FLASHPACKING IN LADAKH
Flashpacking in Leh - Ladakh is like not elsewhere. Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram, it lies athwart two others, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range. The people of Ladakh are very hardy and tough like the rugged mountains and also very soft and plain. With round faces, short noses, and chinki eyes they resemble more to the people of Tibet and Central Asia. To experience the culture while flashpacking in Leh, we would recommend taking homestays.
The destination is deemed as a journey’s end, but if you’re contemplating a place like Ladakh, it is the journey itself that offers the most delightful and tranquil view, you’ll ever witness. This Himalayan Odyssey can be your perfect getaway from the overwhelming city life and tinsel town. Be it for the love of adventure or quenching the thirst for exploration, it’ll be a trip like none other; a challenging one that would get you prepared both mentally and physically.
A trip to Ladakh or a holiday in Ladakh should be well planned but if you are an impromptu planner don’t let this dampen your spirits, because nature is going to dazzle and surprise you at its best. Ladakh, a land of high passes and monasteries, is situated at the outermost reaching areas of India with The Great Himalayas and the Karakoram mountain ranges bounding it. To reach Ladakh, you can follow the usual ways, by air and via land.
For those not willing to spend much time traveling and just won't get there quickly can opt for the air approach, flights from Delhi, Srinagar, and Jammu are easily available to Leh. As for our quintessential adventurers, they should already start planning a road trip of a lifetime. Buses run directly from Manali and Srinagar.
As the ‘’bikers’’ according to whom this picturesque journey is most epic when experienced in this way can follow these routes;
1. Delhi > Chandigarh > Patni top > Srinagar > Kargil > Leh
2. Delhi > Chandigarh > Manali > Sarchu > Pangong Tso > Leh
Making a stop at Leh is not only vital for sightseeing but also to acclimatize to the altitude height, given that many of us are not used to such heights and can suffer from altitude sickness. En route to Leh, here is a list of the ‘’must visit’’ places;
1. Khardung la: Welcome to the highest motorable road in the world, drive your way through high Mountains blanketed with snow, with many bikers and riders passing you by. This pass is a great way to start your adventure and those who share a niche for an adrenaline rush will be goose-pimpled by nature’s spirit.
2. Nubra Valley: Khardung la is a heavenly gateway to Nubra valley and many other monasteries on your way to Ladakh. After your tour through the lavishing snow, Nubra Valley will surely give you the next best thing. Its green oasis and vast sand dunes are breathtaking.
3. Buddhist monasteries: You cannot miss the beautifully built monasteries that will create a bountiful relationship with the Tibetan and Ladakhi cultures and traditions. The Shanti Stupa at Changspa, Thiksey Monastery, Stipuk monastery, and Hemis monastery are a few of many most visited monasteries in Ladakh. Tourists even take detours to complete their journey by visiting these Buddhist temples. The Stok monastery is a favorite among tourists; it represents the typical Ladakhi culture and holds a ritual dance-mask festival annually.
4. Leh Palace: if you think that a historical element is missing from this extraordinary trip, then you can’t be more wrong. The Leh palace, first built in the seventeenth-century highlights in all its profuse grandeur the traditional culture of Ladakhis. Even in its ruins, people from all over the world come to visit this palace.
5. Magnetic Hill is located on the Leh-Kargil-Srinagar highway. There are multiple signboards prodded into the ground to help you find the right way and the right attitude of the place. Magnet hill signboard clearly plays its role right that it defies gravity, making it one of the most exciting places.
6. Pangong Tso (lake) is the emblem of a serene and placid lake view in Ladakh. Its clear water will have you spellbound; a perfect spot for photography and nature lovers and a view from there is nothing but visual poetry. To reach there you’ll have to commit to a five-hour drive from Leh and the lake is open to visitors from May-September.
7. Tsomoriri Lake is a famous stop for camping and trekking, it can be reached via Pangong and cuts on the Manali-Leh highway. In all its lush and picturesque landscape, enjoy the sound of gushing lakes, wildlife beauty, and mighty mountains.
8. Siachen Glacier the fact that it attracts many adventurers and trekkers every year is because is it the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world. For a complete adventure, this place is a must-visit.
9. Drass war Memorial (Vijaypath) really enriches the patriotic spirit. The memorial was built by the Indian Army, as a tribute to all the soldiers who lost their lives during the Kargil war in 1999. It is located on the Srinagar-Leh highway.
10. Last but not least, the most enduring quality about a Leh-Ladakh trip is its high passes and altitudes and the ones you should definitely not miss are the Markha and Zanskar routes. Ladakh is a place to explore and wear nature like never before. Nevertheless, just to avoid any troubles that may put a halt to your trip, plan wisely and don’t forget to get your Inner-line permit which can be issued from Leh as you will require it for almost all the destinations, also keep in mind that the best time to visit Ladakh is from June to November.
