I took an impromptu trip with my two childhood best friends, two years back. We witnessed a rare meteor shower, among other things…
It was a journey full of thrill, fun and amazement. One of my friends is a Wildlife Filmmaker & Photographer and wanted to shoot the meteor shower of the Eta Aquarids created by debris of Hailey’s a phenomenon that happens once in 76 years. As she told us about this, the two of us at once decided to join her and this impromptu plan turned into one of the best trips of our lives.
We started for Dhanaulti the next morning and reached in almost 7 hours. The first place we visited was Dhanaulti Eco Park, amidst thick Rhododendron, Cedar and Pine. We trekked towards the park and reached on the top from where we enjoyed a spectacular view sitting on the swings. These little joys make a trip worth cherishing and so we did whatever we could to make the trip memorable. We also stopped by to have some hot spicy Maggi and realised that “pahado ki Maggi” is indeed the most delectable thing one can have.
Now was the time for all the challenges, thrill and chills as our hunt for a secluded and peaceful place to set our camp began. We were not looking for a proper camping area; instead an untouched place at a certain level from where we could have a clear view of the starry sky. In order to shoot the meteor shower, we needed a dim spot where light wouldn’t reflect.
A little ahead of Dhanaulti in Kanatal, with the help of some locals, we found the perfect place in the wilderness to set our camp. The place was far from the village with no or little sign of human intervention. The locals also warned us about the place being a little risky being a remote forest area but we were all ready for an adventurous night. Little did we know that the night would be more thrilling than expected. As soon our tent was set, mother nature surprised us with heavy rains, thunderstorm and lightning. For almost four hours we had to lock ourselves inside with zero hopes that our tent would be able to survive the weather but when it did, we were thankful. The night grew so cold that we almost experienced what it would be like to freeze.
By this time, the possibility of shooting the meteor shower was washed away by a thick cover of clouds. So we decided to sleep in turns with alarms set for every half hour to check on the weather. We were well equipped with torch & lighters and pocket-size safety equipment like pepper spray, swiss knife and paper cutters to protect ourselves from wild animals and also unwanted humans. The night was quite scary; we could hear and feel every little sound of nature, even that of silence, in the forest area.
It was only after midnight that the thunderstorm and rain stopped. The stars became a bit visible and the rain-washed sky looked extremely beautiful that the three of us couldn’t help but admire it all with just our heads popped out from the tent; it was too cold to step out and we weren’t backed with enough warm clothes . (Tip for last minute travel plan to the hills: do not leave without a big thick jacket).It was around 3 am when we jumped with joy and could not believe our eyes; we were looking at the meteor shower!.. We gathered some courage and finally moved out of the tent. While my friend was busy capturing the spectacular view in her lens, me and my other friend guarded ourselves by keeping an eye on all sides.
Once the shoot was done, we could rest our eyes with a little peace. Mornings in mountains amidst forest are peaceful and so unlike waking up to alarms, we woke up to the chirping of birds. The realization that we survived a terrifying night brought absolute relief and we gave each other a pat on the back. In difficult situations like these, positive attitude and encouragement means a lot and that is what the three of us kept doing to each other the entire night. When the locals heard about us they were amused as not often they see young girls doing something adventurous in the wild. One of them even told us that he will tell his daughters about us and that how brave we were to overcome our fears. Hearing this brought a sense of achievement for all of us in the true sense.
On our way back, we also visited the Tehri Dam and were mesmerised by the beauty of the region. We kept talking about how tranquil the morning was, in contrast with the night we left behind. Perhaps, that is how you feel after coming on the other side of a spine-chilling adventure.
More than anything, Ladakh is a feeling; a feeling cumulative of several other feelings, and a feeling that everyone experiences for themselves…
The awe-inspiring virtue of Ladakh captivates you to the extent that it seems impossible to encapsulate all its beauty in a definite number of words. And yet, we try…we try to express the allure of this cold desert in terms of the traits it possesses, in feelings it evokes.
Evident in the air of Ladakh, even more than Oxygen, is the essence of spirituality and a state of Zen. The fact that Ladakh was once a Buddhist kingdom is reason enough to explain the roots of this emotion; Buddhist pilgrims used to be the only kind of travelers back then. Guru Nanak also spent some time meditating in Ladakh. In the present times, with places like the Shanti Stupa, Diskit Monastery, Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, Jama Masjid and more dotting its landscape, Ladakh is enveloped with a sense of zen.
