Sunday, October 13, 2013

Trip to Ladakh - September 2013 - Part-III : Sight-seeing along Leh-Kargil road


As per our schedule chalked out well before the commencement of Leh-Ladakh trip, we were to take Leh-Khaltse-Domkhar-Hanu-Dah-Batalik-Kargil road covering  our visits to Gurudwara Patthar Sahib  Magnetic Hills, and confluence of Zanskar river with Sindhu river. We were to stay overnight in a guest house in Hanu village and visit Dah village the next day on our way to Kargil for the overnight halt. We were to return to Leh via Lamayuru and Mulbekh. However, on the previous day of our schedule departure to Hanu village, Mohammed Ali, the Manager of Hotel Bijoo told us that the only Guest House at the base of Hanu village  in which we were booked was closed down. He gave us an alternative option of a home stay in Hanu village but the problem was that we were to climb about 30 minutes from the road head to reach the village. It was not possible for all of us to walk 30 minutes even with our minimum baggage.


Ladakh map covering all places of our visits

After sometime, Mohammed Ali came with an alternative option of staying in Lamayuru and to cover Dah and Hanu villages on our return from Kargil to Leh. I agreed to this option after which he spoke to Hotel Moonland in Lamayuru and reserved 3 rooms for us. With this development, our first hectic day of Leh-Kargil trip was converted into a leisurely day as the distance between Leh and Lamayuru was about 125 kms. 

Day-7 : Leh to Lamayuru (125 kms)

We commenced our journey from the hotel at around 8.30 am. The first stop was the Hall of Fame very close to Leh Airport.  As we had reached 15 minutes earlier than its opening time of 9.00 am, our driver told us that we can visit the place on our return journey to Leh and decided to proceed to our next destination, Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, 25 kms from Leh.

1. Gurudwara Patthar Sahib

The Gurudwara has been built and maintained by Indian Army. There is a story behind this Gurudwara as mentioned in the display board in Gurudwara. During his second journey to Tibet (1515-1518), Guru Nanak Dev came to this place for a rest. A wicked demon was creating problem for the local people by killing one by one and eating them. Seeing Guru Nanak Dev mediating here, the locals became happy and relieved. However the demon got angry and hatched a plan to kill Guru Nanak Dev. One day when Guru Nanak Dev was offering prayers, the demon rolled down a massive boulder from the hill to kill him. However, the boulder became soft like a wax when it touched the back side of Guru Nanak Dev. Seeing him still alive, the demon kicked the boulder with his right leg which also sank into boulder. Realising that Guru Nanak Dev was a holy man, he regretted his action and asked for his forgiveness. Guru Nanak Dev advised him to devote rest of his life to the betterment of the people. The demon followed the advice and lived happily thereafter.


Gurudwara Patthar Sahib.

As soon as we entered the Gurudwara, we could feel the professionalism in the maintenance of this Gurudwara. After entering through the main gate, we were required to remove shoes and socks and walk towards the temple where Guru Granth Sahib was kept. The army has taken care of the likely discomfort to the visitors by walking barefoot during summer/winter by placing carpets on the walkway. In the temple, we found that Guru Granth Sahib was being read by an army officer and he was so engrossed in reading that he did not notice our visits. We sat for about 5 minutes in a very serene atmosphere where peace and silence prevailed.  On the back side of the temple, there was a huge boulder which was supposed to be the one rolled down by the demon on Guru Nanak Dev. The boulder has the imprint of the back side and head of Guru Nanak Dev.


The boulder with imprint of the backside and head of Guru Nanak Dev in the Gurudwara.

After taking a round of that boulder, we came out of the temple. On the way, we were given Prasad (sweet semolina pudding). After eating Prasad I was looking for cleaning my hand when I noticed that immediately on the right side, there was a mobile wash basin with fresh towel for washing and cleaning hands. Even Army had thought of this minute’s detail. Thereafter, we were directed to a langar where we were served tea and light snack. 

On a small hillock, within the Gurudwara complex, there is another temple supposed to be the place where Guru Nanak Dev sat on meditation. There are stairs to reach the place. Here also the Army has taken utmost care to reduce the inconvenience to visitors by making easy gradient of steps apart from covering them with carpet. From this place, one gets a 360 degree view of Ladakh plateau and a hill opposite Gurudwara from where the demon had rolled down a boulder to kill Guru Nanak. One can attempt to reach the top of the hill by climbing hundreds of steps. We did not attempt the climb as it would have taken at least one hour more apart from the discomfort which may cause due the breathlessness.