In and around Leh
Khardungla Pass, Nubra Valley, Sand Dunes Leisure Park, Nubra, Changla Pass, Pangong Lake, Tso-Moriri Lake, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Thiksey Monastery, Alichi Choskor Monastery, Confluence of Indus and Zanskar river, Likir Monastery, Spituk Monastery, Hall of Fame, Stok Palace Museum, Magnetic Hills, Basgo Monastery, Namgyal Tsemo Monastery, Samstanling Monastery, Phyang Monastery, Sankar Monastery. Stakna Monastery, Jama Masjid, Leh, Shey Monastery, Zanskar Valley, and much more
Area: 98000 square km
Altitude: Altitude ranges from 9000 feet (2,750 m) at Kargil to 25,170 feet (7,672 m) at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. Temperature: In summers, up to 27 degrees Celsius, and in winters it is -20 degrees Celsius and below in the higher reaches.
Best Season: Early June to October
Clothing: In summers, light woolen clothes, and in winters, heavy woolens with windproofing
Language: Ladakhi, Purik, Balti, English, and Tibetan
Airport: Leh Airport
By Road: Manali – Leh (480 Kmn / June till October) Leh – Srinagar (435 km / June till November)
Activities to do in Ladakh:
Trekking, Camping, Hiking, Rafting, Cycling, Motor Biking, Shopping, Tri different cuisines, Wildlife, Jeep Safari, Yak Safari, Camel Safari, Paragliding, Kayaking, Village Visits, Volunteering, Cultural Festivals, Photography, Home Stays and much more
Getting Ready For Ladakh – The Flashpacking Checklist :
General Instructions on ClothingWear clothes in layers. i.e. Multiple layers of thin clothes. (Avoid bulky T-Shirts, Bulk jackets, and Bulky Sweaters absolute no).In Ladakh during summer at one moment you may be sweating at 25 to 35-degree centigrade and in the next hour you may be at Freezing Temperatures any below zero to -15 degrees centigrade with altitudes varying from 10,000 feet to 18,500 feet at "Road Level". All three highest motor-able roads in the world are in Ladakh Region. So at 10,000 feet, you may be wearing just an inner and a t-shirt and as your gain altitude, you can keep adding layers. Sweeter, Jacket, Muffler, Gloves, etc., and as you descend keep removing layers.
Clothes to pack on a Ladakh Trip
Pack a few full sleeves t-shirts (full sleeves help you protect against harsh sun as well as harsh cold.)
- 3 to 5 Pairs (Depending upon the duration of your journey)
Carry shorts/tights and full sleeves t-shirt for River Rafting (You may an opportunity)
Track pants, Light Cotton Khakis, Tights, etc (Wear trousers that are made of light material, Comfortable, and have stretch)
Two pairs of thermal Innerspace Undergarments (Plenty)
Normal Socks – two to three pairs
Woolen Socks - two pairs
Light Jacket (Winter Jacket)
Muffler / Monkey Cap
Woolen gloves (One pair) / Snow Gloves (One Pair)
Other handy items
Cap / Hat (with a good shade)
Compressed Sleeping bag or one light bed sheet or shawl
Carry on a 2-meter x 2-meter plastic sheet (Not mandatory but helps)
Shoes optionally with anklets and a pair of slippers or floaters (washable)
Spare laces for the shoe might be a good idea
Shaving kitPocket knife/spoon set
Sun Screen – SPF (30 to 40 or higher)
Lip Guard or BalmHand Sanitizer
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Moisturizer and cold cream
Liquid soap and shampoo
Paper tissue/hand towel
A roll of toilet paper
Personal Medical Kit
Anti-septic skin cream
Velvet Skin cream
Asprin / Anti-vomit
A small bottle of Dettol
Diamox or equivalent (Please consult your doctor), for Altitude sickness.
Medicine for cough and cold
Chlorivate Food Poisoning Medicine - diarrhea can be an unpleasant experience while trekking
Bandages and Cotton
Generic Antihistamine for allergy attacksFood poisoning - Norfolk
Any other personal medicationCamphor (smelling camphor is helpful when you feel giddy)
Flashlight and Spare Batteries for the trek days
Padlock + chain for the train travel small mirror
CombZiploc bags for cameras with a waterproof pouch
Camera with spare battery and memory
Matches / LighterS
pike Guard – for mobile / camera charging (We may have only one socket per room in hotels, so kindly carry a spike guard with multiple sockets)
Spare cells for Mobile Phones and Cameras (Cells discharge faster in extreme colds)
Emergency Food and Water
1 small can of Food for an emergency. Biscuits / Chocolates / Salad items (can be bought from local market)
2 liters water bottle or hydration pack
Carry one Backpack - 60 Liters (as the main bag)
Carry one Daypack - 30 to 40 liters (to carry during the day for the camera, sweater, jackets, photo-ids, water bottle, flashlight, personal medical kit, etc)
A Waist Pouch can help too.
All items are to be wrapped in plastic or poly bags or waterproof nylon pouches.
Carry an additional smaller backpack (for a 1-day trip kind of) where you can leave your heavy baggage at the camp and travel with lighter bags if needed. Pack bulky and light stuff at the bottom and top. All heavy stuff towards the center of the bag and towards your body.
