The hills of Ladakh came alive to the happy hullaballoo of a Malayali group of women who visited the place recently. So mesmerised are the women that the party continues even after they are back.
The trip was organised by ‘Women Explorers' club (WE), a travel club that aims to bring like-minded women, who travel together, to interesting places within and out of India, and through this exchange of ideas, explore opportunities, form new friends and above all, have loads of fun.
Their smitten hearts and intrepid minds are still hankering for the gentle people and picturesque scenes they have left behind. The mountains, valleys and rivers of Ladakh saw them trek, climb, dance and even revel in white water rafting.
The women were beside themselves with excitement, at a recently held ‘hangover' party at the Yacht Club and had lots to recount. They relived every moment of their trip spent in the icy cold environs with “most warm hearted” Ladakhis. The trip to the roof of the world, their Himalayan odyssey, seemed to have changed each one of them in one way or the other.
Deepa Varma, trip co-ordinator, is thrilled that this first-of-a-kind vacation, which her company undertook went off without a hitch.
A sense of déjà vu filled the 17 holidayers, comprising a grandma, professionals and homemaker, as they took off from Kochi and opened up homemade tuck on the flight. Landing in the capital, it was a dash to the known shopping centres, a typical girlie thing to do. But no one had an inkling of what lay ahead, of how the grandeur and beauty of nature would soon overwhelm them so completely. One of them remarked at the end of the trip, “Luxury trips don't hold much for us anymore.”
Forewarned about altitude sickness, about walking or running fast it was a slow motion introduction to Ladakh. Once acclimatised to the cold rare mountain air, the women were up and about the place.
The city of Leh was the starting point. A visit to the Shanti stupa, the world's largest Buddhist temple, constructed by a Japanese Buddhist organisation, ‘The Japanese for World Peace' , was followed the next day by a six-hour drive through the Khardungla Pass (the world's highest motorable pass) to the panoramic Nubra Valley.
The stopover at the world's highest café in Khardungla Pass (18,300 ft) left the women breathless. They danced by the wayside in gay abandon, excited at the beauty and bounty of Nature, looked curiously upon by convoys of passing soldiers.
The pass opened on to the cold desert where the two-humped Bactrian camels were a sight to behold. The journey through hail, snow, rain, river and desert took them through the wonders of Nature. The Zanskar River, the changing colours of the mountains, the banks of Panong Lake, where the climax of ‘3 idiots' was shot, lush and ripe apricot and green apple orchards, stirred the women. It was “too much fun” but quite surreptitiously the women seemed to undergo a change of heart. Fun gave way to an acknowledgement of a new way of life, of unseen beauty and unseen terrain, a mystery, a peace and calmness that Buddhism speaks about. The scenery left them astounded and the group grew closer, joined by an experience of a lifetime. Long walks, breathless nights, dancing by the camp fire, savouring Tibetan food, watching traditional Ladakhi dances, savouring tupka- a soupy noodle preparation, standing on the famous Silk Route, trustworthy inhabitants, polite and courteous, the group imbibed it all. The grand finale came as they negotiated the cold icy deep rapids of the Zanskar, helmeted and jacketed, ready for the rough-and-tumble and finally coming out trumps.
“I don't even know how to swim”, said Bindu Sydney, “but we as a group were undeterred”. They completed their course with a sense of achievement.
By now they were united by five crazy days of waking and sleeping in a magical land, fused by friendship and team spirit, delighting and living every moment. Back here, the group says in unison, “the people of Ladakh are most warm hearted and trusting. Everyone, once in a lifetime, must visit this place on earth.”
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