The hillock from where the demon is said to have rolled the boulder to kill Guru Nanak Dev.

View from Guru Nanak Dev's meditation place. Leh-Kargil road on the left.
  
There are clean toilets just outside the Gurudwara complex. Since we had already removed our shoes, we were thinking as to how to go to toilets without shoes. We found that Army had also taken care of this problem by making available extra pairs of sleepers to be used for going to toilet. In short, Army has taken care about almost all the visitors’ comfort.

We spent about 45 minutes in the Gurudwara and felt that this place had a strong aura of peace and tranquility. We felt that we ould spend some more time here. This was a good beginning of our day’s trip on Leh-Kargil road.

2. Magnetic Hills

After about 3-4 kms from Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, we came across some zebra crossing type signs on the tarmac of the road. This was an indication that we were passing through the magnetic field of hills on both sides of the road. At this point, our driver stopped the vehicle, switched off the engine and pushed the gear to neutral. The vehicle started moving slowly despite the fact that the road was on a slight climb. The magnetic field was pulling the vehicle. I remembered my wife telling me about a well known author of a travel book who had carried a magnet with her to check whether it was really a magnetic field or just a myth. At the point of magnetic field she placed the magnet on the ground. The ground attracted her magnet  proving that it was really a magnetic field. It is also said that aircraft do not fly over the magnetic hills at low levels.

3. Confluence of Zanskar-Sindhu River  

The confluence of Zanskar river with Indus (Sindhu) river is located about 3 kms south-east of Nimmo village. The Leh- Kargil road passes at a great height from the shores of these rivers. Hence it becomes a great viewing point from the road side with protective guardrails. Since the road is on the plateau and confluence is at a place where both these rivers come out of their respective gorges, devoid of vegetation, one can get an uninterrupted view of the confluence. The flow of water of both these rivers are quite distinguishable with emerald colour of Sindhu river and the light green colour of Zanskar river. The flows of both the rivers do not get merged with one another until about 100-200 metres further. 

At the point of confluence, there is a nicely constructed platform for disembarking from rafting boats. The rafting in Zanskar river is considered the most challenging one and it takes between 3-4 days to complete the rafting with overnight stays in tents at suitable places on the banks of the river. During winter, Zanskar river completely gets frozen and some adventurous trekkers trek on the frozen river bed to reach Padum in 2-3 days.


Confluence of Zanskar river (middle) with Indus (Sindhu) river flowing from the left.

Topography and shades on the mountain on way to Lamayuru.

After spending about 15 minutes at the viewing point with some photo session, we moved forward. Sindhu river was on the left side of the road until Khaltse where we had to cross the bridge over Sindhu river to reach the town. Khaltse is a junction where a branch of the road goes to Kargil via Batalik. Due to some traffic jam, we decided to take a short break here until the traffic jam was cleared. We strolled in the market where most of the shops were managed by women folks. The most common item on display in these shops was sun-dried apricots. There are plenty of apricot orchards in this region till Kargil.

4. Moonland  

After the traffic was cleared, we started our final leg of the journey to Lamayuru. On the way, we passed through beautiful mountain landscape. There were mountains of sands and stones with different shades and colour, some having unusual natural carvings, probably due to melting of snow in the summer.  About 5 kms before Lamayuru, we passed through mountains very close to both sides of the road. They displayed mostly light brownish yellow colour. The partial erosion of the top of the mountain soil has created natural designs over a long period of time giving an impression of the moon’s surfaces as seen in the pictures. Hence these mountains are nicknamed as ‘Moonland’.


The purple colour mountain about 4-5 kms before Lamayuru on Leh-Kargil Highway. The yellow colour  mountians in the foreground signals the arrival of 'moonland'.

The so called 'moonland' mountain.

A panoramic view of the 'moonland' mountains.

5. Lamayuru Monastery (3510m)

It was nearly 1.00 pm when we reached Lamayuru. We checked in Moonland Hotel about 1 km further from Lamayuru monastery. The hotel was clean with hot water available from the geyser only in the evening and morning due to load shedding. It had a good restaurant. After finishing our packed lunches provided by our Leh hotel, we took about 2 hours of rest in the hotel rooms before proceeding to Lamayuru Monastery.