Use Compression straps if you have them in your bags, these will help you keep all items in place.
Keep all handy stuff in the day pack (Photo IDs, Tickets, Woollens, Camera, Personal Medicines, Money, etc).
In most remote places, only BSNL mobile is available (in Leh / Kashmir most networks are available). In some places, no network will be available. So you can inform your when you are at places like Sarchu, Pangong Lake, Nubra Valley, etc you will not have phone signals.
Always reach 30 mins before the scheduled time for all activities reduces stress (Better early than late, better sure than sorry)
Keep photo ids, and tickets in places where you can reach them easily.
Don’t make the baggage too heavy; maximum of one backpack and one handbag (day pack) Don’t carry items not required or more quantity than required.
Airport security check-in
Pack all Liquids, paste tubes, shaving kit; scissors; any sharp objects in check-in luggage; pressurized bottles, etc.
Original + Copy of Passport or Driving License ID + Election ID-Card or Driving License + PAN Card any other government of India issued photo ID (at least 5 copies of photographs and photo ids; this will be required for permits at certain locations).
Please carry emergency money with you; this is in addition to the money towards the camp fee (Rupees 10,000/-; and credit card); this fund is your reserve for any emergency not shopping money). E.g. emergencies like we are not able to reach the planned destination due to landslide or bridge breakdowns or due to any other unavoidable circumstances we may have to halt at another place which was not part of the planned trip etc., or it could be any other situation.
All items to be packed in a 60-liter backpack; and additional (duffel bag/nap sack)
Planning for your days
Most days you can go for early morning walking trips. (This is only possible if you hit the sack the previous night before 11 pm).
Most days the Safari starts early in the mornings, as there are many roads that have rivers cutting across them. As the day progresses the river swells up and it may not be possible to cross them. Also, you have to plan buffer time in case of Landslides / or time required during your trip for Photography.
You can also buffer for 30 to 60 minutes every day for Landslides or Jams due to some vehicle breakdown on the way.
Evenings can be just chilling out at a campsite or a casual stroll in the marketplace, enjoying the local culture.
Precautions (For high altitude)
It’s advised that for the first couple of days to minimize exertion as you may be rapidly gaining altitude (over 10,000 feet), so that your body has enough time to get acclimatized to the thin atmosphere.
Prevention First 2 to 3 days of your journey take is EASY... Literally, let your body adapt to high altitude. Especially those who land in Leh directly should take total rest the first day and keep the second day only for light trip. Drink plenty of water; eat even if you are not hungry.
Some of you may face symptoms of High altitude sickness like headache; some may have vomiting tendencies; mostly this condition should go in a day or two.
You may take Diamox tablets or equivalent a day or two before (kindly consult your Doctors on the medicines)
Sniffing Camphor is also helpful for those getting headaches.
Carry Asprin/Disprin tablets as they are blood thinners and will help you against AMS. Drink plenty of fluids (non-alcoholic); this will also help.
(Ladakh Altitudes of few locations)
Ladakh Safari is one of those trip where the Journey may be as important if not more important than the destinations:
Kashmir (Stay and Enjoy Kashmiri Hospitality in Luxury House Boat) – Shikara Ride – Sonmarg – Gumra (11,250 feet) Sonmarg – Experience thrill of crossing Zoji La Pass (11,250 feet) Baltal – Zoji La Pass (11,200 feet) Landscapes changes from Green Medows to Ladakh Arid Zone – Gumra (11,250 feet) Drass (Second coldest habitat place in Planet Earth) – Cross over to Kargil under enemy observation – 45 km from Kargil Mulbek (10,600 ft)30 feet statue of Maitreya Budha carved on cliff – Namkila Pass (12,204 ft) Bodh Karbu (10,890 ft) Heniskot (11,640 ft) Fatu La (13,479) Highest pass between Leh and Kashmir – Camp at UlheyTopko – River Rafting in Indus and Zanskar Sangam – Herigate and Culture (Alchi, Pathar Sahib, Likir), Exhotic ( Magnetic Hill, Pangong Lake, Camping at UlheyTolpko, Camping in Wilderness on way to Tsomoriri lake, Camping at Tsomoriri Lake, Camping at Sarchu, Exhotica Keylong (in Lahaul Spiti Valley), Cross Rohtan La also to Manali, Also experience Baralachala (4892 m) – Lachung La (5065 m), Pang, Debring (4500 m), TanglangLa – Morrey Plains – Manali to Delhi – Mumbai.
There are lots of opportunities for Camping, make most of it.
Important Note: To make most of the Ladakh Adventure, go there with an open mind. Don't have preconceived expectations. Be bold, be adventurous. Physical pre-preparation for high altitude trip One to two-hour walk or any other cardio exercise every day at least 4 days a week breathing exercise stretching exercise drink plenty of fluid; especially during last week and on the trip avoid Alcohol / minimize smoking if possible avoid it totallyEat good food (Add plenty of vegetables; salads; fruits to your diet).