The most important thing, and the best way to start your day is to see the sunrise above the lake, beyond the mountains! A brilliant place to take a sunrise time lapse too. The sun rises around 6, so it is advisable to be ready and get a good view of the mountains by 5:45am. The sunrise we got to saw was absolutely flawless, and I personally live for these moments.
We packed and freshened up as soon as the moment passed, and headed back towards Leh. While coming back from the lake, there is a small field, filled with mormints (Stay away from these nasty buggers, they are cute, but strong enough to chop your finger off if they bite). While returning is when we halted and clicked some photos at the changla pass.
On our way back, we visited the Thiksey Monastery and the Druk Padma School or the Rancho School (from the movie 3 idiots). However, on a personal note, this is a pointless tourist place, as the school is nothing like in the movie. It has a simple curriculum, following the J&K board of studies!
The real practical school, that is run by the scientist Sonam Wangchuk (Amir Khan in the movie) is in the Phay district. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make time to go to the place.
In the evening, set out in the market to buy some fruits, eatables and explore the market area.
Today was a comparatively relaxed day, more like an active rest day due to the marathon tomorrow. Did a nice 6km hill run on the Shanti Stupa hill. Ideally, anyone here for the marathon should make it a point to do some running and exercise every day upto race day.
After coming back to the room and freshening up, we headed to the market, to welcome the participants and finishers of the Khardungla challenge. A 72km ultra marathon, that goes through the Khardungla village, all the way upto the Khardungla pass at 18300ft and ends in Leh city.
For lunch, we headed to Gesmo’s cafe! It is about a 3-4 minute walk from the main market. It is my personal favorite and a Must – Go! They have a variety of pizzas, pastas, other continental dishes as well as Indian food. One of their specialties is Yak cheese based foods, that are particularly fantastic if one wants to carb load. They also give servings of yak cheese in 50g, 100g pieces, etc. as per your requirement.
Another place to go to, and one of the primary reasons I’m going again some day is for The Tsomoriri lake. It is 240kms away from Leh city, a 6hr journey in total thanks to better roads compared to Pangong Lake. It’s specialty lies in its clear and still water. It is so still, that on a good day, one can see a perfectly symmetrical reflection of the surrounding mountains.
This lake is particularly less heard of and does not attract a lot of tourists thanks to Pangong Lake making it to one of the best Indian movies, and the political conflicts which spearhead it into the news. It is the perfect setting if you want to serenade in the vicinity of a beautiful lake, without a lot of people around to disturb.
Fair disclaimer : I haven’t been to this place, but I’ve heard about it from enough people, and similar things from them all and lots of photos to infer that it is astounding and not one to miss.
The big day, the marathon day or race day is here! The day we’ve waited for months. I’ve written a separate article on the marathon, my experience and a recommended training plan and you can check it out here.
The race went fairly well, and ended with felicitations and lots of photos. After felicitations and celebrations, headed to Bob’s for light snacks and then went for a good, much required sleep.
We headed to the market for dinner at Sneha’s snacks. A famous place for tourists, it is right in the center of the market, a 100% vegetarian place. It is THE BEST place for people who want to eat samosas or any kind of chaat or other such foods. The papdi chaat, aloo chaat, chhole samosa were to die for!
In the photo, the Indian Army was waiting and cheering for every finisher. A group of them also waiting with glasses in hand for the participants. It is a different kind of joy and motivation to be cheered by our armed forces!
We started the day with rafting at the Zanskar river. There are two options available the 14km and 28km routes. One must know that, any activity undertaken in Leh should be bargained for. We paid 1300 per person for the 28k route, and a couple with us paid 2000 per person for the same.
A Bus picks you from a designated location between 8:00 – 8:30am, however the bus goes on picking a lot of people, from separate agents and it is almost 10 by the time everyone is onboard. The rafting location is about 5 kms ahead of the magnetic hill. It gets upto 4 or 5 in the evening, by the time you get back to the hotel.
We quickly freshened up and headed for The Hall of fame. It is a military camp, mainly for martyrs. It holds the names of over 1700 soldiers who’ve lost their lives while fighting in wars. It has its own museum, based on personal stories of various soldiers or their experiences. A long walk contains the list of all Param Vir Chakra and MahaVir Chakra recipients. It also exhibits a lot of weapons that were seized from the enemies, and various landscapes explaining the positions of war. It would take a minimum of 45-50 minutes to see and read the entire museum.
One must reach the Hall of fame, by 5pm, as the museum closes by 6. There’s a shop adjoining the museum, meant for people to buy various souvenirs or kesar or shawls or stoles. By 6:40, a band of soldiers march, to retreat the National Flag, which would again be hoisted by the first rays of the sun the following day. After the retreat, there is a 25-30 minute video, based on the lives of our soldiers in the area, and explaining the wars of 1965, 1987 and 2000.
From Hall of fame, we headed to La Piazzatta, a 5 minute walk from the main market, situated near the Changspa Village. It may not seem too exciting, based on the location and ambiance, however the food is really good, and the place overall is a little expensive compared to elsewhere, however very average based on prices in my hometown, Mumbai.
Note : Transport is not very convenient in Leh, and hence it is important to book a cab/hire a driver beforehand. It is recommended that you hire a good taxi service near your hotel, and use those services all through the trip. That will help build a good relationship with the service (important in Leh) and help you negotiate better!
The last day, we had an early morning flight, so barely anything to add. However, one must be careful about the Leh Airport.
The airport is small, and even though there’s not too much traffic, it seems to crowd too easily due to lack of hi-tech services and its small size. Hence it is recommended, that a person reach the airport atleast 2 hours prior to departure.
Leh airport, being a military airport, has its own set of rules. All the luggage has to be checked in, literally ALL of it, except purses or small bags carrying power banks or laptops and similar electronics. Once checked in, a person has to pass through security and again identify their respective luggage immediately, or before boarding the flight.
Luggage that is not identified after check-in will not be loaded onto the plane.
Note : Full marathon, Ultra marathon participants should reach atleast a week prior. Half marathon about 5-6 days prior.