Hotel Moonland, Lamayuru. We stayed on the first floor (right).

View of Lamayuru Monastery from Hotel Moonland's restaurant.

View from the hotel room. Leh-Kargil road can be identified from the guardrails (right). The road goes to the top of this sand type mountain.

Lamayuru Monastery is one of the oldest and largest monasteries in the Ladakh region. It has the capacity to house nearly 400 monks at any time. There are two main shrines in the monastery. In the first shrine there is a prayer hall with murals on the walls. There were displays of statues of some Buddhist gurus in the back side of the main statue of Buddha. As we were coming out from the shrine, a big Japanese group visited the shrine for whom the Lama had arranged special prayers. We could not see the second shrine as it was closed.


The main entrance of Lamayuru monastery.

Mural on one of the outer walls of the main shrine of Lamayuru monastery.

The braided colourful silk cloth tied to the door of the main shrine.

The displays and murals on the wall inside the main shrine.

A young monk outside the shrine of Lamayuru monsatery.

The view from the terrace of the monastery was awesome. In fact, I found the view of moonland far impressive from here than that from the road side. Probably the evening sun rays may have enhanced the beauty of the moonland. On the side of the monastery opposite to its gate are many dwelling places on the hill. It is said that they are also the residences of monks. Near the main entrance to the monastery complex is a hotel for visitors with a restaurant and a curio shop. After spending about 45 minutes, we returned to our hotel. In the night, the restaurant arranged a buffet dinner as the number of guests had dramatically increased by evening.

View of 'moonland' from the terrace of Lamayuru monastery.

 
View of the subsidiary monastery from the terrace of Lamayuru monastery.

View of Lamayuru village from the main gate of Lamayuru monastery. Leh-Kargil road can be seen in the right of the picture.

A zoomed view of Hotel Moonland from Lamayuru monastery. Leh-Kargil road is on the right of the picture.

A mid-shot of Lamayuru monastery from Hotel Moonland.

A Wagtail in Hotel Moonland complex.

Day-8 : Lamayuru to Kargil (110 kms)

1. Fotu La Pass and Namki La Pass

We left Lamayuru after breakfast at around 8.30 am. After a drive of about 15 kms from Lamayuru, we reached Fotu La pass(4110m). Until now, except for me and my brother-in-law, rest of the 4 members of our family had not ventured out of the vehicle at high passes for fear of breathlessness. Having now adequately acclimatised  and considering a comparatively lower altitude of Fotu La pass, all of us got down here to have a view from the pass. As usual, there is no greenery around and also in the valley except the ‘bald’ mountains all around. But as I said earlier, there is beauty in the baldness of these Ladakhi mountains with different shades of colours and the nature-carved designs. 


Fotu La Pass

View from Fotu La Pass

After about 30 kms of drive, we crossed Namika La pass. We had no intention of getting down from the vehicle but for the crowd  of about 50 local persons who came in about dozen cars to offer prayer flags at Namika La pass. The 50 odd locals were accompanying, up to Srinagar,  an elderly couple who were going on a haj pilgrimage. It is a practice in the villages here to accompany the haj pilgrims from their villages and offer prayer flags en route – on the passes, trees, bridges over the rivers, and any other places  for safe and happy journey.


View from Namika La Pass

A zoom shot of the top of a mountain in Namika La Pass which locals call it as 'Aasman Ka Satoon' (Pillar of the Sky). But it does not look like a pillar.

But after a drive of about 3-4 kms from Namaki La Pass, the wide part of the top of a mountain really looked like a pillar.

One of the elderly gentlemen from the crowd met us and after exchanging the pleasantries, he apprised us of the importance of some of the mountains on Namik La pass. According to him, many villagers visit to the top of a mountain located on the Leh side to have a panoramic view of Leh town and its surrounding areas. He then directed towards a mountain immediately above the display board of Namki La pass and said that local calls this mountain as ‘Aasman Ka Satoon’ (Pillar of the Sky). Of course, to all of us , the top of the mountain did not look like a pillar in the widest sense as the entire top was very wide to be called as a pillar. When I told the elderly gentleman to that effect, he responded by saying that we should look at the top of the mountain once again after driving 3-4 kms further from Namki La pass to see ‘pillar of the sky’.  I kept a note of it and after travelling about 3 kms, I looked at the same mountain. Now, instead of its top being looking very wide, it was looking like a round pillar. The change of direction has made all the difference.

