My 18th birthday dawned bright and gay, with the sunlight peeping through the clouds as early as three in the morning. We had a long journey awaiting us- a very exhilarating and an exhausting journey. The road trip from Manali to Leh, Ladakh.
We were at Rohtang pass at around 8am, and it was here, on the day of my entry into adulthood, that I touched snow for the very first time in my life. To touch and feel this cold, frozen form of water, has been a dream of mine, since childhood. It could not have been fulfilled in a better way.
We spent the night in a very small town called Jispa, in a homely hotel, that was built on the banks of the Somdu River and surrounded by snow-capped mountains on all the sides. We hit the road once again at the first light of dawn. The changes in the landscape were breathtakingly fast and beautiful. Every corner, every turn and every gap had some view to offer us, that made us gasp in awe. We crossed a lot of mountain passes on the way, including Tanglangla (‘la’ in Ladakhi meaning pass), which is the second highest pass in the world.
Breakfast was a bowl of Maggi noodles in Bharathpur, where we were ushered into the cleanest roadside hotel that I have ever stepped into. With a blue tarpaulin sheet for a roof, it was run by a very obliging host, Dolma, who made us feel at home at once. We tried out Tibetian tea for the very first time (tea with yak milk, salt and butter), and though it wasn’t very appealing, it tasted like a salty soup.
Driving along, as the scenery changed from snow-capped mountains, to snow fields and then finally to sand dunes, we passed through very interesting places and bridges-Zing zing bar, an area named after a faithful mountain dog who saved his master from a tiger, Whiskey bridge, Brandy bridge, weak bridges that rattled with all its might when a vehicle drove over it. As we finally entered the border of Jammu and Kashmir, we caught our first glimpse of the Indus River, one of the major rivers of India and Pakistan. The landscape there was Martian – red mountains, red sand, a small stream that ran along the road which was also red due to the sand mixed in it- travelling on that road actually gave me the goose bumps.
Tired to the bones, we were relieved as we were ushered into a homely hotel, into a cosy room. After a quick shower and dinner, we creeped into the bed, and were asleep before our heads touched the pillow…