I vividly remember how overwhelmed i was at the first sight of Ladakh's Himalayan mountain range. I had made it a point to fly into Leh for the sole purpose of feasting my eyes on these majestic mountains from my window seat.
Boy, was it a sight to behold.
Rolling mountains with varying shades of grey, nestled amongst the clouds, resembling sea waves on a shore. It was as if the wave-like movement was captured in a moment. An utter magnificence frozen in time.
It was midterm break of final year medical school. I guess i was in dire need of a break, a getaway from all the stress and restlessness, to search for new energy and to regain focus. The plane landed, and as soon as i stepped out of Leh airport, it dawned upon me that in that moment in time, it was just me, a tiny human being from this millennium with a rucksack on her back, looking at an enormous, impressive view of the Himalayan ranges formed by the force of nature 50 million years ago.
Simply incredible, and puts anyone's life in perspective.
And i thought to myself, "I came to the right place."
I instantly fell in love with the myriad of colours in Ladakh - the clear blue unpolluted sky, mountains of ash brown and grey hues, with dramatic shadows formed by the clouds above, and a contrasting green across the lowland. Bear in mind, you get to see this only in summer; in winter it's just white-washed and brutally cold.
I arrived without a fixed plan. Didn't book a room, didn't arrange a pick-up, no travel itinerary whatsoever. And it felt good because, in the past few months i had been encaged in a routine - fixed time to go to class, time for workouts, regular meals, laundry, etc. And all the years growing up, i had everything perfectly planned out - school time, tuition classes, music classes, play time, meal time, future plans, career plans, travel plans. Planning is good but there will come a time when you realize that too much order just limits you, restricts you, and devoids you of life's endless possibilities. Sometimes it throws you off balance and makes you lose focus. When that happens, you know you need to break the routine, be still, breathe, and let life unfold before you.
Getting into a shared taxi was easy. I didn't know where to go but a quick chat with the friendly driver got me to the part of Leh town with many cheap guesthouses, according to him.
It was 9 in the morning. The streets were pretty quiet and empty except for a few Ladakhi women and kids sauntering down the road. An old buddhist monk walked by in a maroon robe holding a prayer wheel and chanting a low-pitched mantra. There was a smell of fresh bread from the old town bakery. Seemed like the locals were just about to start their day. I started walking.
My empty stomach grumbled so i sat down by the road to munch on the half loaf of bread i didn't finish the day before. A brown puppy with the cutest eyes came to me, and we shared the breakfast. In no time, little brown puppy was guiding me into a small lane off the main street until a point where i thought, "Okay, i'm lost."
But you know how sometimes the universe conspires to help you and guide you in very subtle yet interesting ways?
I was about to turn around and head back to the main street when i bumped into a westerner who looked like she knew exactly where she was going.
"Excuse me. Hi. Do you have a minute?" I asked.
In a somewhat Russian accent, she said, "Yes, of course."
"I'm looking for a room, and I'm wondering if you know any single room around."
"Do you have a budget?"
"Hmm... 400-500 rupee maybe."
"Oh perfect, there's a nice place with single rooms just few more steps down this lane, the name is Bimla. Only 400."
"Oh wow that's great. Thank you so much!"
I gave her a quick hug and before i continued walking on, she stopped me. "Wait a second, i have something for you."
She reached a hand into her hippy sling bag and took a poofy round bread out and handed it to me.
"I just picked this bread up from the bakery. It's still hot and fresh. Please have it."
Ahh. The kindness of strangers 🙂
I found the guesthouse and was very happy with it. The guesthouse owner aged about 80 had the kindest smile, and treated me like his own grand daughter. He gave me the best room with a verandah facing a vegetable garden.
I sat outside with my back against the wall, legs stretched forward, and marveled at this beautiful sight. Totally in love with the vibe and energy of this place. The hot bread gifted to me tasted amazing, made me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.
I smiled at the universe and thought to myself,
"This is going to be hell of a good adventure."
More stories of my Ladakh adventure coming soon!