2. Mulbekh Chamba

About 70 kms from Lamayuru is a non-descript structure just by the side of Leh-Kargil road in Mulbekh town. It is called Mulbekh Chamba. One can easily miss the spot while driving towards Kargil as unlike any other monastery, this one is bang on the road and very small in size. The main attraction of this monastery is about 30 feet high sculpture of Maitreya Buddha on a single monolith rock. The rock was not properly visible from the gate of the monastery. It was only when we were inside that we came to know that this monastery encircles the Buddha statue. There are some wall paintings inside the rooms but the entry was prohibited that day as Head Lama was on a visit to the monastery. Mulbekh Chamba is regarded as one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh, probably dating back to 7th century when Buddhist missionaries here came from the Eastern Himalayas.

View from Mulbekh village.

Mulbekh Chamba monastery.

30 feet high carved statue of Maitreya Buddha on a monolith rock inside Mulbekh Chamba monsatery.

Mulbekh village. In the foreground, two monks of Mulbekh monastery rehearsing the welcome music in honour of visiting Head Lama.

Head Lama (in the middle) arrives at Mulbekh monastery.

3. In Kargil and LOC View point

After about a 40 km drive from Mulbekh, we reached Kargil around 12.30 pm. Located in a valley on the banks of Suru river, Kargil is the second largest town in Ladakh next to Leh. The town is located at a convenient distance from Leh and Srinagar which makes it a popular destination for travellers and trekkers for overnight stays. We checked in Hotel Siachen located near market and took lunch at their restaurant. We had not planned for any sight-seeing in Kargil except some strolling in the market in the evening as there was nothing much to see here. However, post lunch, one guide came to me offering us to take up to the vintage point to see the Line of Control (LOC) just on the outskirt of Kargil. I was a bit apprehensive as to how he could take us to LOC view point which normally should be out of bound for non local civilians. I checked with the hotel staff and they confirmed that the guide had taken many tourists to LOC view point this season and no permit was required to visit this point. So we decided to visit. In worst case, we could be sent back. It may be noted that in Kargil, one has to take only Kargil registered tourist taxis for local sight-seeing. So we could not take our Innova which was registered in Leh.


View of Kargil town with Suru River in the foreground as we reached close to Kargil.

Hotel Siachen where we had an overnight stay. This is one of very few good hotels in Kargil with a good restaurant (ground floor).

After a cup of tea, we got into the guide’s Omni van. Immediately after passing through Munshi Aziz Museum, a left turn took us to a narrow dirt road which seemed to have been recently constructed. The single lane road was on a stiff gradient and had many bends and curves without any protection of guardrails. The journey looked to be unending not because of the length of the road but  because of the bad road condition. Just 2 kms before the LOC view point, the Omni got stuck in the pebbles which were being laid on the road as a prelude to making a tarmac road. Even after so many attempts by driver, the Omni remained stuck in the pebbles. Finally, we decided to walk down the remaining 2 kms and reached the LOC view point. Our guide told us that the road is being constructed under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and each labourer gets a wage of Rs.500/- per day. However, they work for only 120 days in a year. When completed, the road would connect Kargil with Hundurmun Broke, a village at the base of LOC.


We walked about 2 kms of pebble-laid road to reach LOC view point.

Hundurmun village at the banks of Suru River seen from LOC View Point. The village and the mountain across the river came under the control of Indian Army after Kargil War 1999.  On the right across the river is a helipad.

Hundurmun Broke (Upper Hundermun) village on the right along with the mountain top also came under the control of Indian Army during Kargil War 1999. A few Indian Army camps can be seen in the saddle below the peak ( middle left) as white dots though we could see them clearly from the naked eyes.

Picture of Shingir village under the control of Pakistan Army since 1948 on the banks of Suru River taken using 20x optical zoom of my camera.

