road that had rows upon rows of pylons that ran all the way to the distant snow-capped mountains. The sight might not be as majestic as the Taj or the Pyramids it evokes the same awe.
The weather had now begun to turn gloomy. We came across a monastery that stood atop a small hill in the shadow of a large mountain. Dark clouds hung low over the mountains but the monastery caught distant light that seemed to impart it with a radiant glow. Moments like these necessitate the invention of the device that we all call God, for even atheists like me are moved enough to seek someone higher to thank.
Well, this conculdes my travelogue from our visit to Ladkah in April. I thought that this grand saga would remain unfinished in the same vein as Schubert’s 8th symphony, Duke Nukem 3, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and more recently, Textmate 2. I’ve tried to fit my photos into the narrative rather than the other way around, so expect to see some more photos from this trip in the coming days.