A land of supernatural landscapes, as they call it, Ladakh’s geography evokes a truly celestial feeling. For every second that you spend in Ladakh with your eyes wide open, you’ll witness physical beauty in one form or the other. From vast rocky terrains and snow capped peaks to vibrant and almost magical skies, every frame in Ladakh is surreal. Even amid the crowded Leh, one thing or the other would manage to charm you. And then there are rather breathtaking locations such as the Lamayuru village in Uleytopko. Known as the moonland of Ladakh, Lamayuru is home to lunar landscapes that give one the feeling of being on moon.
Ladakh’s lakes are an integral part of its character and beauty. These extraordinary lakes are alluring to the extent that they appear mystical, even more so when the water is absolutely still and the lake mirrors the sky. All three of them are unique in their own way. Pangong, being the highest salt water lake in the world, owns a reputation of its own. But it is its ever-changing colour – from blue and azure to green and grey – that makes for a visual delight. Tso Moriri, one of our personal favourite spots, is where you get to spot Tibetan wild asses grazing by the shore in all their laziness. And the fluctuating Tso Kar attracts its own share of exotic birds, and awe from travelers.
If you have already been to Ladakh, chances are that you have come back with anecdotes of your heart-warming experience with the locals. Sometimes, the interaction lasts a smile and if you (you must) choose to live in a homestay, you end up getting a closer look into the life and culture of the Ladakhis. Either way, it is evident that the indigenous people of Ladakh are extremely kind and hospitable, sometimes beyond comprehension. If you do get to stay with a Ladakhi family, you’ll learn how they cherish the little things in life. It is no less than an opportunity to learn a couple of things from people who have found a way of life in a region with extreme climate. Your choice of staying in a homestay over a hotel or resort will not just give you a beautiful experience but will also help keep Ladakh from the risk of commercialization that it is currently facing.
More than anything, Ladakh is all about what you feel; a feeling cumulative of several other feelings, and a feeling that everyone experiences for themselves. Right from the excitement of getting there and the dizziness you feel when you actually get there to the mind-numbing chill, the thrill of being ‘on top of the world’, and the entire experience you bring back with you, it is your own journey that counts.
As much as we love to escape and explore ourselves, it gets even better when like-minded people join us on our journeys. So if Ladakh is on your bucket-list this year, join our Escape to Ladakh this June and Experience Ladakh at your own pace! Talk to us and let us custom-make an itinerary for you and your gang.
For the adventure seeker in you, Escape Route has come up with its own camping site near Delhi. Camp under the stars, pitch your own tent wherever you want, cook food the rustic way, go for a nature trail, spot hyenas and/or just laze around and share stories with fellow travellers…& get one with wilderness
For the adventurer in you, Escape Route has come up with its own camping site near Delhi!
Situated close to Damdama Lake, amid Aravallis, this camping site near Delhi allows you get one with wilderness. Camp under the stars, pitch your own tent wherever you want, cook food the rustic way, go for a nature trail, spot hyenas and/or just laze around and share stories with fellow travellers.
Just about an hour from Delhi and even lesser from Gurgaon, the route to this site passes through the Faridabad-Gurgaon forest range which in itself is an incredible off-roading experience for all wanderers. The route is one of the favourites for motorcycle enthusiasts in NCR. The camping site can also be reached via Sohna road in almost similar time.
This site is spread across 4 acres of land in the forest range and is being preserved and maintained as per the strict guidelines of the forest department. On one side, the land has a water stream flowing towards Damdama Lake. So when it rains, one can enjoy a little boat ride to reach the camping site. The network and electricity here is limited; almost perfect for the urban professional who seeks a digital detox every now and then.
To retain its raw essence and allow you a purely rustic experience, we make sure that minimum human touch-ups are made. But don’t you worry, the bare minimum, such as facility of proper toilets, has been made available. More than anything else, it is an honest attempt to escape from monotony without having to travel too far, and spend time with nature in the middle of nowhere.
Please note: The site is functional on specific dates and on group requests only. And you may rent out camping equipment (tents, sleeping bags etc.) from Travelers Cafe by Escape Route.