From the view point, our guide pointed towards two high mountains in front of us – one on the left which was under Pakistani Army’s control and the one on the right which came under Indian army’s control with a village at its base known as Hundermun Bloke (Upper Hundermun) in the Kargil War of 1999. We could see from our naked eyes a Pakistani army camp, probably made up of green colour fibreglass while the Indian army’s camps were made up of white colour fibreglass. Below these high mountains, Suru river flows. There was one village at the true right bank of Suru river below the road known as Hundurmun which came into Indian army’s control after Kargil War of 1999. Both these villages have orchards of apples and apricot. On the true left bank of Suru river diagonally opposite Hundurmun village was  an helipad where a flag meeting of Indian and Pakistan armies were held in July 2013 according to our guide. However, further to about 2-3 kms from this village was another village known as Shigiri, also on the true right bank of Suru River which has been under the occupation of Pakistani army since 1948. From what I saw through 20x optical zoom of my camera, Shigiri village looked almost deserted.

The camps of both Indian and Pakistani armies were perched on high mountains. One can imagine as to how the army personnel of both the countries would be facing the winter when the temperature comes down to as low as -30C even in Kargil. During our return journey to Kargil, I was wondering whether it was proper to showcase the LOC as tourist destination especaiily when there were reports of tension on the LOC. 

We wound up the day after visiting Munshi Aziz Museum, a private museum and strolling in Kargil market. There are not many good hotels here. Probably, its proximity to LOC may have discouraged the locals to set up new hotels. However, I could see a couple of hotel properties under construction in around market area.


Munshi Aziz Museum, Museum is on the top floor while the Aziz family lives on the ground and first floor.


An old petromax on display in the museum.


A very old gramophone on display in the museum.


One of many paintings on display in the museum.


View of Kargil town from Munshi Aziz Museum.

Day-9 : Dah Village and back to Leh (262 kms)

I was keen to visit Dah and Hanu villages located off Kargil-Batalik-Leh road, two of the four ‘Aryan’ villages in Ladakh. I had also read on the websites about the unique culture of the inhabitants of these villages which are quite different from the Ladakhi culture. Visiting these two villages require Inner Line Permit (ILP) from District Commissioner, Leh as they are close to Batalik sector of LOC. Our hotel at Leh had already arranged ILP for us. Before the start of our Leh-Kargil drive, I checked the ILP and found to my dismay that permission to visit Batalik was struck down on ILP while permitting visits to Dah and Hanu villages. As mentioned earlier, Dah and Hanu villages are located off Kargil-Batalik-Leh. Hence to visit these two villages, one has to drive through Batalik. There was no time to get this rectified which meant losing at least half-a-day and that too we were not sure whether the office would reverse the decision. A way out was found by our driver who said that there was a village road via Mulbekh which meets Kargil-Batalik-Leh road somewhere between Dah and Hanu villages. In other words, we will have to back track on Kargil-Leh NH-1 and take a diversion to the village road after Mulbekh.

1. Visit to Dah Village

After a breakfast of Kande-Pohe ( flattened rice with onion), we left Hotel Siachen at around 8.30 am. As decided, we took Kargil-Leh NH1 road and at Mulbekh, we took a left diversion on a village road. It was a single lane tarmac road and surprisingly, the condition of the road was good. For the first time during our Ladakh trip, we were driving through a road passing through thick vegetation. There were orchards and agricultural farms as the natural boundaries very closed to both sides of the road. So there was no much maneuverability in this single lane road if a truck came from the opposite side. On a couple of occasions, we had to drive reverse  to find a suitable extra space to allow the incoming army trucks to pass. Just before the junction of this village road and Kargil-Batalik-Leh road, we crossed an iron bridge at which point army jawans checked our ILP. They were surprised as to why we had taken a longish route to visit Dah village as Batalik route would have taken much lesser time to reach the destination. This meant that ‘Batalik’ was struck off from ILP by oversight as army jawans had no objection to coming from Batalik.
Stone gate (right) to Dah village.

After crossing the bridge over Indus (Sindhu) River, the left of the road goes to Dah village towards Kargil while right side goes to Hanu village towards Leh. We reached the road end to Dah village after driving over about 500m of dirt road and passing an army camp. On the right hand side of the road,  the stone gate to Dah village was visible. We alighted from Innova and walked towards the gate only to know that Dah village was about 2 kms further. We decided to walk to the village. We were walking though the dense orchards of Apricot on one side and agricultural farms on the other side. Sindhu river was flowing to our left in a gorge just after the boundary of agricultural fields ended. We met some villagers on the way and chatted with them but still the village itself was not visible from the walking path.

The approach to Dah village. Sindhu river is on the right.

A Dah woman who was first to meet us on the way.

Barley fields on the way.

And flowers.

Apricot tree full of apricot fruits.

