A piece of mountain
Minimalism is what I see in Ladakh and its landscape. In the cold desert, life is harsh for people and for the wildlife. Indeed these mountains are a treasure, opening to the travellers gradually. While the capital city of Leh overflows with backpackers from around the world and taxis filled with tourists jam the roads, there are still parts of Ladakh that are exclusive to Indians due to their proximity to the Indo-China border.
I waited for an early morning bus to Hanley, a tiny hamlet in Changthang region. The bus runs only once a week, so I was way before time not to risk missing the bus. Most of the people in Leh told me that it was a bad idea to do a journey of 10 hours or more in a state Government bus to a place where not many travel. And there I was, in the last seat of the bus glued to the window, with a camera in my hands to see the changing landscape as the bus moved away from the humdrum of the city. I was the only tourist in the bus and the rest were locals who were carrying goods from Leh for their daily needs.
Soon, the bus crossed the majestic monasteries of Thiksey and Hemis and continued its journey against the flow of the mighty Indus. The river was in its full glory engulfing the white water streams coming from glaciers and painted it in its own color – brown. The brown got even more dominant as the bus entered the far eastern Changthang region. The river looked like melted chocolate paving its path through the mountains of chocolate.
I felt the speed of the bus was appropriate to absorb the beauty around me; and good enough to capture the landscape, at times at high shutter speed. The unpredictable weather brought dark clouds, which were melting over the endless layers of mountains. As the light changed, the different shades of mountains came to foray. Purple, red, orange, pink and many other shades, like a kid had wrongly put these colors in his drawing book. I was only used to seeing brown or green mountains so far. On the one hand, there was this divine gift of nature around us to be observed and on the other hand, my heart sank every time the bus crawled over the flooded roads by the river water.
Gradually, I could see vast flatlands that were filled with furry white flocks of sheep. In lesser-known history, Ladakh is referred to as the “homeland of cashmere goats” and has been one of the world’s best producers of the high-quality wool fibres for centuries. I passed by the beautiful villages of Mahey, Nyoma, Loma, Regon and finally bid adieu to my fellow passengers at Hanley. I was lugging my backpack on the empty road to search for a guesthouse and the sun was almost setting behind the mountains, leaving a red crown on its head. I knew this is where I needed to be, to taste a piece of the mountain!
Also read about my adventure in the mountains of Uttarakhand – A month of travel and the marks it leaves behind