Magnificent Leh: The pride of India

Start of the day (16 August 2018)

It is very important to acclimatize to the high altitude, as altitude sickness can cause a lot of discomfort. In Leh yesterday we experienced a mild headache, and heavy breathing after walking even for 100 m or climbing 1 flight of stairs. Today was the day of rest and acclimatization in Leh. I had heard so much about Leh, had seen all episodes of Ice Road Truckers – India’s Deadliest Roads and read a few books. Today was the chance to see Leh closely.

When we woke up in the morning, the day was sunny and we could see snow clad Himalayas shining in glory from the hotel grounds. The temperature was around 10 Deg C. We got ready and went for breakfast. After taking a few photographs of the hotel and surroundings I went back to the room and relaxed for some time. Around 10:30 AM we decided to go for sightseeing in Leh. Yesterday, we were told that we will be given bikes provided by the local bike union.

Hotel Khasdan, Leh
Area of the Hotel
View from the Hotel

Namgyal Tsemo Monastery

Imran bhai told us that we could use the bikes that we were riding. I, Baskar, Pankaj, Lalit and Chandrakant left for the Leh Palace. However, with a wrong turn on the road, we reached the Namgyal Tsemo Monastery. This monastery was founded in 1430 by King Tashi Namgyal of Ladakh. From here we could see the entire town of Leh, and the Leh Palace and the Himalayas.

Namgyal Tsemo Monastery
View of Leh and Leh Palace from Top
At Namgyal Tsemo Monastery

Leh Palace

Leh Palace is the former royal palace overlooking the town of Leh. It was built in 16th Century and is nine stories high. The upper floors accommodated the royal family while the lower ones had stables and store rooms. Use of wood is also made in the construction of this palace. This palace is in ruined state and is being restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. Leh was considered to be impregnable. The Ladakhi kings were first defeated by Zorawar Singh Kahluria in 1835. That time the royal family moved to Stok Palace. Zorawar Singh built a fort in Leh, this fort is called Zorawar Fort.

I had first fall of the tour today, while parking the bike on a road with steep decline and sand, as I used the front brake. Immediately, Pankaj and Lalit came to rescue and lifted the bike up. The Himalayan weighs ~ 200 kg. Luckily, I escaped with a minor swelling on the left leg. Throughout the day I was fearful of riding in Leh due to narrow roads with steep declines and sand on them. The people of Leh are used to driving in this terrain and the traffic in the city is fast paced.

Leh Palace
Leh Palace
A view of Leh
Leh as seen from Leh Palace

We had our lunch while returning from the Leh Palace at a Punjabi Dhaba, near Hotel Khasdan. Then we returned to the hotel and took an afternoon nap.

Shanti Stupa

Around 5 PM we woke up and met Manish, and told him about going to the Shanti Stupa. Manish told us to go there around 6 PM, so that we could see the sunset. Shanti Stupa is about 4 Km from Hotel Khasdan. I, Chandrakant and Baskar left for the stupa around 5:45 PM. Once again, the road to Shanti Stupa had steep vertical incline with sand on it, which meant trouble while going down. With the morning experience at Leh Palace I was more careful now. Around 6:15 PM we reached the Shanti Stupa. Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist white domed stupa on a hilltop in Changspa, Leh. It was built in 1991 and is a tourist attraction in Leh due to its religious significance and its location which provides panoramic views of the Leh town, the Himalayas and the Namgyal Tsemo Monastery.

We finished our visit around 7:30 PM, it was quite dark by now, and a lot of the people who had come here to see the sunset, started for Leh. So there was traffic on the narrow road. People were still coming up as the stupa remains open till 9 PM. On the decline, for about 1.5 km, I rode in first gear carefully and slowly, without using the front brake. We reached Hotel Khasdan around 8:15 PM.

Shanti Stupa
Shanti Stupa
Shanti Stupa @ Leh

End of the day

Upon return from the Shanti Stupa we went straight for the dinner. Once again today, the entire group was together. After the dinner, around 9 PM Manish asked us to fuel up the bikes. So, Pankaj and Chandrakant went to the fuel pump. Next two days we were not going to see any fuel pumps. So, Imran Bhai filled up petrol cans and those were loaded in the backup vehicle. Everyone returned to the room around 10 PM. In the meanwhile I used the wi-fi at the hotel to speak with Shilpa and Kundan. The next day we had to leave at 7:30 AM, so we set the alarm for 5:30 AM and went to bed at 11:30 PM, power had gone out at 11:00 PM 😊, complete darkness other than the light of the moon.

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