Our women folks were getting frustrated as we have already walked nearly 2 kms. At last, the first house of the village became visible which was perched on a higher level of ground.  Thereafter it was our walk through alleys of the village. Dah village is perched on a ledge above Indus River gorge at an altitude of about 2200 metres above the sea level. The population of Dah village as per 2001 Census was 542. A clear stream of water flows through the village from where some water channels have been diverted in all the alleys in the village and also to the nearby agricultural fields. We did not come across any shop in the village. There was a home stay run by Mr Dorji where we rested for some time had tea. Dorji is  assisted by some NGO to make and sell dried apricots and apricot jam to earn some extra income. As it is, most of the apricot fruits are wasted here. We tasted apricot jam and found to be yummy. We purchased some dried apricots and apricot jam bottles. The apricot jam is not of conventional type. Instead, apricot fruits are boiled and socked in sugar syrup without any preservative.  Hence, in warm region like Mumbai, the apricot jam bottles have to be kept in freeze and consumed say within a week.
The first house of the village .

Barley fields.

A Dah village family. The lady with a kid is the daughter of the elderly couple.

The traditional attire of a married Dah woman. The hair braids, the flowers, the silver head wear and the red beads in her necklace signify her marital status. However, her married daughter did not have these attires. On my query, she said that her daughter is of new generation who does not like to wear the traditional attire except on the occasion of festivals.

 Dah village cat.

While women folks work in their agricultural fields, men folks mostly work as civilians in a nearby army camp. Towards the end of the village boundary, there was a Buddhist temple with a prayer wheel which was closed as the monk has gone out. I was surprised to find that at the back side of the village, a Mahindra Trax was parked. On enquiry, a villager told me that there was a narrow dirt road from the main road to reach the village but the road was so bad that only small vehicles with 4-wheel drive can attempt to drive on this road. On the backside of the villages, there are grazing grounds and some more agricultural fields. A army personnel who was passing through the village told us that the area 200 metres beyond the temple was out of bound for civilians.


A man carries green grass and tree leaves probably for his goats. The wooden planks in his left hand is the dried branches of Poplar trees. In my numerous visits to Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh for the last 30 years, I have not come across any man carrying grass and leaves as such work is done by woman folks.

Buddhist temple in Dah village.

 
The inscripted stones placed below the temple flag post.

An elderly Dah villager who met us on the road.

2. Some background about ‘Aryan’ villages of Ladakh

I had gone through materials on Aryan villages of Ladakh before undertaking the trip and also had opportunity to read some pages of a book ‘An Enthnography – The Buddhist Dards of Ladakh’  written by Rohit Vohra which was very kindly given to us by Mr Dorji of Dah village while on a tea break at his place, for reading. I guess,  a short discussion on  the inhabitants of Aryan villages of Ladakh and their culture is in order here.

In the North-East of Kargil, there are four villages among others – Dah, Hanu, Darchik and Garkon. All these four villages are situated at the banks of Indus (Sindhu) River. While Dah and Hanu villages fall under the jurisdiction of Leh district, Darchik and Garkon villages are in Kargil district. The inhabitants of these villages are known as ‘Dards’. Locals also call them ‘Brokpas’ which in Tibetan language means 'the highlanders'. According to the census of 1981, these inhabitants were around 2000 in numbers. The origin of the inhabitants of these four villages have been a subject matter of debate as they claimed to be the pure Aryan breed, said to have migrated from South-Eastern Europe. Incidentally, some of the villagers I met in Dah village were tall and had very fair complexion with prominent nose and high cheek bones. They had the light coloured eyes. Their facial features did not match with the Mongolian features the people of Ladakh normally have. The inhabitants of Dah village speak a language known as Brokskad which is quite different from Ladakhi language. However, inhabitants of Hanu village speak Ladakhi language.

Dards of Aryan villages marry within the village itself or with the inhabitants of other Aryan villages to keep the purity of their Aryan breed. The system of polyandry and polygamy was prevalent among Dards until few years back. However, with education and modernity, this system is being discarded. It is said that because of their purity of so called Aryan breed, some of the foreigners especially from Germany had visited the Aryan villages and attempted to marry Dards probably to regain the ‘purity of Aryan breed’. But such news has been discounted by the local authorities. In fact, foreigners cannot visit these villages unless they obtain Home Ministry’s permission. 

