Ladakh was an unplanned plan. It started in the middle of our Spiti trek plans. I placed Ladakh as an option to Debbie and Sarju because if we're reaching Spiti, Ladakh is just rrright there. They weren’t sure at the beginning so I told them to think about it and if they’re interested, they can join me. My plan at that point was to trek the Indus trail, visit Tsomo riri lake and go to Lamayuru.
Only one of those plans were met mainly due to exhaustion. Our one-week trek and the non-stop travelling brought on fatigue that we only realized once we rediscovered what a real bed felt like.
I researched a lot about the ‘things to do’ and ‘places to see’ in Ladakh but strangely, not about Leh. In fact, none of us had any idea what to expect in Leh so for the first time in a long time, Leh was going to become one of those places that we were really going to discover, sans google. It also helped that we were still out of cell service and working wifi in Leh was a struggle. We had three days in Ladakh together after which Debbie and Sarju took off for Srinagar and I had another three days on my own. That short time was enough for us to seriously consider coming back again once we become ‘pro’ drivers.
As tiring as it was, journeying within Ladakh was a highlight. Carrying it on Spiti, we crossed more several of the world’s highest’ something almost every day (or every hour). From my notes, here’s the list: Highest Cavaliers (Tyar bar tyar), second highest pass in the world (Taglangla Pass at 17, 582 ft), third highest pass in the world (Changla Passs at 17, 688 ft), highest training centre (Ladakh scouts regimental centre) and highest army transit camp (Pang). It’s also worth mentioning a self-proclaimed world’s highest restaurant in the world.
The spirit of the Ladakh trip lies not in the travel itself but the relationship of travelling companions. Debbie, Sarju and I had been on the road together since June 25 and by the time we were in Ladakh, it was well into the second week of July. And we hadn’t killed each other. To be honest, I was a little worried about how the three of us were going to handle each other’s temperaments. The three of us were extremely alike to make matters worse. We were easy going individuals that resorted to moodiness when irritated or angry which means silence; the sound you do not want to hear. But like I said before, we didn’t kill each other. We survived. Whenever there were tensions, the ‘third girl’ took on the peacekeeping role.
During weeks of our forced digital detox, conversation and music (and occasional reading) became our pass time. We had conversations that lasted the length of a journey or before falling asleep; somewhere which we all were extremely shocked about because normally, we would be hypnotized by our phones. More than a digital detox, we discussed that this is how travel really should be. We also began depending on each other and in the end, when I said goodbye to them, I missed them and I was looking forward to seeing them again in Delhi.
I romanticize the idea of a being a lonely traveller but this journey with my friends created a certain relationship which will always live on no matter where we go and who else we travel with in days t to come. I also know that if I ever do go back, be it Spiti or Ladakh, I am always going to start a sentence that would go along the lines of “let me show you this great place that Debbie, Sarju and I found when we came here" ...