Ladakh is one of those surreal and sublime places in India (and maybe the world) that will (and must) top most peoples’ ‘places to visit before I die’ list. I have come across many couples among my friends and family who have planned to visit this divine destination and failed to do it. It’s one of those challenging locations which takes meticulous planning and preparation to visit. Ever since we got married, we realized that we would want to visit this sooner than later. We decided that 2014 is that year. My wife and I both hate travelling in packages as we love the thrill of planning for a travel almost as much as the travel itself. Unfortunately, when we calculated the cost of doing it on our own, it was turning out to be too pricey, and hence we had to settle for a MakeMyTrip package. For people wondering the cost for doing things on their own, here is the price list for booking the taxi in Ladakh (this one is for the year 2014-15, you can check latest on the same website)
We booked the MakeMyTrip package in the month of March (I think that is when the packages open) for June end travel. We were looking to travel in July, but camping in Pangong Lake is generally not possible from July onwards because of the threat of rain and hence, we had to settle for June end. Our itinerary read something like this:
Day 1: Arrival in Leh
Day 2: Leh – Monastery tour and sightseeing
Day 3: Leh to Nubra Valley via Khardungla Pass
Day 4: Nubra Valley to Leh via Khardungla Pass
Day 5: Leh – Sham Valley – Leh
Day 6: Leh to Pangong Tso
Day 7: Pangong Tso to Leh
Day 8: Departure
Our package started on Monday with an early morning (5 am) Jet airways flight from Delhi to Leh. So we had to travel to Delhi the previous night from Bangalore. We took a shuttle from terminal 1D to T3 in Delhi as Jet Airways flies from T3 and other low cost carriers fly from T1D. Even though we reached T3 at around midnight, we had to wait till 2 am to check-in since they have a policy to not allow check-ins for domestic flights till 2 (maybe because of the traffic they face from international travelers). A note of advice on selecting the seat – it’s better to take the left window seats while travelling to Leh as you get to see the spectacular views of the mountain ranges. We then went through the security gates and had a couple of hours before the boarding started. We decided to access the Plaza Premium lounge (through our credit card offers) which was rather comfortable, with access to buffet breakfast, unlimited soft drinks & coffee/tea, charging stations, Wi-Fi access, newspapers etc. Our flight left on time and landed in Leh as planned. The views from the flight were as good as we had imagined with the endless range of mountains (some snowcapped) and the landing was quite thrilling too.
Day 1: Rest day at the hotel
On landing at the airport, we were greeted by our tour driver, Tanim. Our cab (Tata sumo) mates turned out to be 2 elderly couples from Pune who were actually cousins themselves. We were then taken to our hotel – Hotel Gawaling International, where we had our breakfast. Our tour guide, Anita, briefed us about the things to do and not to do, to handle the mountain sickness that generally people experience while visiting Leh (Leh being at an elevated altitude of 11,000 ft.). Some of the tips included things like taking the ‘Diamox’ tablet, taking complete rest for the first day, drinking lots of water (hot water if possible), not taking bath on the first day among others. A note on the ‘Diamox’, it takes about 12 to 24 hours for the tablet to take effect, so you should start taking it a day before arrival in Leh. We took the room on the 4th/top most floor as we had heard the views were good from there. The hotel turned out to be a decent one, nothing spectacular, small but clean rooms, WiFi in the reception which was rather slow, the food didn’t have much variety. You can’t really expect luxury in Leh, especially with the standard package which we had booked. If you book the deluxe package at a higher cost, you will get better hotels and get to travel in Innova. The day turned out to be uneventful for us, with us getting lots of sleep/rest after a sleepless night a day before.