Dards of Aryan villages are generally vegetarian though during important festivals, they indulged in eating meats. They do not drink cow’s milk and milk products. Nor they eat chicken and eggs. Though they do have cows in their sheds but they are used for agricultural operations. For Dards, goats are most important animal and they do drink goat’s milk which are also used for making tea.

With about 6 kms of to and fro walk and spending sometime in Dah village, our half a day was consumed with still about 175 kms of drive to reach Leh. So after leaving Dah village at around 1.00 pm, we continued on Batalik-Dah-Hanu-Khaltsi road and reached a waterfall point of a stream  which ultimately meets Sindhu river on the right side of the road. Many locals take a halt here to spend some time to be in the waterfall. As we reached the Hanu, we came to know that one has to walk about 30 minutes to reach the Hanu village. Since we had already seen Dah village which is regarded as the cultural hub of Dards (Aryans), we felt that there may not be much value addition in spending time especially when we were short of time. So we skipped the visit to Hanu village and continued our journey to Khaltse where the road joins the Kargil-Leh NH-1. We reached Khaltse at 4.00 pm and had a late lunch in a Punjabi Dabha. Once we were on NH-1, the excellent road condition gave our driver to gain some momentum in driving. We reached at 6.00 pm at the gate of Hall of Fame. Luckily for us, the closing time of Hall of time was 7.00 pm.
Hall of Fame facade shot at the dusk.

Replica of a gear for soldiers at Siachen Glacier with an oxygen cylinder on the back.

Back side of Hall of Fame in memory of Indian soldiers who lost their lives during Indo-Pak and India-China wars.

The Hall of Fame is a sort of a museum which has mostly the displays  of 1948 Kashmir War, 1962 Chinese intrusions and Kargil War of 1999. There are details stories about the heroic efforts of some of the martyrs of these wars. In one section, the weapons, artillery and models of aircraft used in these wars are also displayed. There are also displays of flora and fauna of Ladakh region. In fact there are a lot to see in this museum. However, due to closing time and also the fact that we were quite tired after a long drive and also some long walks in Dah village, we completed the round of the Hall of Fame in about 45 minutes and reached our hotel in Leh by 7.00 pm. With this, our Ladakh Trip almost came to an end except that the next day (i.e., Day-10) was a extra day which was specifically kept as such for taking care of some eventuality like postponement of a day’s trip due to unforeseen reasons like health, bad weather etc. Since all day to day trip went as per our schedule, the extra day was utilised for shopping and visiting Leh Palace.

On Day-11, after breakfast, we were dropped at the Leh airport courtesy Hotel Bijoo at around 9.00 am. Air India flight to Delhi left Leh at its schedule time of 11.10 am and reached Delhi at 12.45 pm. We checked in Hotel Madonna by 1.30 p.m. and had a light lunch before visiting Red Fort for the whole of evening. Next day morning, we came to know that our train A K Rajdhani Express was delayed by about 7 hours due to cloudburst somewhere around Bharuch. So we had enough time in Delhi to cover some more places like India Gate, Amar Jawan Jyoti, Doll Museum and visit to Lotus temple etc. In fact I and my wife had seen all these places in our earlier visits. Fortunately, our hotel had allowed us to keep one room upto 6.00 pm as against the check out time of 12 noon. The train finally left at 10.00 p.m and reached Borivali at 4.00 pm the next day thus ticking off one more destination from our travel list.


13 comments:

MS said...

Excellent site, great pics but only one error - the bird is not a magpie but a white wagtail

Sadanand Kamath said...

Thanks MS for identifying the bird. I have now corrected the caption of the picture.

smiti maini said...

Felt really amazing to read your detailed experience .. i am planning a trip to laddakh in september 2014 .. and was a bit apprehensive about the timing , roads , weather etc. .. but after reading your blog and seeing the pics i feel september would be perfect .. thanks a lot .. !!

Smiti

Capt Suresh Sharma said...

Dear Mr Sadanand Kamath

May I request you to share your contact details via my email wildhiss@gmail.com or 09888 380 386. I wish to consult you about a trip to Nubra.

Best regards

Capt Suresh Sharma

Mahesh said...

Nice information about Ladakh Tour Package

Sarath said...

Could you please tell me the cost of transportation you incurred for this trip??

Sadanand Kamath said...

Sarath,

I had taken a total package for the entire trip ex-Leh. So I do not have the break up of the cost incurred for transportation.

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