September 1, 2012
I woke up late this morning, at around 9:00 AM, for I was told that the Ladakh Festival would start at 11:00 AM. By the time I got out, the celebrations had already begun. Apparently, the official start of the festival was at 11:00, but the festivities, which included a procession of the tribes taking part in the fest, started at 8:00. I still managed to catch a glimpse of this procession while I headed out to the Polo Grounds, where the ceremony was to take place. The place was packed with people, and there was no place to sit. There was still time for the start, so I decided to get out and grab a bite for breakfast. I walked into a small Punjabi Dhaba on the main street, and ordered for Chole Poori. The Chole was yum, but the Poori was very oily. Heavy breakfast I must say!!
When I came back to the ground, it was got worse. More people had pooled in, and there was not enough place even to stand. Knowing that loads of people are going to be turn up, it was inexplicable of the authorities not to make enough arrangements. The sun was up and scorching, and people had no other option but to sit on the ground in the heat. The CM of Jammu and Kashmir had come as the chief guest, and the ceremony started off with never-ending speeches. I was getting restless standing in the heat, sweating all over. Finally, post noon, the celebrations had begun with a couple of tribal dances. I didn’t enjoy them much for my patience had already waned by then. So, after seeing a couple more performances, I left. (Apparently there was some good stuff immediately after I left, especially a dance by school children).
On the way back to the room, I walked into Western Tibet Explorers (tourist agency) to see if I could find a shared taxi to Pangong Tso for the next day. He said he had a couple at the moment, and would confirm on the same by evening. I reached the room, took the bike and decided to head off towards Alchi Monastery on the way back to Kargil.
This ride was amazing. I already passed by this road a couple of days ago while coming from Kargil to Leh, but the experience of driving a bike was priceless. The ghat roads, the sangam of Zanskar and Indus, view points, etc. were all magnificent. Driving by the Magnetic Hill was awesome. Then I came onto a stretch of road where there was not a single soul in sight; just a road leading to nowhere, surrounded by mountains on either side. Trust me when I say this, driving on this road was one of the best experiences in my life (till now; things would soon change). I absolutely loved it!!
If there is a road leading to heaven, this must be it!!
It was a long drive to Alchi and I had to drive into the interiors of a small village before finally reaching the monastery. I already had enough of the monasteries the previous day, but I was visiting Alchi just for the ride, to pass time. The monastery was really small, and pretty old. Again, the doors were being opened as I entered for there were no people. Once out, there was a small German Bakery nearby which sold various kinds of cookies. I got tempted and bought a couple of them. They turned out to be so hard that even if I tried cracking them with a rock, I wouldn’t succeed. Fun!!
I thoroughly enjoyed my ride back to Leh. I had all the time in the world, and nothing to do once back in Leh, so I drove really slow. I wanted to get lost, but it was a straight road :(. I reached the city at around 6:00 in the evening.
I returned the bike, went back to the room and watched some TV. At around 8:00 PM, I went to the tourist guy, and he confirmed on the trip. There were three other people to share the taxi, and so it would cost me Rs. 1600/- (The prices to all the tourist destinations nearby are fixed. So the more people you are, the cheaper the trip would get). Once done, I asked the guy to suggest a good restaurant nearby, and he led me to World Garden Cafe on the Changspa road.
It was a short walk to this place from the market. It was a garden restaurant, and I sat in one of the corners. Their menu had quite a lot to offer. I asked the waiter to help me choose, and he suggested I go for the Vegetable Lasagna. I also ordered for some Lassi to beat the dry weather. The Lasagna was served in about 15 minutes, and it was one of the best I’ve had. Cheesy and creamy, it was scrumptious. The Lassi was thick and yum.
I headed back to the room after a delicious meal, watched some TV and finally called it a day. I had to get out by 6:00 the next morning for the taxi.
Day 9 : Leh (Monasteries)
Day 11: Leh (Pangong Tso)